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 5: The persistence of the rational dream

Linda C. Botterill and Alan Fenna


In spite of the criticism of the rational model, ambition of a politics-free policy process has persisted. This has spilled over into public policy practice, political rhetoric, and policy commentary. This chapter examines the widely applied notion that policy making is best understood as occurring in a succession of ‘stages’, and discusses the most recent incarnation of the rational dream – evidence-based policy making. It draws attention to the absence of values and politics from rational accounts and the problems with reliance on evidence as a source of value-free advice.

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