The study of government comprises a broad rubric of interlocking subjects. Most centrally, it involves the study of political institutions from constitutions to executives to parliaments to parties to electoral laws. But it also pays close attention to problems in political economy, including the relationship between political institutions and economic performance, and in political sociology, including the attitudes and behaviours of citizens and social groups, and such central issues as the relationship between economic development or religion and democracy.
At its broadest, therefore, the study of government aims to investigate how political institutions emerge, how they affect political decisions (and in whose favour) and how they structure the most important political, economic and social outcomes.
The ways in which scholars treat such subjects, of course, varies widely and each approach is well-represented by outstanding academics in Oxford. To name just a few: Giovanni Capoccia and Desmond King use a historical approach to look at the emergence of political institutions; Laurence Whitehead and Nancy Bermeo use qualitative methods to consider how democracies emerge and are consolidated around the world; Petra Schleiter and Radoslaw Zubek focus on how formal rules governing executive-legislative relations shape their interactions and policy outcomes; Geoffrey Evans, James Tilley and Stephen Whitefield use comparative survey data to study the social and ideological bases of party support and party positions; David Rueda uses economic data to research the relationship between government structure and party composition and welfare spending. Some scholars use qualitative data on single countries to provide in depth analysis of the processes that lead to particular outcomes; others look at multi-country comparisons to uncover regularities in relationships. In short, the study of government in the Department is deeply and committedly pluralistic in its interests and approaches and it seeks to imbue this pluralism in its research training and support for its students.