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Durham University

School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Gidon Cohen

Cohen, Gidon & Morgan, Kevin (2015). For a Life beyond Governing Persons: Alternative Reflections on Political Life History in Britain (and Beyond). Political Studies Review 13(4): 506-509.

Author(s) from Durham


R.A.W. Rhodes is to be applauded for restating the case for life history methods within the field of political studies, and many of his arguments will be found unexceptionable by those actively working with such methods. Ironically, in his recent contribution to Political Studies Review Rhodes nevertheless eschews biographical and other forms of complexity in favour of essentialising comparison. A ‘British tradition of political biography’ is constructed according to inert criteria lacking explicit periodisation and excluding much current work. An overstated contrast is drawn between this tradition and an Australian one defined according to quite different disciplinary and chronological parameters. This article offers alternative reflections drawing on work on labour movement biographies developed through practices of transnational scholarly exchange and the rejection of methodological nationalism. Addressing the examples provided by Rhodes, and the use of life histories in his other recent work, we propose a life history method that goes beyond Governing Men.