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 6: Theorizing public policy: multiple streams and advocacy coalitions

Linda C. Botterill and Alan Fenna


The public policy literature contains a plethora of frameworks, lenses, models, approaches and so called ‘theories’. Rather than build on or complement each other towards an overall picture of the policy process, they have tended to be offered as standalone explanatory frameworks. Among this array of conceptual schema, three key frameworks have attracted considerable attention – both in terms of attempts at development of the underlying concept and in terms of empirical research programs. This chapter discusses two of these: John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams Approach and Paul Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework and assesses the extent to which they address the link between values, politics and policy. The MSA is very much an insider account of the policy process with little room for consideration of the policy preferences or values of voters. The ACF is similarly focused on policy actors but moves a step closer to politics by recognizing the importance of values as the ‘glue’ holding advocacy coalitions together in the face of alternative values positions within policy communities.

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