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Constructing merit in the civil service : The French Ministry of Culture (1880–1980) - O. Join-Lambert, Y. Lochard

Odile Join-Lambert, Yves Lochard
Institut de recherches économiques et sociales (IRES), 16, boulevard du Mont-d’Est, 92193 Noisy-le-Grand, France

Available online 13 October 2011 on ScienceDirect

Merit-based procedures for evaluation and grading in the French Civil Service have often been studied with the idea that concepts and practices circulate between public and private sectors, domestic and foreign organizations. Less attention has been afforded the in-house origins of procedures for assessing the work of civil servants. This article focuses on the procedures gradually built up to evaluate government employees in the French Ministry of Culture. Light is shed on the difficulties of making good the Republic’s promise to base merit on differences in talent alone. How is a civil servant’s work to be measured ? Are qualifications evaluated while seeing to it that as many employees as possible can be promoted ? Focusing on procedures – imagined or actually implemented – for grading, evaluating and promoting museum personnel shows that the process follows a timing and modality that vary depending on one’s position in the hierarchy. The evaluation process nevertheless creates ties between socio-occupational groups that all else separates. Ways to measure civil servants’ activity existed before the neomanagerial objection to bureaucratic rules and regulations of the 1960s ; the French system for evaluating merit is, thus, not simply an importation of anglo-saxon managerial methods.

Keywords : Evaluation ; Promotion ; Merit ; Museums ; Wardens ; Curators ; Civil service ; Ministry of Culture ; France ; England

Article Outline

  • 1. Measuring merit (1880–1946)
    • 1.1. Criteria for evaluating wardens and curators
      • 1.1.1. Two hermetic worlds
      • 1.1.2. Discipline and reward
    • 1.2. The merit of some
      • 1.2.1. A voluntary “career” between the two world wars
  • 2. Rationalizing merit (1946–1980) ?
    • 2.1. Evaluating in Museums
      • 2.1.1. Regulate and educate service to the public
      • 2.1.2. Personal dedication and scientific merit
    • 2.2. Being promoted in museums : the joint management of merit
      • 2.2.1. Wardens : seniority and honor roll
      • 2.2.2. Curators : co-opting and recommending
  • 3. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 53, Supplement 1, November 2011, Pages e38-e56
Translated by Gabrielle Varro