Chapter 22: Context: what kind of missing link?
Let me begin with a bold, not to say crude, attempt to prioritize and simplify. Embedded in the foregoing cornucopia of contributions there seem to be a number of frequently recurring concerns and proposals for addressing those concerns. As in Chapter 21, I will focus on six particularly important ones. _ That context(s) should be defined, theorized and operationalized. _ That contexts may be factual and/or conceptual. _ That contexts are multiple and intersecting. _ That contexts may be constitutive of action. _ That we should look for the mechanisms and processes that animate contexts and enable them to have ‘effects’. _ That comparison can play a valuable role in the analysis of context. However, before we start on our list of six insights, we should not overlook a fundamental point that has animated the whole of this book. It is simply that context is tremendously important right across the study of policy and management – it (or rather ‘they’– we will come to that in a moment) plays/play a crucial role in a wide variety of types of explanation. ‘It/they’ merited a book – hopefully this book – to give it/them the attention their pervasiveness deserves. As Christensen and Lægreid wrote (p. 149) ‘context can make a huge difference’.
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