August 9th, 2011
This post is to announce the publication of my latest book, Governing Fables: Learning from Public Sector Narratives. The book can be ordered from Information Age Publishing at its webpage: http://infoagepub.com/products/Governing-Fables. It can also be ordered from online booksellers such as www.amazon.com.
Governing Fables advocates the importance of narrative for public servants, exemplifies it with a rigorously selected and analyzed set of narratives, and imparts narrative skills politicians and public servants need in their careers. Governing Fables turns to narratology, the inter-disciplinary study of narrative, for a conceptual framework that is applied to a set of narratives engaging life within public organizations, focusing on works produced during the last twenty-five years in the US and UK. The genres discussed include British government narratives inspired by and reacting to Yes Minister, British appeasement narratives, American political narratives, the Cuban Missile Crisis narrative, jury decision-making narratives, and heroic teacher narratives. In each genre lessons are presented regarding both effective management and essential narrative skills.
Governing Fables is intended for public management and political science scholars and practitioners interested in leadership and management, as well as readers drawn to the political subject matter and to the genre of political films, novels, and television series.
Here is some background to the book. Narrative has become a significant cultural phenomenon, as evidenced by its frequent use in discourse (particularly in government and business circles), and affirmed by its rapidly increasing Google count, now nearing 100 million references.
Narrative is also an area of growing interest within public management. Some scholars have begun to collect and analyze public servants’ narratives. Other authors have written about how public management practitioners can use story-telling as a form of advocacy. Still other authors have looked for the management lessons to be found in authored narratives about politics or public management, particularly movies and novels.
My book focuses primarily on the analysis of authored narratives, but does it in a much more sophisticated way than its precursors. The management lessons literature focuses on content rather than form, and looks for unambiguous readings. In Governing Fables, I apply narratological theory to these texts, which necessarily entails an acceptance of ambiguity and conflicting meanings, both within an individual text and among the several texts that retell a particular story. It also involves an analysis of the relationship between content and narrative strategy. Rather than restricting my focus to individual texts, I am looking for common patterns in related texts. It is these common patterns that create the Governing Fables referred to in the title. The fables refer to specific contexts, such as transformational teachers in troubled public high schools, British politicians, or the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I have also created an overarching structure for the different contexts, namely a four quadrant model that incorporates diverse outcomes for both protagonists and the organizations that they lead. Readers of this blog will recall that I applied this model in posts earlier this year to notable recent films (Inside Job, The King’s Speech, The Social Network) as well as to campaign messaging in the recent Canadian election.
If you purchase Governing Fables you can look forward to a thoughtful discussion of a variety of contemporary British and American movies, novels, television programs, and memoirs about politics and government – some of which you may have already read or seen and others which you may want to read or see. From this discussion will emerge lessons about how politicians and public managers can behave effectively in a variety of managerial contexts, and lessons about the use of narrative as a management skill.
Writing this book has involved a lot of thought, and I believe I’ve come up with something that is distinctive and valuable. I encourage you to read it.