Markets, States, and Public Policy

Privatization in Britain and France
Nikolaos Zahariadis
A theoretical and empirical examination of the move towards privatization


The past decade has witnessed a worldwide and more-or-less irreversible shift away from state ownership. This "megatrend" is expected to last well into the next millennium. Given policymakers' previous strong inclination towards nationalization and state ownership, one must ask: Why change now?

Markets, States, and Public Policy concentrates on the experience of Britain and France, two pioneers of privatization, and draws specifically on detailed case studies of three sectors: oil, telecommunications, and railroads. The book shows that privatization is brought about by the interplay of three factors at critical junctures of time: available policy alternatives, the ideological complexion and strategy of the governing parties, and widening government budget deficits. Thus privatization is a politically forged decision to forego direct control over markets, in favor of indirect control.

Zahariadis applies the multiple streams approach, extending the theory in two important ways: first, by giving it an explicitly comparative focus and second, by broadening its explanatory reach to cover policy adoption in addition to agenda setting. In doing this, the author strikes a unique balance between theoretical analysis and empirical rigor. Zahariadis's novel way of comparatively examining the dynamics of policy choice and his use of literature that cuts across the fields of comparative politics, public policy and political economy will attract the interest of students of political science, public administration, economics, and sociology.

Nikolaos Zahariadis is Assistant Professor of Political Science, State University of New York-New Paltz.

Praise / Awards

  • "This book has much to recommend it. It attempts to comprehend the policy process for an ideologically charged issue. It argues cogently against purely deductive theoretical reasoning from the public choice and property rights perspectives to suggest that privatization politics is more complicated, at least partially because interests cannot be assumed. It skirts the thorny issue of 'national styles of policy making' (for which exceptions can always be found) and instead examines the details of individual economic sectors. As such, it contributes to a growing literature in comparative political economy that examines subnational variation. It makes a very useful distinction between privatization and liberalization—two terms frequently confused in the literature—by arguing that the former concerns a transfer of ownership while the latter speaks to market form. Then it discusses cases in which liberalization may be a prelude to privatization or a substitute for it. . . . Reconfiguring national markets will remain a political job. By recognizing the utility of state-owned assets for policy purposes, the author avoids the self-fulfilling reasoning of much of the literature. By examining the policy process cross-nationally, this book provides a contribution to a contentious issue that remains important to British and French politics."
    American Political Science Review
  • "The book's approach yields important insights while avoiding determinism, a significant achievement at a time when privatization is a pervasive global phenomenon. . . . The success of the book in explaining particular patterns of privatization makes informative reading for students of French and British politics. The book also offers numerous insights for those interested in privatization as a policy and especially scholars interested in the policy making process."
    Mitchell P. Smith, Economics of Planning
  • "Perhaps the most important conclusion to emerge from this book is that privatization does not necessarily mean the replacement of state regulation by that of the market. . . . One emerges from reading this book with an enhanced sense of the importance of ideology in conditioning political behavior."
    Journal of Politics

Look Inside


Acknowledgments - ix

Abbreviations - xi

Part 1. The Purpose
1. To Sell or Not to Sell - 3
2. Perspectives on Privatization - 17

Part 2. Departing for Britain
3. Politics and Problems - 49
4. Privatization in Britain - 69

Part 3. On the Way to France
5. The French Privatization Experience - 117
6. The Two Waves of French Privatization - 139

Part 4. Arrival
7. Conclusion - 175
Notes - 189
Index - 223

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 248pp.
  • tables, figures.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1995
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10542-7

Add to Cart
  • $79.95 U.S.