Integrating structural context into the assessment of political leadership: Realism, Gordon Brown and the great financial crisis

Jim Buller, Toby James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
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How should we assess the performance of political leaders? As many scholars note, it is important to take into account the structural context politicians govern when appraising their record in office. However, many existing approaches used to assess political leaders have not integrated a notion of structure into their research in an explicit or detailed way. This article tries to respond to this gap by first discussing a range of issues involved in undertaking such an exercise. It highlights not only the significance of incorporating structure, but structural change into leadership studies. The article goes on to develop a theoretical account of structural change utilising philosophical realism, before briefly applying it to the case of Gordon Brown's tenure during the global financial crisis. It concludes by suggesting that, understood through the lens of philosophical realism, the crisis posed a particularly difficult and challenging set of circumstances for Brown and his response to them should be given more credit than it has so far received.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-96
Number of pages20
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number1
Early online date11 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventPolitical Leadership and Statecraft in Challenging Times - University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Jan 201417 Jan 2014


  • Gordon Brown
  • political leadership
  • political leaders
  • prime ministers
  • statecraft

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