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The politics of policy design


Determining where politics sits in scholarship on policy design might potentially start from first principles with three ontological questions: What is policy? What is design? What is politics? It should then be self-evident that given we are far from convincingly clear answers to any of these questions individually, answering them in combination presents a tricky task. In what follows, I try to pull apart how politics has been conceived in regard to policy design. I have also chosen to follow a conceptual approach because, in an important sense, policy design pertains to general questions about politics and policy in all their aspects (Simon, 1969; Peters, 2018). Therefore, the significance of policy design research is important beyond this one area of inquiry. There are three sections. In the first, I tease out six different ways in which politics has been conceptualized in policy design. Some of these approaches could easily be situated in more than one category, so I have not attempted to render them mutually exclusive. My aim is to identify the political dimensions of the approaches to encourage further concep- tual reflection. Section 2 develops a heuristic for policy design, depicted in a two-vector figure that maps the field of scholarship along policy and politics dimensions, while also distinguish- ing orientations towards scholars from those aimed at practitioners. The final section considers potential routes for cross-fertilization between perspectives.


policy design