2

Institutionalism

Introduction

An interpretive approach to political science conceives of its objects of inquiry as contingent practices. These practices are the products of the actions, and so beliefs, of the relevant actors. We can explain beliefs, actions, and practices by reference to traditions and problems. This interpretive approach informs the ensuing study of New Labour. In broad terms, New Labour will appear as a response from within the tradition of social democracy to issues made salient by the New Right. Yet we need to invoke different issues and different features of social democracy depending on the particular aspects of New Labour we are trying to explain.

This chapter will begin to develop this interpretation of New Labour while also continuing the examination of different approaches to political science. New Labour intersects with, and draws on, the new institutionalism. To be more precise, New Labour has responded to problems made salient by the New Right in ways that overlap with, and are influenced by, the new institutionalist response to the rise of rational choice. What follows thus maps approaches to political science onto policy proposals and party agendas. One mapping is widely accepted: a neoliberal narrative promoted marketisation and the new public management as adopted by the New Right. 1 The other mapping has gone unnoticed: an institutionalist narrative promoted networks and joined-up governance as adopted by New Labour. Of course, these mappings represent broad conceptual and temporal conjunctures, not invariant ones: some neoliberals do not advocate marketisation and the new public management let alone support the New Right; and some institutionalists do not advocate networks and joined-up governance let alone support New Labour. Nonetheless, just as political scientists acknowledge such qualifications while recognising the reasonableness of the conjuncture often drawn between neoliberalism and the New Right, so we can do so while accepting the interaction between new institutionalism and New Labour.

Political scientists conjoin neoliberalism with marketisation and the New Right partly because of the conceptual overlaps between their ideas and

-29-

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New Labour: A Critique
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • 1 - Political Science 1
  • 2 - Institutionalism 29
  • 3 - Communitarianism 54
  • 4 - The Welfare State 83
  • 5 - The Economy 106
  • 6 - Social Democracy 128
  • Notes 157
  • Bibliography 178
  • Index 195
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