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Risk and Government: The architectonics of blame-avoidance

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Christopher Hood (, who specializes in the study of executive government, regulation and public-sector reform, is Gladstone Professor of Government, Fellow of All Souls College Oxford, and Director of the ESRC ’s ‘Public Services’ Research Programme. He has taught government and politics on three continents and has written or edited more than twenty books, including The Limits of Administration (1976), The Tools of Government (1983) (updated as The Tools of Government in the Digital Age (2007) with Helen Margetts), The Art of the State (1998) and The Government of Risk (2001), with Henry Rothstein and Robert Baldwin. He is currently chairing the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Medical Profiling and Online Medicine.


My lecture will focus on the risk that matters most in politics and bureaucracy – namely the risk of blame. I will aim to show how concern with that central risk shapes the way public officeholders spend their time, how government organization is structured and how the standard operating routines of public service organizations develop. While ‘blame games’ and blame-avoidance in government generally get a bad press, the lecture will argue that not all blame-avoidance should be seen as negative in its effects, that we can make some distinctions between ‘good’and ‘bad’ forms of blame-avoidance and that it is only ‘the wrong sort of blame-avoidance’ that we should be trying to discourage.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Lecture Series series.

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