This paper contributes to the literature on public-sector reforms by proposing textual analysis as a useful research strategy to explore how reform archetypes and related ideas are deployed in the parliamentary debate and regulations advancing reforms. Public Administration (PA) (Wilson 1887; Weber 1922), New Public Management (NPM) (Hood 1991, 1995; Dunleavy and Hood 1994; Ferlie et al. 1996) and Public Governance (GOV) (Osborne 2010; Rhodes 1997) can be depicted as three different archetypes providing characteristic administrative ideas and concepts (i.e. interpretive schemes) and related tools and practices (i.e. structures and systems) which lead reforms. We use textual analysis to look into more than twenty years of Italian central government accounting reforms and investigate how the three administrative archetypes have evolved, intertwined and replaced each other. Textual analysis proves a useful tool to investigate reform processes and allows highlighting that in neo-Weberian countries, such as Italy, NPM and GOV, far from being revolutionary paradigms, may represent fashionable trends that did not leave significant traces in the practice and rhetoric of reforms. These results also suggest interesting implications for practitioners and policy makers.