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The Indeterminacy of Choice: Political, Policy and Organisational Implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 June 2006

John Clarke
Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, E-mail:
Nicholas Smith
The School of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University
Elizabeth Vidler
Faculty of Social Sciences, The Open University, E-mail:


Choice has become a central – and much debated – theme of New Labour's approach to the reform of public service. In this article we examine the conditions and consequences of the indeterminacy of choice in political discourse, policy development and organisational dynamics. We suggest that the under-specification of choice in political and policy settings risks devolving the stresses of indeterminacy to service organisations and their interactions with the public. We explore some of the public's ambivalence about choice and public services and conclude by offering two ways of thinking about the indeterminacy of choice – treating choice as a condensate and as a proxy.

Cambridge University Press 2006

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