Surveyors of the political landscape

Modern Politics and Government - Governance, Politics and the State
November 24, 2000

Any introduction to political science should familiarise the student with the key institutions of politics and, more important, excite the student by exploring contemporary analytical debates. Alan Ball’s Modern Politics and Government , now in its sixth edition (with Guy Peters as new co-author), continues to offer a solid introductory textbook to the comparative study of politics. Its coverage is exhaustive, clear and well written and is accompanied by an amazing range of comparative and historical examples.

However, its age shows. While various chapters introduce key concepts and hint at disciplinary debates, the material seems too descriptive and uncritical. More focused and detailed examples would supply the student with a better understanding. It is also questionable whether students are still interested in references to how political systems were reputedly operating in communist Europe, while more contemporary concerns, such as democratic transition and the European Union receive only a few pages of attention and ethnic conflict regulation receives hardly any mention.

Jon Pierre and Guy Peters’s Governance, Politics and the State offers a background undergraduate text for courses on the changing nature of the state and executive government. The authors survey competing approaches to regionalisation, supranational integration and readjusted "state capacity" and discuss alternative conceptions of governance, such as deliberative, direct and communitarian democracy. It is regrettable that this book amounts to just over 200 pages, as longer discussions in all chapters and greater attention to political economic aspects would have offered more substantial analysis.

Governance research remains a disparate field, and this text supplies a first, and therefore valuable  introduction to the debates and encourages the study of primary texts and empirical material. Both books, conservative in their design, cover important ground. They could, however, provide more challenges to the student, thereby making the study of political science a more exciting subject.

Martin Lodge is lecturer in public policy, University of Ulster.

    

Modern Politics and Government: Sixth edition

Author - Alan R. Ball and B. Guy Peters
ISBN - 0 333 73746 6 and 73747 4
Publisher - Palgrave (formerly Macmillan Press)
Price - £42.50 and £13.99
Pages - 322

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