Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by David S.G. Goodman
The shaping and implementation of public policy is a fundamental process in any state whether developed or developing. It is an instrument that confirms the legitimacy of the state itself, in that it is an expression in practice of its monopoly of power. It is also essential to the welfare of citizens, demonstrating the state’s responsibility for this: a further example of its political legitimacy. In parliamentary democracies, such as in Europe or in the Americas for instance, the process and content of such public policy is connected intimately with public opinion. This provides evidence about what citizens believe they need if they are to prosper, and for the state itself to continue to enjoy their support. This is shown through democratic elections in which citizens choose, albeit broadly, between public policy options and the individuals or groups of individuals who will deliver these in practice. Such a process is the working out of ideologies in practice. It is also a process which builds, in Gramscian terms, an ideological hegemony that goes beyond the maintenance of power through a monopoly of force (Borg et al. 2002). In short, the population is persuaded that the ideology of the ruling state power is a commonsense expression of what is needed to provide for its welfare now and in the future. This makes public policy concerning the education of the population a matter of key importance, essential as it is to human capital and skills development, to social capital, social cohesion and a harmonious society, and to the cultural development of the population generally.
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