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The Blame Game


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Christopher Hood takes a simple proposition--that politicians and bureaucrats are mainly concerned about blame avoidance--and uses it to construct a new way of thinking about the organization of public services. In the process, he turns conventional wisdom about the aims of bureaucratic reform on its head. If you learn nothing from this clever and erudite book, you have only yourself to blame. -- Alasdair Roberts, author of "The Logic of Discipline" In this fascinating and excellent book, Hood puts significant concepts--blame and blaming--at the center of our thinking by looking at blame culture and blame games. He emphasizes the functionality of blame in social and institutional life, and the need for managing the frontiers of blame avoidance. -- Geert Bouckaert, president, European Group for Public Administration Christopher Hood's book describes, dissects, and explains the blame avoidance game in modern politics. He succeeds brilliantly, writing gracefully and acutely about an area that many have noted, but few have illuminated as clearly. This is accessible scholarship for a wide range of subjects and readers. -- Ted Marmor, professor emeritus of politics and public policy, Yale University This engaging and timely book will draw the significant attention of scholars working in politics, policy, and administration. Masterfully written, The Blame Game represents a new scholarly high point by one of the most fruitful and influential political scientists in the field today. -- David Levi-Faur, Hebrew University of Jerusalem The Blame Game identifies an interesting and important issue in contemporary public administration, and in contemporary society more broadly. Hood explores the underlying dimensions and implications of blame avoidance, offers rich analysis, and illustrates his points with wonderful examples. -- B. Guy Peters, University of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii Preface ix Part One: Blame, Credit, and Trust in Executive Government Chapter One: Credit Claiming, Blame Avoidance, and Negativity Bias 3 Chapter Two: Players in the Blame Game: Inside the World of Blame Avoidance 24 Part Two: Avoiding Blame: Three Basic Strategies Chapter Three: Presentational Strategies: Winning the Argument, Drawing a Line, Changing the Subject, and Keeping a Low Profi le 47 Chapter Four: Agency Strategies: Direct or Delegate, Choose or Inherit? 67 Chapter Five: Policy or Operational Strategies 90 Chapter Six: The Institutional Dynamics of Blameworld: A New Tefl on Era? 112 Part Three: Living in a World of Blame Avoidance Chapter Seven: Mixing and Matching Blame-Avoidance Strategies 135 Chapter Eight: Democracy, Good Governance, and Blame Avoidance 157 Chapter Nine: The Last Word 181 Notes 187 References 201 Index 219

About the Author

Christopher Hood is the Gladstone Professor of Government at All Souls College, Oxford. His books include "The Limits of Administration", "The Tools of Government", and "The Art of the State".


"In The Blame Game, Christopher Hood identifies one of the most common gripes that citizens have about bureaucracy and government, namely, that no one in either accepts responsibility for making mistakes of omission or commission. In this brief and often illuminating book, Hood explores the diverse and insidious ways in which ducking blame manifests in public life."--Science "Hood addresses how and why government officials avoid blame when things go wrong. The starting point for this remarkable book is the observation that government decisions sometimes turn out to be harmful, and that the question of responsibility inevitably arises... This highly readable volume will help readers understand some of the more troubling aspects of modern government."--Choice "In taking us through the permutations and definitions of the concept and its actualization in the form of structures, impact and possible outcomes, Hood employs a style and approach that is open and engaging. Certainly it is cerebral and analytical, but he does not shirk from using what at times is a matey almost tabloid style."--Andrews Massey, LSE Blog

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