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A place at the table: Policy analysis, its postpositive critics, and future of practice


  • Laurence E. Lynn

    (Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago)


Postpositivist critics have brought a new stridency to the ongoing discourse about the nature, applications, and usefulness of policy analysis. Regrettably, their critique is based on a decontextualized caricature, virtually a parody, of policy analysis training and practice. Their assertions are chilling but false, ideological rather than analytical, and detached from the inconvenient realities of policy making and management. Far from being narrowly technocratic and scientistic, policy analysis is dedicated to improving the craft of governance. It is fueled by intuition, argument, and ethical promptings; clearly engaged with the world of political action; and often identified with interests and values otherwise unrepresented at the table. Q-methodology and other approaches to values identification and analysis can be important contributors to policy analysis practice, but postpositivists have a very long way to go if they are to be relevant to the practical challenges of democratic governance that arise in the many roles that working policy analysts perform. © 1999 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence E. Lynn, 1999. "A place at the table: Policy analysis, its postpositive critics, and future of practice," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 411-425.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:18:y:1999:i:3:p:411-425
    DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6688(199922)18:3<411::AID-PAM5>3.0.CO;2-G

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    Cited by:

    1. Ching Leong & Raul Lejano, 2016. "Thick narratives and the persistence of institutions: using the Q methodology to analyse IWRM reforms around the Yellow River," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 49(4), pages 445-465, December.
    2. Garoon, Joshua P. & Duggan, Patrick S., 2008. "Discourses of disease, discourses of disadvantage: A critical analysis of National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Plans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(7), pages 1133-1142, October.

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