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What work makes policy?


  • Hal Colebatch



The mainstream policy literature identifies a number of activities as part of ‘policy-making’: ‘policy analysis’, ‘policy advice’, ‘decision-making’, and perhaps also ‘implementation’ and ‘evaluation’. Describing policy in these terms is compatible with the Western cultural account, and these terms tend to be applied to positions, organisational segments and official procedures. But policy practitioners tend to find that on the one hand, their experience of their work bears little resemblance to the assumptions in this policy-making model, and on the other, that policy outcomes seem to reflect much broader processes than the work of specialist functionaries. On closer examination, we find that our thinking about policy activity draws on several distinct and potentially conflicting perspectives, and that what is seen as ‘policy work’ depends on the conceptualisation of the policy process. Framing the question in this way helps to understand the apparent differences between mainstream (American) accounts of policy activity and policy practice in other political systems. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLP 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Hal Colebatch, 2006. "What work makes policy?," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 39(4), pages 309-321, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:39:y:2006:i:4:p:309-321
    DOI: 10.1007/s11077-006-9025-4

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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Farhad Mukhtarov & Andrea Gerlak, 2014. "Epistemic forms of integrated water resources management: towards knowledge versatility," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(2), pages 101-120, June.
    2. Jonathan Craft, 2015. "Conceptualizing the policy work of partisan advisers," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 48(2), pages 135-158, June.
    3. Sedlačko Michal & Staroňová Katarína, 2015. "An Overview of Discourses on Knowledge in Policy: Thinking Knowledge, Policy and Conflict Together," Central European Journal of Public Policy, Sciendo, vol. 9(2), pages 10-31, December.
    4. Ann-Charlotte Nedlund & Peter Garpenby, 2014. "Puzzling about problems: the ambiguous search for an evidence-based strategy for handling influx of health technology," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(4), pages 367-386, December.
    5. Novotný Vilém, 2015. "Czech Study of Public Policy in the Perspective of Three Dominant Approaches," Central European Journal of Public Policy, Sciendo, vol. 9(1), pages 8-29, May.
    6. Anna Wesselink & Hal Colebatch & Warren Pearce, 2014. "Evidence and policy: discourses, meanings and practices," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(4), pages 339-344, December.
    7. Koen Bartels, 2013. "Research as Usual: How Researching Public Problems Affects Problem Solving," Working Papers 13002, Bangor Business School, Prifysgol Bangor University (Cymru / Wales).
    8. Caspar F. Berg, 2017. "Dynamics in the Dutch policy advisory system: externalization, politicization and the legacy of pillarization," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 50(1), pages 63-84, March.
    9. Nambiar, Devaki, 2013. "India's “tryst” with universal health coverage: Reflections on ethnography in Indian health policymaking," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 135-142.
    10. Anna Wesselink & Andy Gouldson, 2014. "Pathways to impact in local government: the mini-Stern review as evidence in policy making in the Leeds City Region," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 47(4), pages 403-424, December.


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