Chapter 9: Context, theory and rationality: an uneasy relationship?
Context is messy. Dealing with context in order to explain the outcome of a political or administrative process means taking into account the decisions and actions by individual politicians or bureaucrats, the media’s attention (or not) of (alleged or real) administrative malfeasance, ad hoc informal linkages between domestic and transnational institutions, and so on. We deal with context because it is often there that we hope to find the explanation to why and how public organizations were redesigned, created or terminated, or whatever our specific research question might be. Not only is the devil in the detail, this is also where we find the key explanations to social, political and administrative behavior. Through “thick description” (Geertz, 1973) we uncover the richness of context that explains why people, organizations or states behave the way they do. However, as social scientists we are expected not only to account for such behavior in individual cases but also in a broader and more general sense to build or test theory. In an ideal world we should use such case studies to develop more general models or theories of such behavior. Taking that step from the case-specific to the more general requires that much of the context used to account for the case is dropped over the proverbial railing as generalization is predicated on some degree of simplification.
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.