The Social Politics of Bureaucracy

The ‘Bureaucrat’ as ‘Bourgeois Type’
  • Ralph Kingston
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


Despite their very limited impact on the ordinary personnel of administrations, newspapers made the ‘purges’ of 1814–15 notorious. On 14 May 1815, Le Moniteur reported how ministerial reforms had centred on those who had ‘spent part of the last year offering proof … of their devotion to the Bourbon dynasty, while still engaged by their oath to the Emperor Napoleon’.1 Restoration newspaper editors were keen to heap opprobrium on Carnot in particular, who had ‘carefully investigated everyone who had ever expressed an opinion or shown a royalist sentiment, to persecute and destitute them.2 Yet even though they criticized Carnot for having exercised a despotic rule over his helpless clerks, forcing them to swear allegiance to Napoleon and to accept a constitution they despised, Restoration journals simultaneously called for a new purge of girouettes and Bonapartists. Out of this double standard, the impression emerged of an administration full of roués (used men) whose oaths of loyalty and vaunted merit carried little value and no legitimacy. Portraying the ministries as ‘ruled’ by the ‘will’ of Carnot or Bonaparte, the newspaper turned all administrators into impostors, all clerks into political ciphers.3 While real-life employés continued their daily routines, working towards promotions and pensions on the basis of ancienneté, the perception nonetheless developed that appealing to politics and politicians was a way to beat the system. Consequently, job seekers flooded the administrations with petitions in what became known as the manie des places.


Symbolic Capital Office Politics Social Politics Reform Plan Money Lender 
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  1. 3.
    One response to political attacks on bureaucrats in this period - and their punishment in annual budgets - is [Eugène Dossion], Le cri des employés, réponse à MM de la Bourdonnaye, Castel-Bajac, de Villèle, Cornet d’Incourt, Dufourgerais, et c. (Paris, 1817). Dossion, a rédacteur in the Ministry of Interior, wrote anonymously, ‘do you wish to follow the example of the Jacobins, your predecessors, who delivered one after the other to the fury of the populace (which is not the same as the people), nobles labelled as “aristocrats”, priests labelled as “fanatics”, magistrates and financiers as “leaches”… Out of the idea of “bureaucracy” the adjective “bureaucrat” has naturally formed, [in the same way that] ignorance and bad faith, among all parties, built up hatred of those the Revolution designated as “aristocrats” and “democrats”’ 5–7). See also Houchard, Les employés, les bureaux et les réformes considérés sous le rapport moral et politique (Paris, 1819).Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Ralph Kingston 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ralph Kingston
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryAuburn UniversityUSA

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