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Legal Mobilization under Neo-corporatist Governance

Environmental NGOs before the Conseil d’Etat in France, 1975–2010

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Lisa Vanhala*
University College London
Contact the author at


Existing theory suggests that under neo-corporatist governance, civil society groups are less likely to take the state to court. However, a comparative analysis of the use of legal strategies across a number of environmental nongovernmental organizations (ENGOs) in France presents a counterintuitive finding. Drawing on new data on more than 200 cases taken by these ENGOs, the analysis finds that the groups that are most incorporated in policy making are also the most active litigants against the Environment Ministry in the Conseil d’Etat. This article tests a number of theoretical explanations to account for this result. It finds that the neo-corporatization of the rules determining access to justice as well as the presence of certain agent-level characteristics helps to explain when and why groups mobilize the law.

Research Article
© 2016 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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The author would like to thank the journal’s editor and anonymous reviewers for excellent suggestions that greatly improved this article. I owe gratitude to the research informants. In addition, thanks go to Rob Abercrombie, Francis Chateaureynaud, Rachel Cichowski, Lisa Conant, Graeme Hayes, Liora Israel, Dagmar Soennecken, Corin Throsby, and participants at the DAAD Research Workshop on Legal Mobilization in Germany and the European Union, York University, Toronto, February 13, 2015, for helpful discussions and/or comments on earlier versions of this article. I would also like to thank Harriet Bradley for able research assistance. I am grateful for generous funding from the British Academy.


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