Injunctions to put administrative structures and processes in their context are as common as they are vague. Context covers a multitude of ‘variables’ but commonly most social scientists include history; for example, historical institutionalism has been one of the major intellectual movements of recent years. However, few social scientists spend much time explaining what they mean by history. Trite phrases such as ‘history matters’ are common. Sustained analyses of how and why history matters are less so. Christopher Pollitt (2008, 39) suggests that: The good ship History was more like a flotilla than a single vessel. The flagship is of traditional design, in which it is easy to assume that what one is hearing is simply ‘how it was’ – a convincing narrative unencumbered by much theory or method. But this is a deceptive appearance [. . .] The theory is principally inductive and inclusive – explanations are produced by constructive attention to many details and aspects [. . .] There is no compulsion to generalize the eventually constructed explanation to many other situations, and no requirement that the form of explanation must be capable of yielding predictions about the future. Appearances are indeed deceptive. In this chapter, we give schematic accounts of three rival visions of the notion of historical context: developmental historicism, modernist empiricism and radical historicism. For a brief summary, see Table 5.1.
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