Governing Fables

Learning from Public Sector Narratives

By:
Sandford Borins, University of Toronto

A volume in the series: Research in Public Management. Editor(s): Lawrence R. Jones, Naval Postgraduate School.

Published 2011

Governing Fables: Learning from Public Sector Narratives 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.

CONTENTS
Preface Acknowledgements 1. Narrative as Object and Method of Study 2. Frontline Innovators: Transformational Teachers in America 3. The Ugly Business: British Narratives of Government 4. Churchill, Appeasement, Victory: The British Narrative of Leadership 5. Cynicism, Idealism, Compromise: American Political Fables 6. Kennedy, Cuba, History: Lessons of a Crisis Management Narrative 7. Matters of Life and Death: Two American Jury Narratives 8. Conclusion: A Story that is Just Beginning References About the Author

REVIEWS
"Professor Borins does our field [public sector] a service by applying this notion to the representations of organizational and personal events occurring in government, politics and public administration. In so doing he moves far beyond previous attempts to analyze how our field is portrayed in fiction, film and case studies." Charles T. Goodsell

"In sum, I found this a thoroughly worthwhile text – and one that should prove especially handy for teachers. It offers a useful overview of a hitherto largely neglected aspect of our field. It contains a lot of shrewd, well-informed - and enjoyable - interpretation of narratives with which many teachers and students will already be familiar. It deploys a handy conceptual framework for classifying its subject matter." Christopher Pollitt Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in International Review of Administrative Sciences

"Governing Fables challenges and illuminates, bringing a whole different set of perspectives to bear on analyzing and teaching public administration. While Borins’ reach is broad, it is important to understand the book’s essential focus is captured in sub-title “Learning from Public Sector Narratives”." Evert Lindquist School of Public Administration University of Victoria

"Borins has opened up new territory and introduced some key concepts that will find further use in our field. This volume will also add to the richness of our thinking about some of those stories that help us make sense of our experiences." Mike Rowe University of Liverpool

"Consider the broad and diverse literature of ‘‘public management’’ as a multifaceted and robust conversation that engages our deepest political convictions, our individual and collective sense of public service and ethics, the paradigms that frame our research explicitly and implicitly, and the ever-contested questions of data, analysis, and theory development. From these cross-cutting factors emerge ‘‘fables’’ of individual and organizational challenge, growth, renewal, and failure, and broader ‘‘narratives’’ or the telling and retelling of fables that cluster around national, cultural, and policy differences. These fables and broader narratives, one could argue, are the product of our research, practice and reflection, told and retold, and our efforts to understand, explain, and improve the practice of public management.

Sandford Borin’s delightful analysis in Governing Fables examines a broad sample of these fables and narratives, drawing on narratology to reveal insights for the study and practice of public management. He challenges the reader to see beyond the standard case study or story of success or failure to probe the multiple voices, contextual experience, and cultural backgrounds in a wide range of fables, and the emergent and experiential quality of narratives formed through telling and retelling. The public manager and the scholar can gain insights from this interpretive approach to pedagogy, data gathering, and analysis." Anne M. Khademian Virginia Tech in International Public Management Journal

"Sandford Borins' Governing Fables is not your father's public management book. It is instead a highly original and absorbing analysis of the images of public management, policy, and politics constructed by the popular entertainment media: books, television, and cinema. Borins uses some of the more accessible literary theory—narratology—to frame his approach to the stories that novelists, screenwriters, and directors tell us about the behavior and interactions of the human beings inhabiting our public institutions. A fascinating set of genres and tropes emerges." Richard French L'Université d'Ottawa in Governance