Policies as theories

Majone, G. (1980). Policies as theories. Omega 8 (2) 151-162. 10.1016/0305-0483(80)90019-5.

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The received view of the scientific method, as represented for instance by logical positivism, has only historical interest for the specialists, but it is still widely, if implicitly, held by decision and policy analysts. On the other hand, recent developments in philosophy and the history of science, which stress the fallibility of theories and the social and historical character of scientific knowledge and criteria, have not yet been assimilated by analysts. This paper argues that these recent methodological developments offer important insights into many theoretical and professional problems facing students of policy-making. Thus, an appreciation of the craft aspects of scientific inquiry not only clarifies the subtle relationship between theory and practice in any type of systematic analysis, but also suggests a conceptual model of the analyst's task that is quite different from the conventional decision-making paradigm. Again, Popperian and post-Popperian views of the evolution of knowledge are shown to be relevant to the evaluation of policies and to the study of their development. Particularly important in this respect is the notion, due to Lakatos, of problem shifts in competing research programmes. Even the role of advocacy in policy arguments appears in a new light after we realize the importance of persuasion and propaganda in the history of scientific development. There are reasonably well-defined situations in which the use of persuasion, far from violating the analyst's code of professional behavior, is not only unavoidable but also rationally justifiable.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Resources and Environment Area (REN)
Depositing User: Romeo Molina
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2016 14:12
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:26
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/12382

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