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 20: The role and significance of context in comparing country systems

John Halligan


This chapter examines the role and significance of context in three country systems – within one administrative tradition – that have wrestled with local factors and exogenous influences in periods of change. The tension between the two has been endemic to Anglophone countries – Australia, Canada and New Zealand – but the emphasis is on how the interaction between contextual and non-contextual factors has been worked through in the recent reform era. The countries are differentiated in two significant respects. First, they are all relatively small, dependent (at least historically) and with a habitual outward orientation that dates from colonialism. The pattern of being externally fixated continued in the post-colonial period while their independence was being progressively clarified in the twentieth century (although they have continued to share a sovereign and head of state with the United Kingdom). Second, these systems are open and receptive to ideas because of an administrative tradition that is pragmatic and instrumental. Anglophone countries have been particularly susceptible to the influence of management ideas and have demonstrated an ability to implement them. The role of Britain is significant both as the parent country and the constant purveyor of management ideas.

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