Policy

Policy

Policy

Policy

Synopsis

"...a genuinely clear and thorough exploration of the notion of policy, which recognises its contested nature, both in practice and in theory. It offers a valuable introduction to the debates...this book is even stronger as a teaching text than the previous edition." - Professor Allan Cochrane, The Open University• Why has policy become so important?• Why is there so much of a gap between policy promises and outcomes?• How can people have an impact on policy?This revised edition of a highly successful text provides an even sharper critical analysis than before in exploring power, decision-making, and the implications for policy. It has been extensively updated and expanded, taking a comparative approach and addressing differences in the meaning and significance of policy in different political traditions. It is a book about policy - not about what governments do ('public policy') or about particular fields of policy (such as 'health policy' or 'education policy') but about policy as a concept - an idea which can be used to make sense of the way in which we are governed, and make a difference to decisions that affect our lives. In clear language, the author addresses the fundamental questions about the place of policy in governing: who makes policy? where? why? what has been written about it? This is a book which is relevant for the student studying the subject, the public official or community activist engaged in making policy, and the interested member of the public who wants to know where policy comes from, and why it matters.

Excerpt

Policy is an idea which flows through all the ways in which we organize our life: it is used by a wide range of participants in public life – public officials, elected representatives, activists, experts, journalists and others – in their attempts to shape the way public life is organized. We encounter it inside organizations. For instance, we may find a homework policy in a secondary school, which clarifies the expectations of students, teachers and parents, or the question of when a hospital patient can go home may be governed by a discharge policy. Or we may find it being used across organizations. River pollution may be addressed by drawing up a catchment management policy that governs all the activities affecting the river. Or employers, unions and technical colleges may draw up an industry training policy. And we can see, too, that policy may be a way for activists outside the corridors of power to seek change. Activists were able to generate policy on issues such as global warming or equal employment opportunity.

But ‘policy’ is first of all a concept – that is, an idea that people use in making sense of the world – so we must understand it as a concept in the analysis of the process of government. How is it used? What does it make clear? How does it relate to other analytical constructs like ‘structure’, ‘process’ or ‘management’?

We have to remember, too, that ‘policy’ is not simply a label, but is part of the process which it describes. To speak of ‘heritage policy’ (for instance) is not simply a neutral way of talking about something that is there, but a way of focusing attention on some things (such as the value of historic buildings) rather than others (such as the possibility of demolishing them and building a tower . . .

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