The Bones of a Concourse

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Amanda Wolf


Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously claimed that the "life of the law has
not been logic; it has been experience (1881). Without experience, the
law has no bones (Menand, 2001, p. 341). William Stephenson claimed, in
essence, that understandings grasped through interpretations of factors
are the "life" of the concourse. It follows that Q methodology puts the
bones in a concourse as "conversational possibilities." New
conversational possibilities flow from Q sorting, post-sort interviews,
and factor interpretations. They may be distinguished from the "distinct
feelings" (Stephenson 1983, p 81), or factor interpretations, construed
as the bones of a concourse, which are examined at a remove from the
concourse. To provide an example of the "life" of a concourse, a Q
methodology study of the views of senior public policy officials and
academics in New Zealand on the implications of diversity for policy is
reported. The bones of the concourse are interpreted through three
factors. One factor represents a view that adopts a "practical"
orientation, in which government is interventionist. A second factor
considers diversity as a fact to be accommodated through good policy
analysis, not as a value to be actively managed. The third factor is
distinctive in conveying a "passion" for diversity. Looked at
differently, as if from within the concourse, these three factors are
subtle variations on a theme, one emphasising process, once concept, and
the third colour or feeling. This suggests that Q methodology serves to
evoke study participants' responses as from a viewpoint, or
perspective, in a flow of communicability on diversity and policy of
which all have a part. This understanding, complementing that gained
through factor interpretations, draws on the similarities as well as the
differences among views. In the illustrative case, the understanding
potentially may assist the concourse "owners" (strategic policy
thinkers) to beeter address the challenges in New Zealand policy making.

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How to Cite
Wolf, A. (2004). The Bones of a Concourse. Operant Subjectivity, 27(3). Retrieved from