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A policy problem that cannot escape its past: constraints on the reformation of safety policy
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8695-4504
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Within many current policy theories there is a tendency to first identify change and then explain it. A retrospective analysis of policy changes risks missing continuous processes and struggles for change as well as mechanisms of resistance to change. Taking this as a point of departure, this paper develops an understanding of the policy process as a struggle over meaning, as a way to allow for a more nuanced understanding of the dynamics of policy change and continuity. This approach is illustrated by an analysis of the formation of public safety policy in Sweden. Alternative storylines giving ‘new’ meanings to the policy problem were strategically incorporated into the policy discourse. However, it is found that an ideational path-dependency of the policy constrains the possibility for problem reformulation and thereby also the possibility for policy change. The discourses that instantiated the policy problem affect the ways in which the problem is rendered thinkable for the purposes of its government, but also for policy analysts as well as the public. The analysis shows that it is crucial to understand the interrelations between different discourses (within policy, politics and research) to understand the mechanisms of policy change and continuity.

Keyword [en]
policy, process, public safety, sweden, politics, research
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-37714OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-37714DiVA: diva2:755237
Available from: 2014-10-14 Created: 2014-10-14 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The dynamics of policy formation: making sense of feelings of public unsafety
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The dynamics of policy formation: making sense of feelings of public unsafety
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Every policy problem has inherent value dimensions. It is on the basis of values that a state of affairs is perceived as undesirable, and thus acknowledged as a problem. This makes the process of defining and negotiating the meaning of a problem an essentially political process. Despite this, bureaucracy and expertise have a strong, if not increasing, influence over the formation of policy problems. An objectivist knowledge view predominates within the public managerial realm, which obscures the political dimension of problem formulation, while policy problems tend to be approached as a matter of efficiency.

This thesis provides an account of mechanisms that shape and constrain the way a particular policy problem is understood and addressed. It analyses how policy actors make sense of particular problems, by drawing on different discourses (scientific, institutional, popular or media). The empirical case of this thesis is the formation of public safety policy in Sweden. The understanding of the problem of unsafety within Swedish policy is shown to be intrinsically related to the research field of fear of crime. The two are mutually dependent and exert an ideational path dependency. The ideational constraints on the understanding of unsafety are further affected by the institutional setting. It is argued that the appointed institutions and the emphasis on local level have a part in fostering individualist explanations and solutions,while obviating structural interpretations of the problem.

The thesis finds that when governing complex policy problems there is a need to pay closer attention to how the problem is defined and how its meaning is constrained. It is crucial to make transparent the values inherent in definitions of problems as well as in research claims. By acknowledging the entwinement of policy and research the policy formation process may become characterized by greater reflexivity, and the possibility of resolving wicked problems may enlarge.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro university, 2014. 99 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Political Science, ISSN 1650-1632 ; 36
Keyword
Policy formation, wicked problems, sensemaking, safety, unsafety, fear of crime, policy change, discourse, ideas, interpretive, policy transfer
National Category
Political Science Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-35087 (URN)978-91-7529-037-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-09-19, Forumhuset, Hörsal F, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-05-20 Created: 2014-05-20 Last updated: 2017-10-17Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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