This readable and conceptual approach to public policy carefully balances theory and practice—unlike most other books, which either lack theory or lack practicality. The authors combine positivist and postpositivist perspectives on policy analysis, supported by interesting and useful cases. Explores the political basis of policy making and analysis, with a careful eye toward readers' practical needs. Provides models and tools, along with the analytical knowledge necessary for policy analysis. Discusses the limitations, practical political problems, and ethical implications of different techniques and methodologies. Discusses value conflict, power, political systems, democracy, subjectivity, and ambiguity. A comprehensive reference for professionals in public administration or anyone interested in learning about public policy formulation.
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When we wrote Public Policy Praxis we were guided by several underlying principles. We believed that the book must be all of the following:
practical as well as theoretical useful as well as cutting edge fun as well as thorough focused on the great issues and big themes as well as on specific techniques about the politics of the policy process as well as how to do policy analysis both readable and teachable
Although our book targets future and current professional policy analysts, anyone who wants to understand and affect public policy (e.g., elected officials, citizen activists, interest group leaders, public administrators) must be a policy analyst.
The genesis of this book was a discussion we had about policy cases. Although both of us believe in and utilize case studies, they are often too technical and fail to capture the essence of politics. They seldom require the application of the techniques the chapters introduce, or make clear the relationship of the concepts and theories covered in the chapters to what the students are to do with the cases. We complained that we had increasingly found ourselves writing our own cases. Moreover, the policy analysis texts available gave short shrift to politics, democracy, and how policy is made. We both believe that knowledge is as important as skills. So we were supplementing our cases with reserve readings, and writing lectures concerning politics, power, democracy, and the social construction of problems as well as policies.
So we decided to write a case book with self-contained cases—that is, each case would be preceded by a discussion of a major topic. Students would complete the case—using the information, learning the material, and recognizing the importance of theory by doing. As it turned out, the self-contained case write-ups became full-scale chapters. The result is a public policy analysis book that we hope helps move the teaching of policy analysis in a direction that is more democratic—but ultimately practical. Our book is, essentially, a postpositivist view of social construction. Gone is the hegemonic, sometimes almost exclusive, emphasis on rational decision-making models. Instead the balance is tipped toward discussions of value conflict, power, political systems, democracy, subjectivity, and ambiguity. We think of policy analysis as requiring a combination of knowledge and skills. As in our classrooms, we teach "how to" but also teach the limitations, practical political problems, and ethical implications of different techniques and methodologies.
Policy analysis is larger than, and often encompasses, program evaluation or productivity measurement. Our definition of policy analysis includes the initiation of policy as well as the review of or implementation of policy. Whatever the level of analysis, ultimately the goal usually is to establish a bottom line that facilitates decision making. This often leads to a focus on technical efficiency, cost-benefit analysis (CBA), and other efforts such as output measures, per unit cost estimates, client satisfaction surveys, statistical testing, and decision trees.
Originally, policy analysis was seen as a way to assist democratic decision making. Somehow, along the way, policy analysis became part of elite and expert decision making. The theory and knowledge of politics, power structures, and the subjective human construction of public problem definitions was lost in a forest of rational decision models, complicated mathematical and analytical tools, microeconomics, and other scientific techniques. Yet good policy analysis requires investigation into the major actors and their roles, the political context (including economic conditions, social conditions, dominant values and beliefs), and the goals or purposes of the policy (which takes us to the crucial ideas of problem definition, values, interests, and power). We recognize that policy analysts are going to work in bureaucracies and that the imperatives of the bureaucratic culture push analysts toward work that is quantifiable, rational, and thus accountable. But our job, as scholars and authors, is not just to accept the fact that bureaucracy tends to value efficiency over democracy, but rather to promote more democratic ways of doing realistic analysis. We don't accept the idea that "that's simply the way the world is." The world is socially constructed, and we can change it.
Far from being a facilitator of democracy or an astute political analyst, the policy analyst has become the central point of the decision process. Sometimes analysts are used by powerful actors, but frequently they become a power center themselves, guiding the policy choices of elected officials. Emulating a neutral and value-free approach, policy analysis has based much of its work on analytical techniques used in private business analysis and on assumptions about human behavior from economic models that assume absolute self-interested rationality, complete knowledge, and free competition. Of course, the techniques have never been value-free or neutral, government and business are not the same, and neither the surrounding conditions nor the behavior of the actors in the civic arena match the assumptions of the economic model.
The rational models vary, but they tend to postulate rational individuals choosing what is in their own best interests, and to suggest that analysis treads the following general path: A problem is recognized; a procedure is determined; goals are agreed upon; alternatives are formulated; alternatives are evaluated; a decision is made; the policy is implemented; the policy is reviewed, evaluated, and possibly modified or terminated.
The postpositivist critiques are too numerous and varied to characterize as neatly as one can characterize the positivist approach, but one of the key insights relates to the very subjective element of problem definition and the role that compelling and competing stories play in the policy process. Postmodernism's contribution to this understanding is perhaps best captured by a brief quote that sets up Arundhai Roy's 1997 novel, The God of Small Things: "Never again will a single story be told as though it's the only one" (John Berger).
Another motivation for our writing this book was the seemingly contradictory yet twin beliefs that (1) policy analysis has not kept pace with changes in the social sciences, and (2) the powerful critiques of the dominant approach are not being put into practice. While policy analysts are being taught that their approach should be "scientific," the scientific method of policy analysis comes out of the 1950s and 1960s. With a heavy emphasis on positivism, the teaching of policy analysis, especially as an applied field, has largely ignored innovative theoretical and methodological advances in the social (and physical) sciences. Recently these theories and methods (e.g., postmodernism, postpositivism, narrative analysis) have found a place in the academic literature, but they have not successfully filtered down to the classroom in the form of practical and readable textbooks.
We are not unaware of the practicality of the positivist method. As practicing analysts (extensively in the past and continuing into the present) we are well aware of the pragmatic needs that drive practice. This involves usable, understandable, teachable, and efficient methods. We understand the reasons behind rational analysis. We applaud efforts to make policymaking more careful, more reasoned, and less haphazard and sloppy. However, along with the other critics of positivism, we also recognize the policy process as inherently political; messy, not meticulous; subjective, not scientific. Yet, somewhat ironically, the criticism of the postpositivists, that positivism is neither realistic nor useful, seems equally applicable to its critics. Being relevant is at least as important as being right. Nor is it adequate for positivists to nod their heads toward the extensive criticisms, to admit that policy analysis is a process not a product, and to continue unabated. What is needed is synthesis; what is needed is praxis.
In response to these needs, Part I focuses more on theory than on practice, and presents the debate between the rational and nonrational models as well as providing a method to evaluate models. Readers are challenged to rethink their beliefs and to decide which approach is most accurate and meets their needs and values. We sought balance in our presentation, but do not claim to be neutral. Readers also learn about democracy, the policy process, stakeholder mapping, political I.O.U.s, the strategic use of words and numbers, and the role that the analyst's values play in policy analysis.
Part II moves us into greater emphasis on practice than on theory. In Part II the text builds carefully on Part I and offers a five-step methodology for policy analysis that is informed by postpositivism and inspired by postmodernism, and that blends a nonrational political approach with a rational method. In Chapter 5 readers learn more about problem definition, c
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Book Description Prentice Hall, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0130258822
Book Description Prentice Hall, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0130258822
Book Description Prentice Hall, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110130258822