Policy has emerged as an increasingly politicized field of governmental action, both within and across nations. This politicization goes alongside attempts to de-politicize policy, claiming that it is merely a matter of technocratic, administrative or managerial judgements of efficiency or effectiveness. At the same time, policy increasingly involves the action of non-state agencies – as government and governance become entangled in new formations.
Such changes have prompted the development of new approaches to policy studies, taking their place alongside older critical resources that have been used to explore new configurations of ideologies and interests. As a field, policy studies has been marked by various ‘turns’: such as the discursive turn; the argumentative turn, the interpretive turn and the cultural turn. This proliferation of critical approaches has helped to call into question the domination of rationalist, institutionalist and positivist perspectives on policy and the policy process.
The course will explore key dimensions in critical approaches, focusing on forms of critique that are centred on:
- interests and ideologies;
- interpretive and argumentative orientations;
- discourse and dialogism;
- governance, governmentality and governing; and
- transnational translation
In the process, the course will reflect on the problems of it title. What modes of being critical are available? What happens to policy as an object of study in critical analysis? What approaches to critically studying policy are available, of interest and of value?
The learning outcomes of the course are that by the end of the course students should be able to:
- Identify key developments in contemporary approaches to studying policy;
- Contrast different critical perspectives;
- Address systematically different views of power and authority in studying policy
- Offer accounts of the changing relations of governmental formations and the policy process;
- Engage in collective discussion about the contemporary politics of policy;
- Write a critical review of one approach within critical policy studies;
- Produce an essay presenting a critical analysis of a clearly defined issue in a chosen policy field.