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 10: A political values perspective

Linda C. Botterill and Alan Fenna


The key insight at the heart of a political values perspective is that policy is an integral part of politics, and as such is about juggling conflicting societal values. Values express a conception of desirable outcomes for a society and present decision makers with choices which inevitably prioritize one value or set of values over others. Acknowledging the political nature of the policy process means acknowledging its essential messiness, uncertainties, and conflicts around goal identification, problem definition and instrument choice. Once these realities are accepted, along with the unavoidable complexity and ‘wickedness’ of social problems, the limits to human cognition and decision-making abilities need to be also recognized. An account of the policy process that omits these human frailties will only be partial. This book has set out to reconnect policy and politics by drawing attention to the value-laden nature of human choices, whether by individuals or by policy makers.

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