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Policy reconsidered

Policy reconsidered: Meanings, politics and practices

Susan M. Hodgson
Zoë Irving
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Policy reconsidered
    Book Description:

    The idea of policy is ripe for critical reappraisal. Whilst the context for policy making changes constantly, multiple questions endure, such as how policy is conceived and why; what is taken for granted and what gets problematised; and how policy should be informed, analysed and understood. This book identifies key topics within the policy arena and subjects them to theoretical and practical analysis. It explores the meaning and framing of policy, and examines its practice from the micro- to the supra-national levels, using illustrative case studies to demonstrate how policy is contested, shaped and accounted for. Given the significance of policy as a means to organise and direct social, economic and political life, this book presents the case for a critical restatement of its origins, development and form - without which we risk being caught up in a cycle of change without understanding why or how. The book presents a productive encounter between the three themes of meanings, politics and practices, themes normally not brought together in a single text. It emphasizes the multiplicity of perspectives that can be directed towards understanding the policy world, opening up new ground as well as visiting anew some familiar terrain. Targeted at upper undergraduate and postgraduate students and their teachers, it will also be of interest to researchers and policy actors wanting insight to their project.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-299-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Notes on the contributors
    (pp. v-vi)
  5. Part one: Meanings

    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 19-20)

      This first part of the book is oriented around the concept of meanings. Meanings operate at all levels, whether you are interested in what policies mean to us as individuals as we go about our daily lives; or your concern is more with national or international policy intents. Meanings are important because policy is an organising principle, not just a product or outcome.

      One purpose of these chapters is to lay out some ground that readers can identify as foundational in all policy work, although the ground may not have been previously approached in this manner. The terrain to be...

    • TWO The meaning of policy/policy as meaning
      (pp. 21-36)
      Richard Jenkins

      In this chapter I am not specifically concerned with welfare policy, or even with social policy more generally. I am, rather, interested in policy and policy making as a generic institution of modern governmentality, in the Foucauldian sense of power/knowledge, the intellectual technology of power and its exercise. I want to approach the generic concept of ‘policy’ as if it were at least a little anthropologically strange. In other words, I intend to treat the notion of ‘policy’ as something to be interrogated, rather than taken for granted; to ask, ‘what is policy, what does itdo, what does it...

    • THREE Policy and ‘the good society’
      (pp. 37-60)
      David Phillips

      A central theme underpinning all the chapters in this book relates to the ‘meaning’ of policy in the context of policy studies. Part of the context for this relates to the tensions between representations of policy as a technical process and as a facet of ‘the Social’ – here explicitly capitalised in its reference to the ways people realise themselves collectively as interactive human beings in a societal setting. This chapter sets this debate within a discourse about values and ideology.

      Over the past few decades there has been fierce debate among politicians and policy makers about what constitutes ‘the good...

    • FOUR Categorising and policy making
      (pp. 61-76)
      Joanne Britton

      The task of reconsidering policy requires that we take a closer look at processes of categorisation in policy making. Categorising is integral to the dynamics of the policy-making process so playing a key part in the conception, design and implementation of policies. It demonstrates very clearly how policy is above all a meaning-making process in which categories are symbolically constructed according to the policymaking context (Innes, 2002). Theorising policy entails considering both how and why categorising occurs. This involves examining the reasons why categories are required in policy making, the ideas that inform the adoption of particular categories and the...

  6. Part Two: Politics

    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 77-80)

      The chapters in Part I share an interest in the exploration of meanings generated within and by ‘policy’: as a concept; as a means to draw social and economic boundaries; and as the more tangible expression of abstract values. What they also have in common, however, is recognition that policy is essentially political. As Richard Jenkins points out, in many languages ‘policy’ and ‘politics’ are described by the same word. David Phillips and Jo Britton make clear the connection between policy as values, policy as categorisation and the operative role played by politics in drawing down values and categories from...

    • FIVE Language, politics and values
      (pp. 81-98)
      Marilyn Gregory

      This chapter discusses a specific example of the politicisation of social policy. I contend that shifts in language that have taken place across different policy sectors, at different rates, over the past three decades, give us access to transformations in the underpinning values of policy work. Thus I consider the nature of the language, the knowledge and the values of policy – using the probation service as a case example – to analyse ‘policy politics’. This chapter links the specific case with wider developments in crime control policies. Faced with the distinctive socioeconomic features of late modernity, including the penal crisis that...

    • SIX Business, power, policy and politics
      (pp. 99-116)
      Kevin Farnsworth

      This chapter examines the relationship between business and policy making. It outlines and explores, theoretically and empirically, the mechanisms of business power and influence over policy making. Here the termbusinessrefers to private profit-making institutions (firms) and the class of people that own or manage those institutions. The first half of the chapter theorises business power and influence. It argues that both are variable forces in politics. The second half examines changing business engagement, power and influence in the context of British policy making since the 1980s. This period has witnessed a great many policy transformations – a clouding of...

    • SEVEN (Social) Policy and politics at the international level
      (pp. 117-134)
      Bob Deacon

      In a globalising world within which time and space has shrunk, no attempt to understand the policy process is complete without an excursion intointernational policy making(Deacon, 2007). International policy has two dimensions. One is about the influence of international policy processes on national policy. The other is about policies at the supranational level such as the regional or global. This chapter explores these two dimensions of international policy through the example of social policy. How do we understand the ways in which international actors impact upon national social policy and how do we understand the emergence of a...

  7. Part Three: Practices

    • [Part Three Introduction]
      (pp. 135-136)

      The emphasis in this final part of the book is on ways of researching the practices of policy as much as it is about studying policy in practice. Policy studies texts mainly present a juxtaposition between policy and practice where what is laid down in thought (formulation) and what actually happens in deed (implementation) are compared. This type of analysis is useful in revealing the nature and form of implementation ‘gaps’, the trials and tribulations of policy execution at street level and the complexity of politics and ideology as they operate at different levels of organisation. At the same time,...

    • EIGHT Ethics, research and policy
      (pp. 137-154)
      Malcolm Cowburn

      This chapter addresses the relationships between what have become dominant forms of knowledge and the policy this knowledge informs. It suggests that in both the conception and process of (policy) research, ethical issues construct the project, influence the findings and shape subsequent policies. This points to the inextricable links between ethics and epistemology (as well as between ethics, outputs and policy products). A research project embodies or antagonises dominant forms of knowledge; the choice between these alternatives, I suggest, is an ethical choice.

      Policy also relates to forms of knowledge and how these are embodied in practices (Colebatch, 2002, p...

    • NINE User involvement
      (pp. 155-172)
      Kathy Boxall, Lorna Warren and Ruby C.M. Chau

      Public service and research arenas are currently witnessing strong pressures to ‘involve’ service users in social care research, policy and practice. These pressures come from policy makers and the providers of services but also, as Peter Beresford (2001) has argued, from the users of welfare themselves; thus the involvement agendas of both the ‘makers’ and the ‘subjects’ of policy appear to coincide. This apparent consensus, however, belies the complex nature of the relationships and processes of user involvement and the strong feelings that can be aroused. It is these relationships, processes and feelings which form the focus of our exploration...

    • TEN Policies as translation: situating transnational social policies
      (pp. 173-190)
      Noémi Lendvai and Paul Stubbs

      A constructivist ‘anthropology of policy’ ‘treats the models and language of decision-makers as ethnographic data to be analysed’ (Shore and Wright, 1997, p 13) so that policy is viewed as a process rather than a fact. This approach is more concerned withhowpolicy means rather than withwhatpolicy means. It reverses a traditional anthropology of ‘making the strange familiar’ with a commitment to ‘making the familiar strange’ (MacClancey, 2002, p 7). In addition, policy has become internationalised, with important policy-making arenas existing at levels beyond those of the nation state; transnationalised, as policy models and frameworks travel across...

    • ELEVEN Studying policy: a way forward
      (pp. 191-208)
      Susan M. Hodgson and Zoë Irving

      We began a reconsideration of policy by setting out our intent to ‘disturb some of the comfortable ground’ (Chapter One). The rationale for the endeavour was based on theoretical, methodological and practical concerns including:

      changes in the wider landscape of social sciences, despite certain ongoing divisions of academic labour that confine some forms of study;

      radical shifts in how policy is informed, formed and implemented;

      the sense that much policy-related and policy-relevant research practice is exploring new questions, requiring a different conceptual apparatus to that currently available.

      While the need to reassess policy in a sustained theoretical and practical manner...

  8. References
    (pp. 209-240)
  9. Index
    (pp. 241-250)