Understanding Governance: Lasswell and the Radical Recontextualization of the Policy Sciences

By Jeremy Rayner.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Like many other disciplines that are now dominated by the perspectives of positivist social science, policy analysis was once closely connected to political theory and philosophy. As Douglas Torgerson has shown, even Harold Lasswell, usually regarded as a pioneer of the “policy sciences”, located his work in pragmatist philosophy and progressivist political thought. While the development of value free analytical techniques, usually borrowed from economics, has not gone uncontested, the collection of disparate approaches usually gathered under the heading of “post-positivist” policy theories has yet to make much of an impact on the discipline, especially in the training of professional policy analysts. Post-positivism in policy theory is more a state of mind than a well-developed theoretical perspective, with a rag bag of unrelated literary and interpretive techniques ranging from contemporary developments in narratology all the way back to traditional studies of rhetoric and metaphor. As globalization undercuts the ability of states to create and implement public policy in traditional ways, a development captured in the shift from government to governance, the search for new modes of policy-making challenges the assumptions on which the policy sciences have been founded. By opening a new space for a policy analysis that is deliberative, participatory, and reflective, governance has the potential to reconnect policy analysis, political theory, and literary theory.

Keywords: Globalization, Governance, Public Policy Theory, Deliberative Political Theory, Contextual Orientation

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 7, pp.29-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 565.843KB).

Dr. Jeremy Rayner

Associate Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Dr. Jeremy Rayner was educated at the universities of Cambridge, Durham and British Columbia and has taught most recently at the University of Victoria, Malaspina University-College, and the University of Regina (where he is currently Head of the Political Science Department). Originally trained as a historian of political thought, he wrote on seventeenth century political thought before switching his research interests to resource and environmental policy in the (probably mistaken) belief that policy analysis has more contemporary relevance than the history of political thought. While he publishes on policy issues in mainstream journals such as Governance, Policy Sciences and the Journal of Public Policy, he continues to seek ways in which the skills of the political theorist can inform the the work of the policy analyst, especially in the education of policy professionals.

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