It is the area of urban politics and local government studies that Professor Stoker first made his name and continues to be seen as a leading authority. In 1988 he published The Politics of Local Government and a co-authored book on Remaking Planning. The Politics of Urban Change in the Thatcher Years appeared a year later. There followed co-edited books dealing with several topics including Local Government in Europe (1991) and Theories of Urban Politics (1995) and Rethinking Local Democracy (1996) and The Privatization of Urban Services in Europe (1997). A co-authored book with Stephen Young – Cities in the 1990s-was published in 1993. For five years (1992-7) Professor Stoker was Programme Director of a £2m research endeavour run for the UK’s Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) under the title of the Local Governance Programme. Two edited books captured the main output of the programme The New Management of Local Governance (1999) and The New Politics of Local Governance (2000). A single authored book- Transforming Local Governance on the reforms undertaken by New Labour was published in early 2004 and later that year an edited book on British Local Government into the 21st Century emerged that analyzed New Labour’s reform in more detail. From April 2002 Professor Stoker has been heading up the major Government -funded five-year evaluation of the new constitutional and standard arrangements introduced into local government in the UK by the 2000 Local Government Act (see www.elgnce.org.uk for research reports and publications). In more normative vein he has been a strong advocate of a new localism and a greater devolution in the approach to governance both in the UK and beyond.
There are several broader academic themes that Professor Stoker has pursued and the most important of these is the issue of governance. In 1998 he published an article in UNESCO’s International Social Science Review under the title ‘Governance as theory: five propositions’. The article is very widely cited and seen as a seminal statement on the issue. In January 2004 Professor Stoker won a prestigious research award from the ESRC as a Professorial Fellow. The award will run until 31 December 2007 under the theme of ‘The Principles of Governance: Corporate and Political’ Together with Vasudha Chhotray Professor Stoker is preparing a major new book on governance theory and its application in a range of disciplines.
The work on governance has spilled out into a wider concern with public service reform. Professor Stoker has published work on joined-up governance including a jointly authored book on Towards Holistic Governance in 2002 and a range of articles on the Public Value Management as
A further theme of Professor Stoker’s work has been over the issue of citizen participation, social capital and civil renewal. This work has been conducted with several colleagues including Vivien Lowndes, William Maloney, Lawrence Pratchett and Graham Smith. This work has led to the development of a heuristic to help public authorities investigate their public participation strategies and identify how they might be improved. The Council of Europe has adopted this CLEAR framework and used it in a range of municipal settings throughout Europe.
A broader concern about the state of politics in democracies developed into a single authored book- Why Politics Matters (2006). It provides evidence of intense disillusionment with the formal processes and practices of politics. The emphasis on individual choice and consumerism in our societies has created a challenging environment for the collective decision-making characteristic of politics. Other factors have also undermined people’s faith in and understanding of politics: its domination by professional activists that means that most citizens are manipulated spectators in the process rather than critical citizens ; the role of the mainstream media in promoting only surface understanding of issues and more generally supporting a culture of cynicism; and the impact of globalization and other forces that take decisions away from established political institutions to obscure locations and more broadly out of the grasp of most citizens. Restoring more capacity to our democratic politics will require more effective representative and direct democracy instruments for citizens who want to act as engaged amateurs rather than leave politics to professionalized specialists.
The question of how to engage citizens more effectively is a key area of research for Professor Stoker and colleagues. A book on Re-energizing Citizenship in 2007 addresses these issues. In several research papers by written by Professor Stoker and colleagues he advocate the use of experimental methods to test out what works in this area.
Professor Stoker has also published on broader approaches to the conduct of political science and is the co-editor of Theories and Methods in Political Science that first appeared in 1995 and its second edition in the autumn of 2002. Professor Stoker is a member of the editorial board of the two main UK political science journals: Political Studies and The British Journal of Politics& International Relations. He is the co-series editor for two Palgrave book series, one dealing with Government Beyond the Centre and the other dealing with Political Analysis.
Professor Gerry Stoker
Politics & International Relations Social Sciences University of Southampton Southampton SO17 1BJ United Kingdom
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