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School of Business and Management

School Research Seminar Series

27 February 2013

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: FB4.04/08 Francis Bancroft Building (4th Floor)

Perri 6
Professor in Public Management
School of Business and Management
Queen Mary, University of London

"Perri 6 is Professor in Public Management in the School of Business and Management at Queen, Mary, University of London. His work on joined-up government, inter-organisational networks, privacy and confidentiality is widely cited. His recent research has concentrated on the policy process. His most recent books are “Explaining political judgement” (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and “Principles of methodology” (with Christine A Bellamy, Sage, 2012). His 2009-2012 Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship was for a study examining explanations for changing styles of political judgement using cases from British government between 1959 and 1974, and for their unintended and unexpected consequences."

Seminar title
Explaining styles of political judgement in British government: comparing isolation dynamics between administrations, 1959-74

A core executive, meaning the cabinet and its immediate senior advisers, can be studied as an organisation, exhibiting common patterns of thought and decision-making just like any other organisation. Those patterns are captured by the concept of a ‘thought style’, specifying a style of judgement in decision-making. A battery of eight measures is used qualitatively to code variation in styles. Styles change over the lives of administrations. Analysis of British governments suggests that a few of the logically possible trajectories of change are surprisingly common. But those trajectories have not been explained. The neo-Durkheimian institutional framework, an approach developed originally in anthropology, argues that changes in styles of political judgement are best explained by causal mechanisms driven by the informal institutions of social organisation among ministers and their advisers. The approach offers both an account of the limited variety of elementary forms of informal institutional ordering and a set of dynamics by which informal social organisation changes over time. This paper draws upon analysis of a large set of diaries, memoirs and biographies and other secondary sources to code ministerial informal organisation. It then uses an extensive body of official documents from the National Archives to compare changing judgement styles in the British governments led by premiers Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson and Edward Heath between 1959 and 1974. The paper demonstrates that, from very different initial informal institutions, these governments took different pathways into, and one case, out of what the theory defines as “isolation dynamics”. The paper examines evidence for theory’s explanation for these trajectories in one field of social policy (comprehensive secondary schooling), one of foreign policy (Britain’s relations with the US over the Vietnam war) and one of micro-economic policymaking. The argument helps to solve an important puzzle in understanding changing political judgement and governmental capability, but it also contributes to wider understanding of organisational change.

Additional information
Seminar lunch in The Kitchen at 12:30pm
The seminar will run from 13:00 to 14:00pm (suggested: 50 minute talk and 10 minute Q&A)

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