Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series
Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini
Chapter 14: Making distinctions: the social construction of target populations
In this chapter we explore the social construction of target populations. Policies have a wide variety of pathways through which various problems might be addressed or purposes achieved. Policy makers often choose roundabout courses of action and select target groups whose actions are only loosely related to goals. Target groups are decided upon on the basis of various criteria, including importantly their power and the social construction of their deservedness. We offer a template for classifying target groups into four basic kinds: advantaged, disadvantaged, contenders and deviants, along with the policy tools and implementation structures usually directed towards each kind. The categories we suggest are a useful tool to critical policy scholars. A worthy aim of critical research is to unmask the ineffective, illogical and unfair policy treatment and undemocratic values embedded in policies in which citizens have unequal voices and are treated inequitably.
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