Scientific Realism and Political Leadership: Contextual Accounts

  • Robert Elgie
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Political Leadership book series (PSPL)


In this chapter, we examine another set of accounts that are consistent with a scientific realist approach. These accounts do not have a neat label. Here, we consider them under the general heading of contextual accounts of political leadership. These accounts are firmly rooted within the interactionist paradigm, whereby leadership is the result of the interaction between the personality of the leader and the context with which the leader is faced. However, as the name of this chapter suggests, these accounts privilege the contextual side of this equation. In this regard, there is a basic difference between these accounts and the political psychology accounts that we considered in the previous chapter. We identify five contextual accounts of political leadership. The first is the most general and captures studies that identify multiple influences shaping the outcome of the leadership process. We then identify three accounts that emphasize different aspects of the political context: one that privileges long-term, contextual regularities; another that emphasizes the role of political institutions and which has two variants; and yet another that emphasizes the personality of political leaders in interaction with the wider leadership environment. The final account places itself explicitly within the scientific realism paradigm, but looks at the discourse of political leaders. Before we examine each account, we outline the basic elements of contextual accounts of political leadership.


Prime Minister Political Leadership Scientific Realist Political Psychologist Critical Discourse Analysis 
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Copyright information

© Robert Elgie 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Elgie
    • 1
  1. 1.Dublin City UniversityIreland

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