chapter  12
18 Pages

Local knowledge: an interpretive analysis R . A . W . RHODeS

Introduction This chapter decentres the normative arguments favouring local knowledge. The idea of ‘local knowledge’ has positive connotations. It is associated with responsive government and adapting national decisions to local conditions. The chapter suggests that local knowledge is not good or bad, better or worse compared with other forms of knowledge. It is not another way for elite decisionmakers to ‘improve’ policymaking. It is not a ‘solution’ to implementation failures. The first section summarises the mainstream political science and the interpretive views of local knowledge. The second section unpacks the family of ideas that constitute local knowledge. It identifies ten family resemblances, suggesting that local knowledge is: situated, embedded, ever-changing, contested, contingent and generative, performative practice, experiential, specialised, and comprised of folk theories, which are authentic, natural, and accessible. The third section distinguishes between recovering local knowledge as advice to decision-makers and as specification. It describes four ways of collecting stories about local knowledge: observation, questionnaire, focus group, and MSC. The fourth section decentres local knowledge, highlighting its complex specificity, contingency, and generative characteristics. These characteristics mean that, whether as advice to decision-makers or as specification, incorporating local knowledge in public policymaking will be seen as disruptive and irrelevant by elite decision-makers.