Chapter 3: Organizational Routines in Political Science
Timothy J. McKeown Introduction A student of routines in organizations might easily suppose that this topic is a central concern of political science. Fundamentally, political science is concerned with what governments do, and what they do usually is embodied in the laws or regulations that they adopt. These laws and regulations are typically created by formal organizations: legislatures, administrative agencies, military services, or international organizations. They regulate the conduct of other organizations as well as their own. Treating routines in organizations as formal rules governing a micropolitical system is a simple extension of this perspective. Just as organization theorists long ago realized that many of the rules that matter in organizations are not in the rulebook, political scientists, especially those who study international politics and diplomacy, have recognized that informal norms govern the conduct of governments. They typically view these norms as patterns of behavior that could be described as following a rule, but not necessarily a rule that is visible to participants in the political systems being studied. Stephen Krasner’s (1982) deﬁnition of international regimes as ‘principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actor expectations converge’ is a well known statement that deliberately ignores the distinction between formal and informal to stress the importance of patterns of behavior based on convergent expectations. Thus, the dual perspectives on the nature of organizational routines that are found in other disciplines are also found in political science. In what follows I ﬁrst discuss how the study of routines in political...
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