Skip to main content

Über dieses Buch

Narratives or storytelling are a feature of the everyday life of all who work in government. They tell each other stories about the origins, aims and effects of policies to make sense of their world. These stories form the collective memory of a government department; a retelling of yesterday to make sense of today. This book examines policies through the eyes of the practitioners, both top-down and bottom-up; it decentres policies and policymaking. To decentre is to unpack practices as the contingent beliefs and actions of individuals. Decentred analysis produces detailed studies of people’s beliefs and practices. It challenges the idea that inexorable or impersonal forces drive politics, focusing instead on the relevant meanings, the beliefs and preferences of the people involved.
This book presents ten case studies, covering penal policy, zero-carbon homes, parliamentary scrutiny, children’s rights, obesity, pension reform, public service reform, evidence-based policing, and local economic knowledge. It introduces a different angle of vision on the policy process; it looks at it through the eyes of individual actors, not institutions. In other words, it looks at policies from the other end of the telescope. It concludes there is much to learn from a decentred approach. It delivers edification because it offers a novel alliance of interpretive theory with an ethnographic toolkit to explore policy and policymaking from the bottom-up.
Written by members of the Department of Politics and International Relations of the University of Southampton, with their collaborators at other universities, the book’s decentred approach provides an alternative to the dominant evidence–based policy nostrums of the day.



Chapter 1. What Is Decentred Analysis?

This chapter provides a brief history of narrative policy analysis in political science, especially in the study of public administration and public policy. It outlines the specific interpretive approach developed by Mark Bevir and R. A. W. Rhodes. It explains what we mean by ‘decentring’ and unpacks the ethnographic toolkit we employ. It provides brief, descriptive summaries of the individual chapters and explains how each relates to the overall themes of the book. Finally, it discusses the pros and cons of a decentred approach. It concludes that the decentred analysis is edifying because it offers a novel alliance of interpretive theory with an ethnographic toolkit to explore policymaking and policy analysis from the bottom-up. It contributes to both the analysis of the policy process and analysis for the policy process.
R. A. W. Rhodes

Chapter 2. What is Penal Policy? Traditions and Practices in the UK Ministry of Justice

This chapter decentres the UK Ministry of Justice, exploring notions of what it is and what it is for. The department (MoJ) celebrated its tenth birthday on 9 May 2017, and its origins make it a rich site of competing meanings-in-action. This chapter draws on four sets of ‘elite’ interviews conducted between 2009 and 2017 to explore the traditions drawn upon, and the dilemmas faced, by MoJ policymakers. In sum, it is argued that we are faced not with a monolithic institution but Ministry/s of Justice. I identify competing and overlapping traditions centred upon liberalism, public protection, rehabilitation and managerialism. In closing, the chapter considers whether these understandings are increasingly coloured by narratives of departmental decline.
Harry Annison

Chapter 3. What Makes a Zero Carbon Home Zero Carbon?

In 2006, the UK government committed to ensuring that all new homes be zero carbon by 2016. But the definition of ‘zero carbon’ was hotly contested, and in 2015, the policy was abolished. This chapter conducts a narrative policy analysis of the zero carbon homes (ZCH) policy over its lifetime. Our analysis pays particular attention to the ways in which different actors have sought to translate ZCH policy narratives into material form. The dominant storyline is ecological modernisation, and this has been the case over the life course of ZCH policy initiation, implementation and closure. However, ZCH is a contested story—there have always been, and remain today, multiple narratives in use.
Heather Lovell, Jack Corbett

Chapter 4. What Are the Hidden Dimensions to Parliamentary Scrutiny—The Ghosts in the Machine?

This chapter looks in detail at the parliamentary scrutiny of the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 that would have extended the period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects from the existing 28 days to 42 days. It takes an interpretive approach and argues that to understand parliamentary scrutiny, there needs to be a full comprehension of the traditions, beliefs and practices that each set of actors bring to the process. There also needs to be an understanding of how these traditions, beliefs and practices change—sometimes cumulatively—in response to dilemmas faced within parliamentary processes. It draws on both the author’s experience as the lead minister for the bill and interviews with over 50 participants in the broader workings of the Home Office at the time—MPs, ministers, civil servants, special advisers and other public officials—to create a novel, multidimensional narrative that reveals the hidden dimensions of scrutiny. It argues that there are hidden dimensions to parliamentary processes and that such ‘ghosts in the machine’ needed to be completely understood if the decisions and choices made in the face of dilemmas are to be understood. Further, that such ghosts were not simply sentiments but very real values that grounded the development of and changes to the core traditions, beliefs and practices that help explain the efficacy of scrutiny and how parliament works.
Tony McNulty

Chapter 5. How Are Children’s Rights (Mis)Interpreted in Practice? The European Commission, Children’s Rights and Policy Narratives

International children’s rights and principles are enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). All EU Member States are parties to the CRC, and therefore, they are legally bound to translate its key principles and provisions into concrete legislative and policy measures. Among the fundamental child rights principles, the best interests of the child (Art.3 CRC) and child participation (Art.12 CRC) are the most complex and challenging to implement in practice. More recently, the EU, under the leadership of the European Commission, has endorsed the promotion of children’s rights as one of its overarching policy objectives. This chapter will assess how successful the EU institutions have been in interpreting ‘child participation’ and ‘the best interests of the child’. By focusing on the European Commission, this chapter will examine the extent to which policy narratives have shaped the meanings attached to these two child rights principles in relation to concrete policy measures and instruments. It will be shown that the interpretations and misinterpretations attached to these child rights principles amount to a narrow and tokenistic approach, whereby the EU institutions merely pay lip service to CRC principles, despite their formal embrace of these principles in key EU legal and policy documents.
Ingi Iusmen

Chapter 6. How Do You Go From Demonising Adversaries to Deliberating with Them?

Contemporary practices of democratic governance require policy actors to engage across a wide range of settings. Some, like the media, are adversarial. They reward simple messages and emotive rhetoric. Others, like expert committees, are more consensus-oriented. They reward sober analysis and technical mastery. Yet in practice, it is often the same actors expected to participate across these diverse settings. Theories of democratic governance typically presume that policy actors advance their best interests at all points of the policy process. However, given this complex patchwork of settings, it is not at all clear how they ought to actually go about doing this. How do actors negotiate divergent settings to best promote their policy claims? How do they go from publicly demonising adversaries to privately deliberating with them? To explore these questions, I draw on interviews with a range of policy actors engaged in the obesity debates in Britain and Australia. These actors reflect on the difficulties of actually doing democratic debate. Some, especially the most experienced political operators, refer to backstage practices of ‘orchestrated conflict’ that enable them to pursue their interests without harming personal relationships. But others, especially those least established, struggle to manage the balance. They either remain adversarial and thus peripheral to settings of network influence, or else they risk conceding too much ground. These differential experiences appear problematic in the light of moves to better open up practices of networked governance.
John Boswell

Chapter 7. How Have Narratives, Beliefs and Practices Shaped Pension Reform in Sweden?

This chapter investigates how institutional narratives, beliefs and practices have shaped pension reform processes in Sweden. The chapter adopts a bottom-up perspective, analysing the development of pension policy in two major reform episodes, the 1959 ATP reform and the 1994/98 reform of that system. The chapter shows how important pension reform struggles in the past shaped policy-makers’ beliefs and shared institutional narratives concerning the appropriate design and role of the pension system. The failure of collective bargaining to produce supplementary pension coverage for blue-collar workers in the two decades prior to the 1959 ATP reform generated grass-roots pressure for union leaders and eventually, the Social Democratic Party, to pursue a legislative solution. The emergence of widespread belief in the virtues of expertise-based socio-economic planning intersected with growing Social Democratic influence in politics to create a centre-left world view that saw major pension reform as desirable, achievable and just. In the 1990s, the intense political conflict associated with the 1959 ATP pension reform helped to generate a shared narrative in which political conflict was to be avoided at all cost in negotiating the parameters of a reformed pension system in the 1990s.
Karen Anderson

Chapter 8. What Are the Consequences of Incessant Reform? Losing Trust, Policy Capacity and Institutional Memory in the Queensland Core Executive

This chapter explores the cumulative effects of machinery of government change and successive waves of public-sector reform on the institutional memory of the Queensland core executive. Focused particularly on the period from 2005 to 2015, it reviews how the traditions, beliefs and practices of the central networks that comprise executive government in Australia’s most decentralised state were affected by four changes of Premier, a slew of administrative reforms, and one largely anticipated, and another unexpected, change of government. The chapter presents an insider’s account of unfolding reform in Queensland during the period under study. Throughout this time, the author has been an ‘active member researcher’ (Adler and Adler 1987) who has worked closely with the political-administrative networks at the centre of Queensland government in roles that have included: a member of the Board of the Queensland Public Service Commission; a consultant; a professional educator; a researcher; a confidante; and now a ‘critical friend’. The chapter draws on documentary and interview data collected in the course of my evolving affiliation with the networks under study. It presents an ‘insider’s story’—comparable to Norell’s (2009) account of governance in the Swedish city of Karlstad. My insider’s account is told from the perspective of continuity amidst the ceaseless change affecting informants and respondents. There is widespread concern that forty years of continuous reform and change to the public sector has seriously undermined institutional memory and governments’ capacity to learn from experience. The Queensland case is an opportunity to consider, in microcosm, the medium-term impact and implications of frequent, discontinuous change, on the beliefs, traditions and practices of central core executive networks and for the quality and efficiency of governance. The chapter also reflects on the opportunities and dilemmas of ethnographic fieldwork for the active member researcher and the analytic usefulness of this perspective for administrative ethnography.
Anne Tiernan

Chapter 9. How Do Local Government Chief Executives Engage with Policy Dilemmas?

Our empirical study contributes to interest in how policymaking is enacted and performed in context. We apply insights of a decentred approach to policymaking in exploring the storytelling and narrative practices of local government chief executives. Local government is a setting filled with narratives that offer competing accounts of the past, the present and the future. We examine how chief executives shape narratives and use stories as part of pursuing influence within this complex policymaking arena. One challenge that a decentred approach poses is how to examine the webs that connect different situated actors in an otherwise confusing and puzzlingly diffuse network. We argue that stories and narrative practices offer an important focus for scholarly inquiry.
Kevin Orr, Mike Bennett

Chapter 10. How Do the Police Respond to Evidence-Based Policing?

The What Works concept in the UK is a national approach to prioritising the use of evidence in policy decision-making. The initiative aims to improve the way government and its agencies create, share and use high-quality evidence. What Works is based on the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best available evidence. The What Works Centre for Crime Reduction (WWCR) is part of the ‘What Works’ network led by the College of Policing (COP). In outlining the benefits of the WWCR Centre, the COP anticipates that ‘evidence will be translated into practical insights that the police service and their partners can easily use’ and ‘will be provided on the most effective approaches that can help prevent crime’. The chapter discusses police officers’ response to this evidence-based agenda. It discusses officers’ concerns about their perceived ability to work effectively with an evidence base. These concerns are linked to officers’ perceptions about ‘permission to fail’, organisational constraints, management buy-in and appetite for innovation. Officers agree that evidence-based policing is a positive thing overall but question its viability in practice. The chapter draws on data from all ranks, across four police organisations in the UK.
Jenny Fleming

Chapter 11. What Do UK Citizens Understand About Austerity?

At the height of austerity in the UK, many writers argued that the public accepted painful debt reduction policies because they chimed with ‘common sense’ experience of personal debt. However, while surveys showed public acceptance of austerity, there was little political research asking people what they believed in any depth. This interpretivist study interviews sixty residents of a southern city and finds that while the political economists were right about the ‘common sense’ of higher-income participants, it was not shared by lower-income participants. They do not believe personal debt and government debt are comparable, that they are caused by profligacy or that debt can be reduced quickly. The study highlights how important it is to conduct interpretivist political research into what people believe.
Anna Killick


Weitere Informationen