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Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis

Standing Group

Number of members: 196

Convenor

  • Anna Durnova (Charles University)
  • Koen Bartels (University of Birmingham)
  • Hendrik Wagenaar (Kings College London)
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About

The Standing Group Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis is the home of Critical Policy Analysis (CPA). CPA is a normative project and a program of action that takes its inspiration from policy, political and democratic theory, grounded in empirical social research. CPA follows the argumentative turn in policy analysis and includes a variety of interpretive, deliberative and practice-based approaches. The starting point of CPA is that the world of governance and public policy is dynamically complex, densely interconnected and, as a result, essentially open-ended and unpredictable. Rationalist approaches to policy analysis tend to use methods that reduce this complexity, with the specific aim of identifying variables that can be manipulated to exert control over policy issues. Instead, CPA’s epistemological and methodological orientation is to embrace and deepen understanding of the complex, interconnected and open-ended nature of the social, natural and political world. Its ultimate goal is to enhance the capacity of policy actors to engage with it in collaborative, democratic and transformative ways for the purpose of designing institutions that match the world's complexity.

Aims & Objectives

Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis has five broad aims. First, to stimulate methodological and conceptual innovation by facilitating dialogue between theoretical perspectives from the Policy Sciences, Public Administration Theory, Critical Social Policy, political theory, democratic theory and Science and Technology Studies. Second, to integrate a positive ethical program of equality, justice, sustainability, solidarity, cooperation, and mutual care into a systematic, empirical approach to policy analysis. Third, to enable the co-production of creative, effective and just solutions and institutions by revealing taken-for-granted dimensions and oppressive conditions of social and policy issues. Fourth, to enhance the practical relevance of policy analysis in turbulent, complex and conflictual times characterised by ecological and migration crises, extreme inequality, post-truth, and the erosion of democratic institutions. And, finally, to stimulate forms of policy analysis that enhance the democratic quality of society.

Activities

The Standing Group Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis explores systematic, empirically grounded critical, interpretive and deliberative approaches to policy analysis. Members of this Standing Group celebrate methodological and conceptual innovation and diversity rather than favouring a single approach. In addition to traditional quantitative methods, members use a variety of different methods of policy analysis, such as qualitative research, discourse analysis, interpretive, narrative, deliberative and practice-based methods, political ethnography, as well as action research and co-production. Critical policy analysts favour the participation of groups affected by public policies in their analysis and implementation.  We think that these methods and approaches are conversant with fundamental developments and new insights in social theory, political theory, contemporary theories of public administration and the policy process, as well as an ethos of democratic inclusion.

Over the past decades the Standing Group has been part of the development of a thriving international academic community. A prime example are the successful meetings of the flagship conference of this community: the International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis (https://ipa.science/). The Standing Group aims to further support the growth of the community and its individual members (especially early career researchers) by facilitating dialogue between theoretical perspectives and different methods, and bringing these to bear on practical policy problems in urgent need of democratic and sustainable solutions. We also seek to promote recognition of the value of our community for enhancing practical relevance, critical reflection and transformation in public policy.

The Standing Group does so in a number of ways. It annually convenes a Section at the ECPR General Conference and supports initiatives in the community, such as the organisation of the first summer school in interpretive policy analysis in 2018. The Standing Group is also associated with the International Public Policy Association, the Interpretive Politics Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association, and the Public Administration Theory Network. The Standing Group is closely affiliated with the prime journal of our field, Critical Policy Studies, which is a well-established and recognised outlet for high quality publications. Each year it gives an award for the best article and the best article of an early career scholar (the ‘Herbert Gottweis prize’, named after one of the founders of the field). The Standing Group is also affiliated with the renowned US-based journal Administrative Theory & Praxis, the prominent journal Policy & Politics and the newly established International Review of Public Policy. The website of the Standing Group aims to be a platform for communicating new developments and publications in this thriving discipline.  


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