Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 22 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The observation of a political leadership is associated with ethnographic investigation and interpretation. This chapter argues that the observation of political leadership practices, alongside extended conversations and the analysis of artefacts and documents, allows the researcher to provide a rich ‘thick description’ of the inner world of powerful elites, their decision-making, and their interactions. The use of observational analysis to research political leadership is relatively rare, as achieving access is difficult for researchers without official sanction or personal connections. Nevertheless, many observational studies of national and local, elected and non-elected political and administrative leadership have been undertaken, providing insights that temper more deterministic rational choice, institutional, and constitutional theories of political leadership. In settings where political agency and individual judgement are both interesting and impactful, observational research can provide insights on political leadership unavailable through other means. Observing political leaders not only serves to triangulate other data but can uncover the important informal ‘rules of the game’ and remind us that the interpretation of the ‘organization of political life’ makes a difference, as well as reminding us of the opportunities for powerful, resource-rich actors to exercise agency even in circumstances of constraint.

Keywords: observational method, political leadership, political ethnography

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.