Explaining the emergence and gradual transformation of policy regimes: the case of contemporary French prostitution policy (1946-2016)

St. Denny, E., 2016. Explaining the emergence and gradual transformation of policy regimes: the case of contemporary French prostitution policy (1946-2016). PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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Immediately after the Second World War, France began to abolish the regulation of prostitution, first by outlawing brothels in 1946, then by dismantling all remaining medical and police registers in 1960. In doing so, it adopted an 'abolitionist' approach to prostitution. This stance, which distinguishes itself from both regulation and prohibition, is based on criminalising the exploitation of prostitution, and providing social support to individuals involved in prostitution, who are perceived to be inherently 'victims'. However, since then, the policies and programmes enacted in the name of 'abolitionism' have varied considerably: policies based on supporting 'victims' have been succeeded by some that seek to criminalise individuals in prostitution by outlawing soliciting. More recently, in April 2016, the country adopted a policy of client criminalisation which is intended to 'abolish' prostitution entirely. Thus, on the one hand, France has remained steadfastly committed to abolitionism throughout the period. On the other hand, the policy framework has demonstrated significant internal reform. Yet current institutional scholarship remains ill equipped for explaining how a policy framework can simultaneously persist and change. This thesis therefore investigates how and why contemporary French prostitution policy has changed the way it has since the end of the Second World War. To do this, it deploys a historical case study of contemporary French prostitution policy from 1946 to 2016, drawing on unique interview and archival data to explain the gradual and cumulative evolution of state intervention in this area. In the process, it makes a number of conceptual and theoretical contributions to institutionalist scholarship on policy change and stability. In particular, it conceptualises prostitution policy and the different policy frameworks states set up to address the issue. These frameworks are often referred to as 'regimes' but have yet to be fully unpicked and defined. Moreover, drawing on the emerging policy literature on regimes, the thesis identifies French abolitionism as a particular type of policy regime: an 'anemic' one which, while often challenged, has endured. Using this case as an empirical 'lens', it demonstrates that our current understanding of regimes as either strong or 'anemic' overshadows the mechanisms which allow institutionally weak regimes to endure but be incrementally reformed in the context of strong adherence to their core values and ideas. This explains how French abolitionism has been gradually converted from a regime based on the abolition of state regulation but the tacit tolerance of prostitution between adults to one that explicitly seeks to 'abolish' prostitution itself. The thesis concludes that institutional stability is often illusory, and what appears to be the endurance of a single regime actually masks the gradual but ultimately transformative accumulation of minor changes.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: St. Denny, E.
Date: July 2016
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the owner of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 01 Nov 2016 16:38
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2016 16:38
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/29011

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