This book deals with one of the emblematic modalities of the capacity of public intervention: the production of “acts of state”, that is to say of administrative decisions (notification, order, judgment, license, certificate, etc.). which, as soon as they are taken, are endowed with an authority which obliges us. The ethnographic survey that this book proposes in several administrations (Justice, Agriculture, Social Security) invites to be interested in the concrete modalities by which the State can act. The answer seems known: beyond making decisions legitimized by law, he produces writings.
But how are the documents, without which these decisions would not exist, be made up? And by what mysteries do these papers cover themselves with a force that makes it right, through them, the State that acts? To answer these questions, it is necessary to open the office door, survey their linear, flip through the files, follow the paperwork, and get into the thick of writing activities, computing operations, computer manipulations that we shed light on the importance of documentary organization, the diversity of possible bureaucratic arrangements, the intelligence and the contradictions of the work that is done there.