Stephen J. Ball
Doing sociological research is not just a matter of having exciting adventures in the field it is also a process of analysis, interpretation, theorizing and writing.
This chapter presents and discusses the conception, methods and writing of The Micropolitics of the School (Ball, 1987a). Three aspects of the process of research are dealt with. First, I will place Micropolitics in some relationship to my previous (and subsequent) work, both teaching and research. In particular I want to outline my analytical concern with education as a political process and the concomitant empirical interest in those conflicts which occur between groups and individuals who seek to define ‘what is to count as education’ in their own terms. Second, I will discuss the sorts of data and the methods of collection and analysis employed in the research upon which Micropolitics is based. In particular, I want to consider the use of the ‘constant comparative’ method. Third, in more general terms, I shall explore the role of theory development in ethnography. Specifically, I want to counterpose a model of concept development against a ‘theory testing’ approach. Micropolitics will be reconsidered in these terms.
The origins of Micropolitics lie in two different but related sets of interests, one practical and one theoretical, one based on teaching activities and the other in research activities. In simple terms the origins of Micropolitics lie in a sense of frustration. While working at the University of Sussex, for several years I taught a course on ‘the school as an organization’. From the outset I found two problems in running the course. The first was the dearth of literature on schools