Governing Europe

Governing Europe

Governing Europe

Governing Europe

Synopsis

A-state-of-the-art and comprehensive survey covering all aspects of politics in Western Europe. The volume brings together the very best scholars in the field from the UK, continental Europe and North America.

Excerpt

Tony Atkinson

Vincent and I both contributed to A New Handbook of Political Science (Goodin and Klingemann 1996) chapters subtitled 'Old and New'. (His chapter, with Guy Peters, was on Public Policy and Administration.) It seems to me, as an outsider (an economist, not a historian or a political scientist.), that this subtitle is a good description of Vincent's own intellectual style. He combined all the virtues of the classical historian with intellectual curiosity about new ideas in political science. He was as much at home writing about the first four years of the Mitterrand Presidency as he was studying the biographies of nineteenth century prefects. He was keenly interested in old institutions such as freemasonry, yet was among the first to understand the significance of new developments such as privatization. He encouraged students to pursue the archival work he loved, but was tolerant of those who adopted a quite different approach. (In both cases, of course, their work was subjected to close and sceptical examination.) It is highly appropriate, in a volume in memory of Vincent, that Peter Hall should quote the statement attributed to Santayana that those who neglect history are doomed to repeat it. But Vincent was also receptive to what could be learned from a theoretical framework. When interviewing prospective prize research fellows, he could always be relied on to engage with even the most abstract presentation.

Engagement is, for me, the key. One of the pleasures of talking to Vincent was his openness to cross-disciplinary exchange. He did not like the methods adopted by most economists and was—rightly—suspicious of their influence on policy making. But he was willing to engage. As is reflected in a number of the chapters in this volume, he worked on key issues of economic policy-making, such as regulation, industrial policy, and privatization, the last of which he described as 'a gold mine for political scientists' (1999: 173). Moreover, he was willing to work with economists, notably in his collaboration with John Vickers on The Politics of Privatization in Western Europe (1989). Today, the subjects being studied by economists and by political scientists often over-lap, but they seem too often to be talking past each other. Economists are unduly reliant on simplistic models that lack institutional grounding (median voter models seem to have too large a role); political scientists seem often to work with implicit models of the economy that lack the insights of modern economic theory or fail to capture general equilibrium reactions. What is needed is more genuine engagement of the kind that Vincent practised.

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