France undeniably occupies a special place in panorama of cultural policies devised in contemporary developed societies in that it has long served as a model. The design and implementation of an active cultural policy under the aegis of the state is a long-standing practice, reinforced by successive regimes and governments since World War II. The paradox is that, even as this model continues to enjoy a fine reputation abroad, it is widely disparaged and condemned in France because of its failures and dead-ends. But the model has also evolved towards a new balance between the state and the local government bodies to which the decentralization laws devolved new powers and responsibilities: a new partnership among them was favoured by the practice of cultural development contracts. Does the end of the lyrical illusion means the end of any ambition for cultural policy?