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Professional identities and legitimacy challenged by a managerial approach : The Belgian judicial system - C. Vigour

Cécile Vigour
Institut d’études politiques, domaine universitaire, 11, allée Ausone, 33607 Pessac cedex, France

Available online 12 October 2009 on

The conditions prevailing in Belgium, at the time a managerial approach was approved and introduced into its judicial system, are analyzed in this article along with the limitations and consequences for the legal professions. Belgian judicial culture has long been hostile to cost-analysis and an organizational perspective. As in many other Western countries, however, it is now being challenged by the growing impact of the rationale of efficiency. Accepted by some members of the legal professions (who nonetheless question certain of its aspects), the transformations show that the various sorts of existing regulations – legal, political, managerial – at the same time coexist and compete. There have been several outcomes : magistrates’ identities are being overhauled, the legitimacy of the judiciary has become even more difficult to establish, and the balance of power among the different legal professions has shifted. Last, but not least, the model of what makes for a “good” judge and “good” justice is in the process of being redefined.

Keywords : Professional identity ; Legitimacy ; Public policy ; Managerial reforms ; Efficiency ; Judiciary ; Legal professions ; Magistrates ; Belgium

Article Outline

  • 1. A mounting uncertainty as to the exceptional nature of Justice
    • 1.1. Justice has long disregarded every sort of managerial approach
    • 1.2. Adopting reforms midway between responsibility and control
    • 1.3. The increasingly significant logic of efficiency
      • 1.3.1. From efficacy to efficiency
      • 1.3.2. Multidimensional management techniques
  • 2. The change is accepted but not always its applications
    • 2.1. The limits when transposing Management to Justice
      • 2.1.1. The need to adapt management techniques
      • 2.1.2. Three major organizational limitations
    • 2.2. A general yet ambiguous consensus
  • 3. Subsequent effects and tensions
    • 3.1. A redefinition of professional identity
      • 3.1.1. Redefining expectations regarding magistrates
      • 3.1.2. The ideal-type of the modern magistrate
    • 3.2. An increasingly complex legitimacy to construct
    • 3.3. The balance of power among legal professionals is changing
    • 3.4. Variable effects on the collective organization of labor
  • 4. Conclusion
  • References

Sociologie du Travail
Volume 51, Supplement 2, November 2009, Pages e136–e154
Translation : Gabrielle Varro