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Book publication – Narrative Policy Analysis: cases in decentred policy

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narrative policy analysis cover

Title: Narrative Policy Analysis: cases in decentred policy

Editor: R. A. W. Rhodes


The main aim of this book is to show how decentred analysis contributes to the study of public policy, both theoretically and practically. We seek to substantiate the claim that it offers novel theory and methods with a clear practical application. However, the book has two subsidiary purposes.

First, it displays research by the Centre for Political Ethnography at the University of Southampton. All the contributors are based at Southampton or they are colleagues at other universities who are working with us.

Second, the book is part of the ‘Understanding Governance’ series published by Springer-Macmillan. The first book came out in 1997 so this volume commemorates 20 years of publishing. We have published 25 books with 2 in the pipeline, and counting. There is no danger that any of the books will enter The Times bestseller list but we persist, and many an author is in print because we do. Here’s to our silver wedding anniversary.

Narratives or storytelling are a feature of the everyday life of all who work in government. They tell each other stories about the origins, aims and effects of policies to make sense of their world. These stories form the collective memory of a government department; a retelling of yesterday to make sense of today. This book examine polices through the eyes of the practitioners, both top-down and bottom-up; it decentres policies and policymaking. To decentre is to unpack practices as the contingent beliefs and actions of individuals. Decentred analysis produces detailed studies of people’s beliefs and practices. It challenges the idea that inexorable or impersonal forces drive politics, focusing instead on the relevant meanings, the beliefs and preferences of the people involved.

This book presents ten case studies, covering penal policy, zero-carbon homes, parliamentary scrutiny, children’s rights, obesity, pension reform, public service reform, evidence-based policing, and local economic knowledge. It introduces a different angle of vision on the policy process; it looks at it through the eyes of individual actors, not institutions. In other words, it looks at policies from the other end of the telescope. It concludes there is much to learn from a decentred approach. It delivers edification because it offers a novel alliance of interpretive theory with an ethnographic toolkit to explore policy and policymaking from the bottom-up.

The book’s decentred approach provides an alternative to the dominant evidence–based policy nostrums of the day.

See the book flyer here.

Interpretive Political Science

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NCRM workshop

The Centre of Political Ethnography has organised a three day course on Interpretive Political Science on the 9th-11th May at the University of Southampton to introduce approaches and analytical tools on the subject. Attendees where very happy with the event and the knowledge they managed to obscure.


NCRM workshop NCRM workshop NCRM workshop

Centre in Political Ethnography (CPE)

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Director: Professor R A W Rhodes

Ethnography reaches the parts of politics that other methods cannot reach. It captures the lived experience of politics; the everyday life of political elites and street level bureaucrats. CPE collects and analyses data on the beliefs and practices of these actors. Also, it seeks to demonstrate the relevance of the ethnographic toolkit to political and administrative analysis. CPE comprises members of Law, Criminology and Sociology as well as Political Science. Currently, the Centre has five funded research projects underway with support from the AHRC, the Australian Research Council, the Nuffield Foundation, and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). It takes the lead in an international network of like-minded researchers; the AHRC’s seminar series on ‘Blurring Genres: Recovering the Humanities for Political Science and Area.


For further information contact:

ECPR Lifetime Achievement Award

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ECPR Lifetime Achievement Award

IPSA 2014The recipient of the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award was R.A.W Rhodes, Professor of Government (Research) at the University of Southampton and at Griffith University and Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Newcastle. The Jury was composed of Rudy Andeweg, Martin Bull, Manuel Sanchez de Dios and Jonas Tallberg, Chaired by Simona Piattoni.

The Jury noted that it was impressed with Professor Rhodes’ ‘exceptional record in the many areas of the profession: from teaching and publishing to advising and disseminating.’ Going on to say that ‘Few have taught in so many universities, visited at least as many research institutions, collaborated in so many research projects on both sides of the globe and produced so many veritably ‘paradigm-shifting’ authored and edited volumes. The impact of [his] work on the discipline of political science is easily ‘measured’ both by the by now conventional bibliographic indicators and, more impressionistically but equally clearly, by the impact on the work of many of us.’

Professor Rhodes is life Vice-President and former Chair and President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom; a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia; and an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences (UK). He has also been a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, editor of Public Administration from 1986 to 2011, and Treasurer of the Australian Political Studies Association, 1994–2011.

The Prize will be presented to Professor Rhodes at the General Conference in Montreal on 27th August 2015.

PSA interview

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I was interviewed by Matt Flinders at the PSA’s annual conference in Sheffield and the interview is available on YouTube and under videos above.

Didn’t we do well

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The University of Southampton’s Department of Politics and International Relations climbed 23 places for leading research in the country. It was placed 15th in the national Research Excellence Framework, which assessed the quality and impact of research of all politics departments in the UK. It  performed particularly well in the REF for its research publications. It was ranked 5th in the UK, with the majority of research classified as either world-leading or internationally excellent. Not bad for a small department.



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I gave the keynote address on ‘Recovering the Craft of Public Administration’  to the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) International Conference, ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, 30 October 2014. As the photo suggests, it was a large auditorium. There were 700 delegates, although not all of them were at my session. I also acted as an Adjudicator in the final of ‘The Pitch’ competition with the Directors-General of the Department of Training and Workforce Development, and the Department of Agriculture and Food .


IPSA World Congress

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I delivered the plenary address on ‘Recovering the “craft” of public administration in network governance’ on Monday 21 July 2014 in the Palais des congrès de Montréal. There was an official photographer who supplied this  pensive photograph. A draft of the paper can be found in ‘Online publications’ . The lecture was also recorded and it will appear here later.IPSA 2014


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20140613_133622Wuhan 019 Wuhan 2 001

After Xiamen, I moved on to Wuhan and further round of lectures at the Hubei University of Economics and at Wuhan University. No change in the oppressive climate  or in the charm and courtesy of my hosts who are in the portrait gallery.