Context in Public Policy and Management
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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.
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First link

Christopher Pollitt


This is the first of several ‘links’ in the book. These are not intended to summarize the preceding chapters, still less to critique them all in some systematic way. On the contrary, the links will be very selective. They are no more than my musings – a possible abuse of my editorial privileges – drawing out some very specific issues that struck me as being of particular interest or importance. They are links in the sense that I am hoping to make links between chapters and, beyond that, across the book as a whole. They are also links in their larger ambition, occasionally to connect the discussion between these covers with other, wider discussions taking place elsewhere in the social sciences, or in the everyday life of public policy and management. I begin with the various attempts to define the varieties of contextualism. In the opening chapter, Turo Virtanen distinguishes between (1) epistemological and methodological contextualism, (2) ontological contextualism and (3) historical and linguistic contextualism.

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