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Integrating Structural Context into the Assessment of Political Leadership: Philosophical Realism, Gordon Brown and the Great Financial Crisis

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Publication details

JournalParliamentary Affairs
DatePublished - 11 Jul 2015
Issue number1
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)77-96
Original languageEnglish


How should we assess the performance of political leaders? As many scholars note, it is important to take into account the structural context that politicians govern within when appraising their record in office. However, many existing approaches used to assess political leaders have not integrated a notion of structure into their research in an explicit or detailed way. This paper tries to respond to this gap by first discussing a range of issues involved in undertaking such an exercise. It highlights not only the significance of incorporating structure, but structural change into leadership studies. The paper goes on to develop a theoretical account of structural change utilising philosophical realism, before briefly applying it to the case of Gordon Brown’s tenure during the global financial crisis. It concludes by suggesting that, understood through the lens of philosophical realism, the crisis posed a particularly difficult and challenging set of circumstances for Brown and his response to them should be given more credit than it has so far received.

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