Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini
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.
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