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Title: The interface of (social) science with government and politics : An ethnography of political action
Author: Watson, Patrick Gordon
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 1758
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2009
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This dissertation explores the possibility of conducting an ethnography of political action through the detailed examination of politician's use of a specific political phenomenon: performance measurements. Performance Measurements are a combination of actuarial, managerial and social science assessments of which culminate, in the UK case, as a ranking of municipal performance, on each individual publicly (municipally) provided service as well as an overall ranking of local authorities in England. Using performance measurements as a departure point from which to explore the structures of politics more generally, I will illustrate how ethnomethodologically informed ethnography responds to Foucault's proposed examination of the arts and sciences of government in light of recent developments in politics and public policy in the Western world. Over the last thirty-or-so years, governments in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have been, nearly unanimously, incorporating what are considered business management techniques for monitoring and assessing public service provision. This ranges from various levels of government (central/federal, provincial/state/regional, municipal) and reforms have been implemented in a variety of ways. As a general description, it can be said that the advent of cost-benefit accounting combined with business management expectations and assorted social science techniques have furnished the assessment regimes with varying degrees of acceptance and success. At the same time, political scientists, management theorists, and social scientists, aware of this paradigm shift in the practice of governance, have been examining methods for approaching the phenomenon of the governmental actor. In a handful of cases (c.f. Gains, 2009; Yannow, 2006; Rhodes, 2005; Abram and Cowell, 2004) ethnographic approaches to the phenomenon of political action have been proposed, explored developed and implemented. However there is a great deal of deliberation on what might properly be said, ethnographically, about government activity, and the new field of ethnography of government or governance is struggling to come to terms with a mode a purpose. I will propose an ethnomethodologically informed ethnography of government can provide insights to what Foucault (1991) described as governmentality: the rational and practical features of government action. While Foucault proposed a historically informed examination of the discourses of government, I will suggest that an observationally informed inquiry garners knowledge on "rational action", as well as organisational rule usage, decision making practices and accountability structures or practices in a way that other forms of inquiry cannot achieve. In a time of flux in the structures and practices of governance, I will suggest that ethnomethodologically informed ethnography is one approach with rich insights towards the inquiry of these new governmental arrangements.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available