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volume 24 number 4




  • Introduction: Critical Perspectives in Policy Analysis: Discourse, Deliberation and Narration
    A Symposium organised by Frank Fischer, Rutgers University, and Navdeep Mathur, University of Birmingham
    Frank Fischer and Navdeep Mathur

  • How Should We Theorise Public Policy? Problem Solving and Problematicity
    Nick Turnbull

    The concept of policy problem informs the scholarly study of policymaking as well as policy practice. But the problem solving theory of policymaking has many conceptual shortcomings. The problem solving concept is flawed because it defines complex problems univocally, obscuring differences of opinion; focuses on problem solving at the expense of problem setting; and represents the policy process scientifically to disguise and/or suppress the contingent nature of political reasoning. The propositional basis of theories of the policy process excludes problematicity and produces a fragmented theory which misrepresents the political nature of policymaking. By building upon an epistemology of questioning we can address these shortcomings by revising and expanding the problem concept in policy theory. Such a conception implies that policy studies is not distinctive because it is applied and should therefore be integrated with political theory.

  • Metaphor, Catachresis and Equivalence: The Rhetoric of Freedom to Fly in the Struggle over Aviation Policy in the United Kingdom
    David Howarth and Steven Griggs

    This article investigates the dynamics of current aviation policy in Britain by examining the consultation process surrounding the New Labour government’s 2003 strategic plan to expand airport capacity in the UK. It examines the way in which the Freedom to Fly coalition structured the terrain of public reasoning and debate so as to negate or at least contain those voices that challenged the Labour government’s desire for expansion. The article draws upon recent developments in post-Marxist discourse theory to examine the rhetorical strategies and mechanisms by which organic intellectuals welded together a diverse range of pro-expansion interests, thus securing agreement that the demand for growth ought to be the overriding demand to be defended in the policy and public domains. In so doing, the article examines three rhetorical logics – those of rhetorical redescription, catachresis and equivalence – showing how these informed the new and successful discourse of aviation expansion.

  • Discourse in Comparative Policy Analysis: Privatisation Policies in Britain, Russia and the United States
    Vache Gabrielyan

    Privatisation has been of the most widely used and extensively debated policies in the world for the last quarter century. This phenomenon, though, is mostly unified by rhetoric, and substantially varies across time and space, particularly in implementation. To answer the question of what presupposes a choice of particular mechanism of privatisation, three distinct cases of privatisation (the US, the UK, and Russia) are analysed through Fischer’s (1995) model of practical policy deliberation. The model tests the reasons for policy ranging from its technical efficiency to its relation to the ideological principles that justify the societal system. The elaborated theory suggests that privatisation policies generally pursue multiple goals, with the prevailing goal being determined by the dominant discourse in which the topic of privatisation is debated in society. The prevailing goal, in turn, determines the privatisation mechanism that maximises this particular goal.

  • Urban Revitalisation and Participatory Governance: Methodology for a Discursive Policy Analysis
    Navdeep Mathur

    This paper examines how discursive mechanisms of governance provide the means for the maintenance of power of elite groups in a democratic society. Through a discourse-empirical analysis of urban revitalisation in Newark, New Jersey, I argue that elites discursively structure deliberative spaces to marginalise alternatives to their developmental orientation. Using the conceptual-analytical framework of Fischer’s logic of policy deliberation (1995) and Hoppe, Pranger, and Besseling’s(1990) belief systems approach I show how policy outcomes are contingent upon the dynamic interaction between dominant and competing discourses. In Newark, an elite discourse not only structured the space for formulating policy strategies for economic and social development, but also superficially integrated oppositional elements of competing discourses in order to weaken and marginalise their distinctive core values and meanings.

  • “Every Virus Tells a Story”: Toward a Narrative-Centred Approach to Health Policy
    Michael Orsini and Francesca Scala

    Combining insights from narrative inquiry and participatory policy analysis, this article analyses the “illness narratives” of people with hepatitis C, a blood-borne liver disease that affects millions of people around the world. In particular, we explore how a narrative-based approach to health politics and policy can illuminate our understanding of the social dimensions of health and illness. In incorporating the “experiential” knowledge of people living with this chronic condition, we seek to challenge the dominant approach of Evidence Based Medicine, in which randomised controlled trials operate as the Gold Standard against which all other forms of evidence are judged. Narrative approaches can be particularly useful, we argue, when examining newly emerging illnesses that are only beginning to receive public attention. Moreover, in the case of chronic illnesses such as hepatitis C, which can be relatively invisible in a public and media landscape dominated by diseases with dramatic, “punchy” storylines, rendering an illness “narratable” may be an important task of the policy analyst.

  • Techno-bureaucratic Doxa and Challenges for Deliberative Governance: The Case of Community Forestry Policy and Practice in Nepal
    Hemant R. Ojha

    Despite repeated pleas for participatory and deliberative governance of environmental resources, there is still a predominance of technocratic values in environmental decision-making. This is especially true in the context of forest management in the Global South where centralised and technically-oriented colonial approaches of the past continue to be reproduced and exclude affected people to have their say and share in forest related decision-making and benefit distribution. Taking a case study from Nepal’s Community Forestry Program, this paper shows that despite major shifts towards practices of participatory forestry, the technocratic domination of forest science in governance has taken new and more subtle forms (considered “doxa” – taken for granted forms– after Bourdieu) of control over forestry practices. In this paper, techno-bureaucratic doxa is problematised as a key challenge to deliberative governance, and specific ways are illustrated through which it constrains deliberation in forest governance. Emerging moments of crisis in this doxa are also identified to explore possibilities for greater citizen-public official deliberation in forest governance.

  • Inside Deliberative Experiments: Dynamics of Subjectivity in Science Policy Deliberations
    Alexander Görsdorf

    Deliberative procedures – like consensus conferences, citizen juries, and scenario workshops– are intended to give voice to the citizens and to arrive at a more comprehensive knowledge base for political decisions. This paper seeks to enrich the analysis and practice of these endeavours, drawing attention to dynamics of subjectivities. Such interpretive dynamics among participants may ensue not only with respect to the problem tackled by the procedure but, importantly, with respect to the deliberative procedure itself. The main argument is that failing to accommodate these dynamics within the procedures may result in participants’ alienation from the event, effectively undermining the endeavour’s participatory promises. As a consequence, the paper calls for more analytical attention to the micro-level of deliberative processes, which yields important insights into the interpretive and communicative processes upon which citizen panels’ statements and arguments rest. I illustrate my point by reflecting on my observations of a scenario workshop on the future of biomedical research, an ambitious experiment that took place in Germany in 2002 and sought to bring together citizens and experts in a new form of collective reflection and cooperative inquiry.

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