Policy of reformist watchwords

Modernizing Injunctions
The administrative work facing the State’s modernizing injunctions
By Éléanor Breton, Gwenaëlle Perrier

The so-called “modernization” reforms of the State, accentuated since the neo- managerial shift, aim to transform public policy from the point of view of its procedures. While they involve transforming the activity of public servants, this work is generally a blind spot in these reforms. In an approach that combines the sociology of public policy and work analysis, this article suggests making the work of public servants an entry point for analyzing this paradox and its political dimensions. It shows that the generalization of watchwords and reform measures covers situations where professional practices change only in a fragmented way. At the same time, the reforming policies lead to a reshuffle of professional activity linked to the visibility of the reforms. The consistency of these symbolic policies is also due to the fact that they are appropriated in many different ways by the public servants concerned.


  • modernization
  • reforms of the State
  • administrative work
  • new public management
  • public policy instruments
  • symbolic uses of politics
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