The Hidden Politics of Administrative Reform : Cutting French Civil Service Wages with a Low-Profile Instrument
GB : Blackwell Publishing
23 - 56 p.
Bureaucracies, Policy instruments, Institutional change
The article addresses internal and hidden politics of changes in bureaucracies by focusing on the introduction and use of policy instruments as institutional change without radical or explicit shifts in administrative systems. Beneath public administrative reforms, it examines the use of “low-profile instruments” characterized by their technical and goal-oriented dimension but also by their low visibility to external actors due to the high complexity of their commensurating purpose and the automaticity of their use. The core case study of the paper offers a historical sociology of a technique for calculating the growth of the French civil service wage bill from the mid-1960s to the 2000s. The origins, uses, and institutionalisation of this method in the French context are explored to emphasize the important way of governing the bureaucracy at times of crisis through automatic, unobtrusive, incremental, and low-profile mechanisms. While insisting on the salience of techniques for calculating, measuring, classifying, and indexing in the contemporary art of government, it also suggests the need for observing and explaining “everyday forms of retrenchment” in bureaucracies.