Contribution of textual analysis by ALCESTE software to determine dimensional publicness and public values: an application on two banks of the French local authorities

  • Muriel Michel-Clupot
  • Serge Rouot
Keywords: textual analysis – ALCESTE software – publicness measure – public values – local authorities.


This paper proposes an original qualitative empirical approach in local management.

In France, a financing sector was developed specially for local authorities, that make indeed almost 70% of the public investment. It has long been dominated by a private corporation, the Dexia Group, disappeared because of a subprime crisis. In 2013, a new bank, called “Agence France Locale” (AFL) was created and dedicated to the funding of local governments. AFL is a bank, for and made by local authorities, who are also its shareholders. The bank will raise funds on markets and lend to its members.

Would the financing of local public sector be characterized by public values and political constraints? Whatwill betheimpactonthesepublicvaluesand the considerations ofpoliticalconstraints due to this change? Do shareholders who are also customers influence a change on the values framework?

This paper reveals also public values contained in their both communications and proposes a measurement of their publicness. According to publicness theory (Bozeman, 2007), any organization is constrained by two authorities: one political, one economic, in which it will find the resources it need to exist. The challenge is then to determine their respective proportions: this measurement of publicness offers an assessment of the main influence.

The “balance” of the political and the economic directs and shapes public values. Carried by elected representatives, civils servants and citizens, public values are yet the cornerstone of the administration and public policy. These public values are mapped out on the basis of public administration literature and the theory of organisations (Jorgensen, Bozeman, 2007). The “inventory” thus established is based on an approach that brings out the different spheres affected by the value in the public administration (public sector’s contribution to society; transformation of interests to decisions…).

In order to identify these public values, the research method is based on a textual analysis (using a French software: ALCESTE) of financial reports of two major banks of the French local sector history: Dexia CL and AFL. The corpus is cut out in a succession of segments of text: we study the repetitions of words and the proximity of words, ones compared to the others (Reinert, 2007). Resulting from the factorial analysis of correspondences, this software carries out a hierarchical downward classification. Full words are also detected to define classes. ALCESTE calculates the decomposition of the corpus in various classes, by maximizing oppositions. The work of the searcher then consists in defining and naming classes, according to their vocabulary.

A textual analysis (of last financial reports of Dexia CL: 2010, 2011 and first reports of AFL: 2015, 2016) shows the vocabulary used and significant contents. We can so draw up the inventory of public values and attach classes to “economic” or “political” constraints of the publicness theory.

First results are somewhat surprising: AFL, the bank for and made by local governments, presents no more political constraints or more public values, despite the nature of its shareholding and its objective of general interest.