This panel focuses on civil servants acting 'against' the state while working for and within its institutions. Looking how bureaucrats critically engage against their own administration, papers will explore their conflicting loyalties, understandings of professionalism and engagement with law.
Looking at the way public services were delivered on a daily basis within street-level bureaucracies, social scientists have been increasingly focusing on the daily lives of civil servants, exploring their interaction with users, their discretion in implementing public policies, and the way they ultimately contributed to the making of statehood in different contexts. This panel focuses on civil servants protesting or acting 'against' the state while working for, and within its institutions. Over the last couple of years, civil servants from various areas of the world have indeed been engaging in political protests against their government, or the specific policies that were imposed on them. Beninese magistrates fought for their independence, Belgian judges for more staff to be hired. This panel invites contributors to think about why and how bureaucrats participate to such protests, despite professional norms often prescribing restraint and withdrawal from political life. What kind of norms and discourses do they mobilize, and what kind of effects do such mobilizations produce? Papers can also reflect on more subtle ways of acting 'against the state', such as disobeying administrative orders or resisting political pressure. Looking at how bureaucrats critically engage against their own administration will allow us to delve into conflicting loyalties, current understandings of professionalism, and engagement with law - all of which can contribute to new understandings of street-level bureaucracies, beyond Weber (1956) or Lipsky (1980).