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 21: Hospitals and the dynamics of multiple contexts

Christopher Pollitt


The central aim of this chapter is to take some of the key ideas concerning contexts that have been exposed in previous chapters and give them a ‘work out’ on a particular case. Obviously I cannot hope to cover all the many ideas and insights that my colleagues have advanced. I must content myself with a selection, but, nonetheless, comparatively to exercise a range of frameworks, conceptualizations or interpretations on a single subject should help to illuminate some of the relative advantages and limitations of the various ideas and approaches. This is not an attempt to put all these key ideas in some sort of cardinal or even ordinal sequence – they are too diverse and incommensurate for that. But it is an effort to see differences and similarities between them, and to get a feel for how they might work when applied to a concrete set of circumstances and events.

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