Table of Contents

Context in Public Policy and Management

Context in Public Policy and Management

The Missing Link?

Edited by Christopher Pollitt

‘Putting into context’ is a very common phrase – both in the social sciences and beyond. But what exactly do we mean by this, and how do we do it? In this book, leading scholars in public policy and management tackle these issues. They show how ideas of context are central to a range of theories and explanations and use an international range of case studies to exemplify context-based explanation. The book uncovers the complexity that lies behind an apparently simple notion, and offers a variety of approaches to decipher that complexity. Context is indeed a missing link, which enables us to make sense of the vital relationship between the general and the particular.

Chapter 17: The context of public administration from a neo-institutionalist point of view: an analysis with Finland as the case

Pertti Ahonen

Subjects: business and management, public management, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


The purpose of this chapter is to deliver a neo-institutionalist analysis of a certain variety with due attention paid to the context of public administration. The empirical topic is Finland’s public administration (for an outline see Figure 17.1). Hall and Taylor (1996) have distinguished three species of neo-institutionalism made up of the ‘rational choice’, ‘historical’ and ‘sociological’ species, and Peters has added first four and next five further species (Peters 2005, 2011). Each of the three inventories includes ‘sociological institutionalism’, which this chapter represents in one of its numerous sub-species. That sub-species bears no name proper, but it distinguishes itself as what Vogel (2012) calls a ‘visible college’ revealed by bibliometrics with keen mutual referencing of published scholarly works by the ‘college’ members. The central figure of the college is John W. Meyer of Stanford University, one of the founders of present-day neo-institutionalism who wrote the now classical article (Meyer and Rowan 1977). Many of the other members are his previous students and close colleagues. It is the author’s choice that the chapter does not build upon any other sub-species of ‘sociological institutionalism’ nor any other neo-institutionalist species of merit, such as those Peters (2005, 2011) names ‘normative institutionalism’ (for instance, James G. March and Johan P. Olsen) and ‘historical institutionalism’ (for instance, Paul Pierson, Wolfgang Streeck and Kathleen Thelen).

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