This book offers a novel approach to thinking about public policy and a distinctive methodology for analysing policy. It introduces a set of six questions that probe how ‘problems’ are represented in policies, followed by an injunction to apply the questions to one’s own policy proposals. This form of analysis, it suggests, is crucial to understanding how policy works, how we are governed, and how the practice of policy-making implicitly constitutes us as subjects.
The book mounts a challenge to the problem-solving paradigm currently dominating the intellectual and policy landscape, a paradigm manifest in ‘evidence-based policy’. Arguing that such a paradigm denies the shaping that goes on in the process of problematisation, it offers a ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ approach to policy analysis as a counter-discourse. In this view critical thinking involves putting ‘problems’ into question rather than learning how to ‘solve’ them.
Bacchi’s approach to policy analysis offers exciting insights in a wide array of policy areas, including welfare, drugs/alcohol and gambling, criminal justice, health, education, immigration and population, media and research policy. Invaluable to those involved in policy studies and public administration, it will also appeal to students and academics in sociology, social work, anthropology, cultural studies and human geography.
‘This innovative approach to policy draws upon the full intellectual resources of contemporary social and political thought, particularly of Michel Foucault and “governmentality” studies, in a way which is intelligible and useful to students at all levels and to academics as both teachers and researchers. I cannot recommend the book highly enough to those who want to understand in depth the ways in which problems are constituted in policy and the effects this has on those who are governed by them, that is, on all of us.’
Mitchell Dean, Professor of Sociology, Macquarie University
‘Once again, Carol Bacchi has written a book that belongs on the shelves of both academics from a wide range of disciplines and decision-makers working in a variety of policy areas. Grounded in sophisticated theory yet readily accessible to a broad audience, Bacchi helps us identify the meaning-making that is part of policy formulation.’
Pat Armstrong, Professor, Sociology and Women's Studies, CHSRF/CIHR Chair in Health Services, York University, Toronto, Canada
‘Thought provoking and insightful. Usefully refines Bacchi's ground-breaking “what's the problem represented to be?” approach that has inspired scholars from many different countries. Offers a clear methodology to study and question problematisations that are often taken for granted. This book should be required reading for policy analysis students and scholars.’
Anette Borchorst, Professor, PhD at Department of History, International and Social Studies, Aalborg University, Denmark