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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Chapter 13: Explaining contextual influences on the dynamics of public management reforms: reflections on some ways forward

Edoardo Ongaro


As summed up by Christopher Pollitt in a co-authored paper based on a wide analysis of both academic and grey literature on the impact of (new public management [NPM]-type) public management reforms in Europe, the development of scholarly knowledge about the understanding of contextual influences on the dynamics of public management reforms has led to the recognition that certain ‘factors’, properly positioned along time and scale dimensions, exert an influence in a certain direction (facilitate vs. prevent) on certain contents of public management reform (Pollitt and Dan, 2011, pp. 35–47). This state of the art leaves the question ‘how can we then move forward and better qualify causal patterns?’ yet to be fully addressed, as it does for related questions such as ‘how can we bridge the stream of research on public management reform trajectories in different countries2 (which is by definition at a ‘macro’ level of analysis3) with strands of research in public management which aim at comprehending causes and effects in public management by uncovering what happens at more ‘micro’ a level (for example, the stream of research on Public Service Motivation [PSM] – see Perry and Hondeghem, 2008 and Vandenabeele and Hondeghem, 2008 – focused on the motivational structure of individuals working for the public sector)?’.

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