Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini
Chapter 13: Problem definition and agenda-setting in critical perspective
Public policy-making, as technocratically conceived, appears as a rational process of solving known problems. Political problems are then regarded as part of a pre-given ‘neutral’ reality to which public policy simply responds. In contrast, our contribution develops a critical approach in that it traces three different (at times overlapping) perspectives. Firstly, we introduce approaches that criticize the top-down and linear conceptualizations of policy-making as problem-solving and instead study agenda-building as a complex process of turning issues into political problems. Secondly, we present a more fundamental epistemological challenge as constituted by post-positivist approaches and their focus on the struggle over the definition of problems at various stages of the policy process. Lastly, we introduce approaches that emphasize the role of power and political manipulation in problem definition and agenda-setting. Taken together, these strands provide the basis for a critical perspective which conceptualizes problem definition as a basic discursive process – part of the construction of a political world – and agenda-setting as a specific type of problem definition that attributes responsibility to a political actor or institution. From this perspective, problem definition and agenda-setting are not regarded as distinct phases but as constructions of reality that can be identified within the larger policy-making process.
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.
Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.
Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.