The policy process is not ‘mere’ problem-solving. The idealized vision of a linear progression from problem to solution has been rejected for more complex analyses. This chapter reviews theory in regard to all three elements of the problem orientation: problem, solution, and the process that links them. The problem itself is problematic, therefore policy analysis involves sorting through questions rather than simply seeking the best solution. Problems are already a result. Partial solutions are the norm, reached through a succession of questioning processes. The policy process is the continuing collective management of the problematic. In theories of process, a key distinction arises between analytical and post-positivist models. Problems and solutions are not autonomous from the policy process. For many scholars, the policy process, the problem and the solution have become inextricably intertwined in a creative process of self-reference: each emerges from the other in the course of interrogation.
Interpretive research has revealed the place of meaning and culture in governance. For interpretivists, governance is an intersubjective world constituted by many different actors, meanings, and arguments. Governance is a practical and interpretive process in which individuals and organizations make sense of the world and respond. Policymakers interpret the world not through a primary focus on institutions but through contextualized meaning. The emphasis on subjectivity, situated knowledge, ideas and cultural specificity directs researchers to use textual analyses and close interpretations of governance practices. Understanding governance requires understanding what it means for the political actors themselves and how deliberation takes place in governance networks. The challenges for interpretivists are to engage with other perspectives on governance, particularly forms of institutionalism, and to develop a robust account of power.