Policy texts often mediate the intricate relationship between the crafting of a policy and its enactment. Such texts may serve as boundary objects that afford close interaction among policy actors. On the other hand, strongly textualist policy domains can rigidly disempower these same actors, leading to shallow, rather than deep, implementation. At their most extreme, autopoietic texts serve as vehicles for furthering ideological systems of thought. This approach affords a critical analysis of the hitherto unexamined effects of policy texts.
Browse by title
The chapter presents an overview over the main strands of frame analysis in the social sciences and policy studies, their respective understanding of frame, overall purpose, research objectives, methodological assumptions, and research practices. Whether frame operates as a critical concept depends on the larger theoretical framework in which it is embedded.
Heidrun åm argues in her essay that policy studies can learn much from Science and Technology Studies (STS). STS concepts like co-production can help to explicate the mutually reinforcing explanatory power of STS and Critical Policy Studies (CPS) more systematically. ‘Co-production’ in particular can be a necessary reminder for policy analysts of the role of matter in the midst of discourse. åm shows the value of applying a co-productionist perspective together with a poststructuralist policy analysis along a study of voluntary nanotechnology regulations. These were adopted in a context of uncertainty, when little evidence of risks in nanomaterials was available. While a strong demand to pre-empt public resistance might have been a driver for developing nanotechnology regulations, regulations’ particular form can only be explained by taking into account nanotechnology’s ambiguity. Thus, the technology itself was an important element in the co-production of existing nanotechnology regulations.
Hemant R. Ojha, Mani R. Banjade and Krishna K. Shrestha
This chapter outlines a Critical Action Research (CAR) approach to enhance the interplay between research and social movement practices. The authors argue that such interplay is crucial to improve the quality of democratic policy process. Such interplay has the potential to address some of the concerns related to the continued lack of effective deliberation in the policy processes. Drawing on three cases from Nepal, India and Australia, the authors demonstrate that four aspects are crucial: (1) how critical researchers and social actors interact, (2) use of action as a basis of learning and a moral pursuit, (3) interactive learning (dialectical epistemology) and (4) multi-scalar engagement. They conclude that there is enormous scope for revitalizing democratic empowerment in the participatory policy process by strengthening the ways researchers interact with communities and policy actors, across scales, and by balancing epistemic and action objectives in the specific context of application.
Based on a comprehensive review of the various orientations of policy ethnography, this chapter illustrates four defining features of critical policy ethnography: challenging mainstream positivist approaches to public policy; confronting commonsense and official views on policy; setting individual experiences and micro-observations in the broader perspective of power and inequality structures; and unveiling social, economic, symbolic and political domination processes operating in and through policy processes.
Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop
This chapter introduces cultural political economy as one among several approaches that explore the interconnected semiotic and structural aspects of social life. The CPE approach belongs in the camp of ‘grand theories’ that, inter alia, offers a preliminary set of basic and sensitizing concepts and positive guidelines that are relevant to historical description, hermeneutic interpretation, and causal explanation. It combines critical, historically sensitive, semiotic analyses with concepts from heterodox evolutionary and institutional political economy. It aims thereby to overcome the often compartmentalized analysis of semiosis/culture and structuration/institutions by integrating semiosis into political economy and applying evolutionary and institutional analyses to semiosis. This has important implications for understanding the limits of constructivist and structuralist analyses; lived experience and lesson-drawing; the relations among polity, politics and policy; and specific fields of public policy. Each of these themes is explored in appropriate detail. Finally, by combining specific concepts and analyses bearing on semiosis and structuration, CPE can also provide the basis for critiques of ideology and domination. This offers more solid foundations to understand ideology and ideological effects as well as forms of social domination and contributing thereby to critical policy studies.
Ricardo Fabrino Mendonça and Selen A. Ercan
This chapter argues that deliberative democracy is not antithetical to conflicts and agonism generated by protests. In fact, protests are understood as an integral part of public deliberation, especially when the latter is understood in terms of a broad public conversation that occurs in multiple sites of communication. In order to develop this argument, the chapter discusses the deliberative dimension of recent demonstrations in Turkey and in Brazil, exploring (1) the way they were organized; (2) how they were carried out; and (3) their public consequences. In doing so, the chapter contributes to the field of policy studies by showing that there is much more to deliberative policy making than what happens in structured forums, and by arguing that a deliberative turn in politics will not lead to a tamed society that either avoids or suppresses its intrinsic conflicts.
Vivien A. Schmidt
Discursive institutionalism is an umbrella concept for approaches that concern themselves with the substantive content of ideas and the interactive processes of discourse in institutional context. This chapter shows the relevance of discursive institutionalism to policy studies in a critical vein by considering both the wide range of ideas in discourse and the ways in which ‘sentient’ (thinking and speaking) agents articulate such ideas as policy actors in a ‘coordinative discourse’ of policy construction and as political actors in a ‘communicative discourse’ of political legitimation. The chapter also elaborates on the dual nature of the institutional context by considering not just the external formalized institutions that constrain action but also the structures and constructs of meaning. These help explain not only how agents are able to create and maintain institutions via their ‘background ideational abilities’ but also how they change or maintain institutions via their ‘foreground discursive abilities’ of communication. But although meaning is socially constructed, the chapter builds on the work of Wittgenstein to show that this does not lead to radical relativism because knowledge comes with different kinds of certainty. Finally, the chapter also theorizes about the nature of the power of ideas, in particular through discourse.
Eva Lövbrand and Johannes Stripple
This chapter explores what kinds of critical policy studies may transpire from Michel Foucault’s nominalist engagement with traditional political concepts such as power, government and the state. We argue that Foucault’s work paves the way for a decentred form of policy analysis that asks how we govern and are governed in micro-settings including at the level of the individual subject. The focus on the ‘how of governing’ stems from a rejection of any a priori understanding of the distribution of power or location of government, and arises instead from an interest in, and awareness of, the historically situated practices, rationalities and identities by which governing operates. Viewed in this manner, Foucault-inspired policy studies neither offer us a substantive theory about the forces that shape public policy, nor does it tell us what constitutes public policy (e.g. actors, interests, structures). The role of the analyst is instead to critically interrogate how these political spaces come about, how power operates through them, and, ultimately, how they could be different.
Conventional approaches to the relationship between knowledge and policy take indicators as a means of packaging and presenting knowledge in objective and universally valid ways for transparent and democratic policy analysis. This chapter uses the case of ‘responsible soy’ certification standards to analyze the political role of indicators in the knowledge-policy interface, both as technologies of knowledge production and technologies of governance. The chapter concludes that indicators are better understood as a way of disseminating norms and values than as mechanisms of transparent and efficient global governance.