Reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices

Reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices

Reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices

Reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices

Synopsis

This title includes the following features: Major new book from a leadingscholar; First book length treatment of a radical new approach to public policy;Accessible to scholars and students alike

Excerpt

Reframing Public Policy brings together and examines the perspectives on public policy discourse, discursive policy analysis, and deliberative policymaking practices that have emerged in recent years to challenge the dominant technocratic, empiricist approach in public policy studies. The discussion offers a new perspective on an old but still troubling problem, namely, that the fields of political and policy studies have generally been guided by an overly empirical orientation that is largely insensitive to politics. The dominant neopositivist/empiricist approach has given rise to a methodological orientation—some say 'methodological fetish'—that brings ever more rigorous quantitative analysis to bear on topics of narrower and narrower import. In the process, the contemporary social sciences have neglected the basic value issues and social meanings inherent to their subject matter, and, largely as a consequence, turned more and more away from the big social and political questions that gave rise to them in the first place. As value issues and social meanings are among the essential driving forces of politics and policymaking, it is difficult to understand these processes detached from their normative realities. The consequences of this neglect have, moreover, long undercut or hobbled efforts to promote more democratic and socially just forms of policy analysis and policymaking.

The critique of empiricist policy inquiry (empiricism understood here not as the empirical per se but as an orientation to the empirical) is scarcely new. It extends back to the outset of the disciplinary effort. But the political theorists and others who have criticized neopositivism and its empiricist methods have mainly been relegated to the margins of the discipline or written off as troublesome characters, itself a story in discourse politics. Empirical research practices, despite their widely recognized limitations, have thus proven quite resistant to change. In recent years, however, the challenge has again been renewed through developments in critical, postempiricist, and postmodern theories in the humanities and social sciences. These perspectives have brought with them a more sophisticated emphasis on social meaning and values, this time through a deeper understanding of language and discourse. It is to an explication of these approaches that this work is devoted. The chapters that follow apply these perspectives to the study of public policy and policy analysis.

It is not that mainstream political and policy studies have neglected ideas and discourse altogether. Indeed, thanks to the 'new institutionalism' in particular, the role of ideas has experienced a comeback in the social sciences. But the standard approach is to treat ideas as resources that actors possess; that is, as properties. While some actors do possess more information than others—experts to be sure—this view taken alone neglects other, more fundamental aspects of policy discourse. Not only does it fail to capture how ideas and discourses can have a force of their own independently of particular actors, but also it misses the ways in which the actors themselves are properties of the discourses. Discourse, in this view, does more

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