Frank Stacey Memorial Lecture 2008: Scenes from the Departmental Court
This article argues for research grounded in interpretive theory, or the beliefs and practices of actors, and observational fieldwork, or thick descriptions of what the actors think they are doing. However, discussions of theory and method only come to life when they are grounded in fieldwork. So, at the heart of the article is an account of the Private Offices of British central government departments. I argue that the focus on beliefs and practices enables me to tell a new story. The existing literature does not explore how the individuals who comprise the department's core executive coordinate the department's tasks and resolve conflicts. There is a 'departmental court' that dare not speak its name. By describing the court 'at work', I focus not on individual Private Offices but on the tasks of coordination and conflict resolution at the top of the department. I conclude that any approach that provides new evidence and a novel interpretation makes a strong case for inclusion in the armoury of every student of public administration.
Public Policy and Administration