Table of Contents

Handbook of Critical Policy Studies

Handbook of Critical Policy Studies

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini

Critical policy studies, as illustrated in this Handbook, challenges the conventional approaches public policy inquiry. But it offers important innovations as well, in particular its focus on discursive politics, policy argumentation and deliberation, and interpretive modes of analysis.

Chapter 4: Habermas, critical theory and public policy

Thomas Saretzki

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, politics and public policy, public policy, regulation and governance, research methods, qualitative research methods


Habermas influenced the field of policy studies indirectly by stimulating critical insights on epistemological and methodological issues and on the relation of theory and practice. His work inspired policy scholars on their way from conventional policy analysis to critical policy studies. To get a sense of the corresponding elements and significance of Habermas for the development of policy studies, the chapter starts with a short recollection of the program for the policy sciences of democracy and its conceptual problems between scientific methods and democracy. Recalling Habermas’s interventions in the positivist dispute, the technocracy debate and the controversy on the relation of hermeneutics and critical theory, the chapter then goes on to explain why policy scholars committed to democratizing policy deliberation found an interest in Habermas and how his theoretical perspectives and concepts played a role in the discussion on policy evaluation. The chapter ends in a self-reflective and self-critical sense, considering some of the problems that have been experienced by those who tried to recommend his concepts to design and implement strategies to democratize processes of policy analysis and policy-making.

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