Commons and Lords

Emma Crewe

‘Original and very revealing’
The Guardian

‘Engrossing and illuminating’ 
Journal of Legislative Studies


Parliament can only flourish if the public understand it, but it can be utterly perplexing. Based on many years of fieldwork in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, this short anthropology of Parliament illuminates the dark places of these mysterious institutions by address three puzzles. Why is whipping in the Commons getting harder while Lords are more obedient than they claim? Why do women members relish the Lords but often struggle in the Commons? Why is the Parliamentary process of scrutiny and debating evidence so badly misunderstood? Politicians’ work only make sense if you look at their everyday social relationships and the cultures they create. The messiness of representative politics, and the disappointment it brings, are both a weakness and a virtue of parliamentary democracy. The biggest puzzle remaining is this: how could anyone find it dull?

EMMA CREWE is a Research Professor at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS. She is the author of Lords of Parliament: manners, rituals and politics (2005), Anthropology and Development: Culture, politics and morality (2013) and The House of Commons: an anthropology of the work of MPs (2015).

Find Emma on Twitter @_Emma_Crewe

Also by this author An Extraordinary Scandal.

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