Conclusion

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Conclusion

The purpose of this monograph has been to explore certain dimensions of the relationship between principle and pragmatism in recent policy formation. Its key findings have already been summarised, so no attempt will be made to rehearse them now. What is, however, worthy of comment in concluding, is the very fact that a study with this particular subject matter can systematically and fruitfully be conducted.

As noted earlier, it seems commonplace for observers of politics, both lay and professional, to claim that there is a paucity of principle in politics. Hopefully one of the effects of the current study will be to disabuse people of this view. Less commonplace, but still significant, is a similar view that values and principles are not a sufficiently determinate stuff to be the subject matter of rigorous study in politics. Where the idea of principle in politics lacks determinacy, it may be argued, that idea has no explanatory force in understanding party behaviour.

This view is mistaken also. The current study has elucidated how principle in politics can register on different measures and analyses (both quantitative and qualitative). The strong suggestion is that there is something determinate there to be measured, and which plays a role in party behaviour and competition, and in the understanding of these.

This monograph will have achieved its goal if it contributes to a more robust recognition that it is possible to talk in a legitimate and sophisticated way about principle in politics. That recognition would not only benefit the commentators and observers of politics, but also the policy-makers themselves, who may perhaps come to see their own activities in a fuller light.


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