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 16: Seeing context where there’s no “there” there: the EU/USA financial crises and the missing state

Richard Stillman


Throughout my academic career I have been fascinated with Europe; that is, the way Europeans think about public administration. I even joke with my European colleagues when they ask me what I study. My reply, “You,” which normally leads to considerable puzzlement – “Are you nuts?” – as well as laughter – “Oh, you must be kidding!” So I then quickly explain that this “peculiar hobby” (or, is it my “personal problem”?) began in graduate school. There I admired such “European Greats” such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber and Walter Bagehot. After finishing my doctorate in 1971, I travelled three months throughout Europe visiting major universities and educational centers, hoping to locate and learn about contemporary European ideas concerning our field. To my disappointment, I found little beyond the dominance of the positive law traditions on the Continent and Oxbridge education in Great Britain. Two decades later I returned on sabbatical, first teaching at Leiden University in 1991 and then at Budapest University of Economic Sciences in 1993. Again, I travelled extensively to discover current administrative science developments. Strikingly, in the era immediately after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, public administration studies seemed to be blossoming everywhere, but I was equally amazed by how American public administration was being adopted as the norm, even the “gold standard” for good teaching and research practices. I once again found myself in Europe for a prolonged stay from 2011–12.

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