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The Social Psychology of Political Elites

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This project formed one strand of Meg Russell's 3-year ESRC-funded Fellowship.

This is the most exploratory, and the most innovative, element of the Fellowship. It sought to build interdisciplinary links to see whether new and more accurate theories can be developed to explain the behaviour of political elites, and parliamentarians in particular. At present "behaviouralism" in legislative studies, and in political science more broadly, is heavily influenced by "rational choice". But rational choice models often bear little resemblance to the understanding of the world held by those who have been close to the policy process, and their predictive powers can be weak. Meanwhile, since behavioralism developed in the mid-20th century, social psychologists have built and refined their own explanations of human behaviour. Their findings demonstrate that human beings do not always act "rationally", and indeed when in social situations may behave more as group members than as individuals. As politics is innately a collective pursuit, and generally structured through groups, these results could bring important insights into the study of political institutions.

The project sought to develop new theoretical approaches, by drawing from the literature on social/political psychology and related disciplines. It also sought to build links with academics working in these disciplines with a view to future publications and joint research.

Any academics working in related fields who are interested in this work, and in building research collaborations, are invited to contact the researchers (see below).

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Understanding the resurgence of English national identity

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:00:30 +0000

On 14 December Michael Kenny, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, spoke at a Unit seminar on English nationhood and the current debate around the English Question in British politics. Sally Symington reports on the event. Michael Kenny’s talk ‘Understanding the Resurgence of English National Identity’ placed the current policy debate about the English Question […]

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“A good place to work?” What Commons staff think of House governance

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:00:46 +0000

Barry K Winetrobe examines one aspect of the current committee inquiry into House of Commons governance following the Clerk appointment fiasco. Evidence submitted by House staff reveals much which may be unsettling for House managers and MPs, but is ultimately good for the House itself. ‘We seek to ensure that the House of Commons is […]

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“The precious centre of our Parliamentary democracy”: Commons governance after the Clerk appointment affair

Mon, 01 Sep 2014 09:00:52 +0000

Barry K Winetrobe examines the current controversy over the appointment of a new Clerk of the House of Commons, and the lessons it has for the better management and governance of the House. It is exactly a year since I posted a piece on this blog on how the Commons could use the Government defeat […]

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Meg Russell's new book, The Contemporary House of Lords:
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