Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing
Show Less

Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing

Edited by H. K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe

This Handbook covers the accounts, by practitioners and observers, of the ways in which policy is formed around problems, how these problems are recognized and understood, and how diverse participants come to be involved in addressing them. H.K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe draw together a range of original contributions from experts in the field to illuminate the ways in which policies are formed and how they shape the process of governing.
Buy Book in Print
Show Summary Details
You do not have access to this content

Chapter 7: ‘Stage’ theories of the policy process

William N. Dunn


The policy sciences, a multidisciplinary movement initiated by Harold D. Lasswell and a group of collaborators including Myres S. McDougall, Abraham Kaplan, and Daniel Lerner, provided a new vision of the relation between the social sciences and policymaking. Few before Lasswell had combined multidisciplinary breadth with a pragmatic theory of knowledge that saw ideas as instruments of practical action. Policy decisions were the consequence of an abductive (not deductive or inductive) process of responding to the indeterminacy that Dewey called a problem situation. The response required, first, stating a desired future outcome, and then identifying the causal mechanisms necessary to achieve it. Although there had been prior efforts to develop multidisciplinary research based on various social science disciplines, only the policy sciences integrated multidisciplinarity with a pragmatic theory of knowledge and action. This pragmatist perspective, which has touched virtually every aspect of teaching and research in public policy, not only mandated the creation of knowledge about the policymaking process, but insisted that such knowledge be used to improve that process. Lasswell’s theory of the decision process, contrary to critics who see that theory as a linear or mono-cyclical “stages heuristic,” is a product of John Dewey’s functionalist theory of social and behavioral change, on one hand, and Chester Barnard’s concept of the decision as the basic unit of analysis in policymaking. Lasswell’s theory of the decision process, properly conceived, should be reinvented in these pragmatist and functionalist terms.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information

or login to access all content.