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date: 06 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the conflict between interpretivists and mainstream researchers about the purpose of research and the role of theory, method, and evidence in the context of the British central state. It locates this debate within the context of the vaunted transition from government to governance. Moreover, the recent ‘third wave’ governance-theoretic research is described and the six specific research agendas in this field are presented: power in policy-making networks, multi-level governance, core executive studies, prime ministerial power, central departments and the administrative/politics interface, and the central state beyond departments. Finally, it locates the study of the central state within a number of broader themes and issues. The ‘first-wave’ analysis of governance was initially developed without any reference to the interpretivist approach and still sets the broad framework for current research. The vibrant current ‘third-wave’ research on governance has contributed knowledge about important substantive topics.

Keywords: British central state, interpretivist approach, government, governance, first-wave, third-wave, policy-making, prime minister, central departments, administrative/politics interface

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