What lessons about public sector reform can be learnt from using political anthropology to study
governance reform? What are the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach? I contrast the
everyday working experience reported in Rhodes (2011) with the core themes of civil service reform;
namely evidence-based policy making, managerialism, and choice. I use five axioms for clarity of
exposition: coping and the appearance of rule, not strategic planning; institutional memory, not
internal structures; storytelling, not evidence-based policy; contending traditions and stories, not
just managerialism; the politics of implementation, not top-down innovation and control.