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Bengt Jacobsson (Södertörn University College) and Olivier Borraz (Sciences Po, Paris): “Public Governance during the Covid pandemic in Sweden and France”


In the fight against the Covid-19 virus, France and Sweden stood at opposing ends along a continuum: one country went for lockdowns; the other relied more on voluntary measures. Both strategies were shaped by the governing structures in each country: in France complex and fragmented organizational arrangements focusing on health security, in Sweden a single dominant agency maintaining a broad public health perspective. Using concepts from organization theory – loose vs. tight couplings and exploitation vs. exploration – we show how the divergent strategies evolved in both countries.

While loosely coupled organizational arrangements were rapidly tightened in Sweden, the system in France went in the opposite direction becoming loosely coupled. While the Swedish case was mainly one of exploitation of existing knowledge and expertise, more unchartered territories were explored in France. While alignment across actors in Sweden took place with one dominant agency in the center, alignment in France was related to actions of neighboring countries and centered around the president of the republic. Evidently, there was more than one way to fight the pandemic, and whichever path was followed ran the risk of producing lock-in effects.


Bio for Bengt Jacobsson

Bengt Jacobsson studies control and decision-making processes in public as well as private organizations, reforms in organizations, changing forms of regulation and governance (in Europe and in the world), Europeanization of states and state administrations etc.


Bio for Olivier Borraz

Olivier Borraz has conducted research in risk governance, regulation, and crisis management for the past 20 years. His early work focused on risk governance related to environmental health, while he later studied risk-based regulation across multiple sectors in different countries. His recent work includes research on crisis preparedness and management in the French nuclear sector and volcanic alerts in the French Antilles, as well as publications on crisis simulation exercises and food safety inspections. Borraz has published several books, including one on the French response to the Covid-19 crisis.

CELE GAPP COVID-19 Governance Seminar