Interrogating Public Policy Theory
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Interrogating Public Policy Theory

A Political Values Perspective

Linda C. Botterill and Alan Fenna

This book questions the way policy making has been distanced from politics in prevailing theories of the policy process, and highlights the frequently overlooked ubiquity of values and values conflicts in politics and policy. It examines the strengths and weaknesses of current theories, reviews the illusions of rationalism in politics, and explores the way values are implicated throughout the democratic process, from voter choice to policy decisions. It argues that our understanding of public policy is enhanced by recognizing its intrinsically political and value-laden nature.
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Chapter 3: Understanding values

Linda C. Botterill and Alan Fenna


Society is made up of individuals whose lives are guided by conceptions of what is right and wrong, what ought or ought not to be, and the appropriate modes of achieving these desired states of being. While different individuals hold broadly the same values, they rank them differently. The choices that governments face are matters of judgment in the face of uncertainty and these judgments invariably involve the juggling of conflicting societal values. Given that citizens rank values differently from each other, the choices facing policy makers are often not between “good” and “bad” but between “good” and “good”. Over recent decades, a large body of research has developed which identifies and measures human values. This work can inform political scientists and policy scholars by drawing attention to areas of values conflict, with the potential to improve the nature of policy debate.

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