From the “solution” to the “problem”

The problematization of feed-in tariffs supporting photovoltaics in France and Germany
By Ariane Debourdeau


On the basis of the case of a specific public device, feed-in tariffs supporting photovoltaic energy, this paper analyzes a reverse movement that goes from solution to problem. First, it highlights how this device, which proved providential in Germany, has turned into a public problem in the French context, up to the point of becoming a matter of public controversy. Second, beyond the study of the construction of public problems, it shows that this controversy makes visible the modes of problematization that lay hidden beneath such a policy response, in which the state just has to promote the right conditions for the creation and development of markets. Thus, the corresponding governmentality of both energy and climate raises two core questions related to the emergence of a figure of the citizen subsumed under the consumer, and to the resulting uncertainty regarding the collectives that are targeted by public policies.


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