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Theory, method and British political life history


Rhodes, RAW, Theory, method and British political life history, Political Studies Review, 10, (2) pp. 161-176. ISSN 1478-9299 (2012) [Non Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2012 Wiley

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DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1478-9302.2011.00236.x


The British tradition of political life history has six conventions: 'tombstone' biography, separation of public and private lives, life without theory, objective evidence and facts, character and storytelling. I describe each in turn and review the main debates in the tradition before turning to the swingeing critique by 'the interpretive turn'. Postmodernism deconstructed grand narratives by pronouncing the death of the subject and the death of the author. I outline an interpretive approach that reclaims life history by focusing on the idea of 'situated agency': that is, on the webs of significance that people spin for themselves against the backcloth of their inherited beliefs and practices. I explore, with examples, the implications of this approach for writing life history, stressing the different uses for biography open to political scientists. I end with some brief thoughts on why the British tradition of political life history has proved resistant to change.

Item Details

Item Type:Non Refereed Article
Keywords:political biography, British government, interpretive turn, situated agency, storytelling
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Political science
Research Field:Political theory and political philosophy
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Europe's past
UTAS Author:Rhodes, RAW (Professor Rod Rhodes)
ID Code:85197
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:11
Deposited By:Research Division
Deposited On:2013-06-18
Last Modified:2014-08-27

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