Taking Stock: The State of the Art of the State

Christopher Hood

in The Art of the State

Published in print February 2000 | ISBN: 9780198297659
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599484 | DOI:
Taking Stock: The State of the Art of the State

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Returns to the general question of what sort of science public management is or can be and how cultural theory can contribute to that science. Concludes by taking stock of the cultural‐theory approach as a framework for analysing public management, surveying its strengths and weaknesses. It does not claim there are no problems with the approach—on the contrary, there are major gaps and ambiguities and some of the underlying logic needs attention, but in spite of such weaknesses, the claim is that a cultural‐theory framework has much to contribute to a way of thinking about the art of the state that is neither sham science nor mere craft. To assess the cultural‐theory approach, this concluding chapter discusses three sorts of objections to the cultural‐theory framework as a way of analysing public management. One possible line of criticism might be called the ‘nursery toys’ objection—the claim that cultural theory is too simple for sophisticated analysis and is therefore better suited for the elementary stages of understanding than for advanced or professional analysis; a second possible line of criticism might be called the ‘soft science’ objection—the claim that, whatever its level of sophistication or applicability to management, the theory is, even on its own terms, limited, ambiguous, and perhaps even unfalsifiable; a third line of criticism might be called the ‘wrong tool’ objection—i.e. the claim that cultural theory, however sophisticated, cannot be an adequate basis for a theory of management, because ultimately it has little to say about the central what‐to‐do questions of organization that management and managers need to be concerned with—and by this view, it is the wrong tool for the job.

Keywords: art of the state; cultural theory; nursery toys objection; objections; public management; soft science objection; strengths; weaknesses; wrong tool objection

Chapter.  7693 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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