Exceptional action in policymaking: Employing network analysis to capture leadership and political entrepreneurship
Christopoulos, D. (2010) Exceptional action in policymaking: Employing network analysis to capture leadership and political entrepreneurship. Working Paper. University of the West of England, Bristol.
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Actions of political agents on exceptional political outcomes cannot be validated on mere descriptions of decision making. Agency at the micro level needs to be integrated with the action of all agents at the macro level and contextualised to specific cycles of political contest. To comprehend an actors’ capacity to affect political outcomes they should be embedded within their personal and professional networks. Management of their relational environment is vital to political actor’s success. Mapping their relational space provides information on the constraints and opportunities available to them as agents. To that end, this article offers a justification for a theoretical and methodological triangulation of social network analysis to political agent analysis. Exceptional political behavior is defined here as the capacity of certain actors to transcend constraints that limit other agents. In this article specific actions are considered for their degree of exceptionality, and individual actors as having the potential for exceptional behavior. A critical examination of the social science literature allows for a synthesis of theories of entrepreneurship and leadership with a relational perspective. Tied to a definition of exceptional agency are practical suggestions for operationalising research on exceptional political agency.
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