New Horizons in Public Policy series
Edited by Fergus Carr and Andrew Massey
Chapter 1: Public Policy and Administration in Europe
1 Andrew Massey Today, political leaders throughout Europe are facing a real paradox. On the one hand, Europeans want them to ﬁnd solutions to the major problems confronting our societies. On the other hand, people increasingly distrust institutions and politics or are simply not interested in them. (Commission of the European Communities, European Governance: a White Paper, 2001, p. 3) ‘Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!’ (Thomas Gradgrind, in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854), London: Hazel Watson) The fictional Thomas Gradgrind represents a vivid portrayal of the positivistic approach to the pursuit of knowledge, a belief that reality exists and its laws and manifestations may be discovered through empirical observation and experimentation. It has long been recognized within social science, however, that ‘pure’ ‘empirical knowledge of how institutions work is impossible and thus not very meaningful. It is impossible since the representation of empirical facts is always based on particular concerns, and assumptions’ (Diez and Wiener, 2004, p. 4). It has become almost a cliché, therefore, to point out that ‘facts’ are understood and interpreted via the use...
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