Written by Peter Housden.
As a Permanent Secretary, you yearn for a theory of the state. In media res, you face a relentless flow of matters large and unbelievably small, multifarious actors strut the stage and you try to provide purpose and leadership for the several thousand souls in your department. A clear, still voice of reason to enable us to understand the course of history and provide a sense of sanity, proportion, dignity even, in these wonderful jobs would be heaven sent.
A person thus turns to The State As Cultural Practice with high expectations. It is a book with a big reputation that makes bold claims for its significance. We are told to expect ‘a new response to old questions about the nature of the state and how to study it.’ It starts well, situating its concerns within a dense and wide-ranging survey of the literature. Its methodology – seeking to draw meaning through ‘thick descriptions’ developed from interviews and observation in three Whitehall departments between 2001-5 – is rich and potentially generative. Continue reading The State as Cultural Practice – Who Knew That?