Revisiting deliberative policy analysis: Introduction

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It has been 15 years since Hajer and Wagenaar published Deliberative Policy Analysis (hereafter DPA). The book’s publication was one of the major developments in the post-positivist policy movement. The book’s subtitle “Understanding Governance in the Network Society” indicated DPA’s programmatic approach. It argued that the changing nature of the political-administrative system made traditional, technocratic information less effective as input into processes of policy and decision making. The editors, in their introduction to the book, depicted these changes in terms of a “network society”. Departing from then fashionable theories of policy networks, they defined the network society according to five characteristics that “posed concrete challenges to policymaking and politics” (Hajer and Wagenaar 2003, 8) These characteristics are: the proliferation of new sites for policymaking and politics, deep cultural pluralism, the strong interdependence of these different social and cultural groups, the radical uncertainty and limits to knowledge that result from that, and the erosion of trust in policy makers (op. cit. 8–13). This leads the authors ask: “What kind of policy analysis might be relevant to understanding governance in the emerging network society?” and posit a lack of fit between, dominant positivist, technocratic forms of policy analysis and the predicament of political and administrative decision making (op. cit. 13). Instead, they argued, for policy analysis to be effective and democratically legitimate it should be interpretive, practice-oriented and deliberative. Policy analysts are no longer advisers selling ideas to their clients at the “top.” Instead, deliberative analysts attempt to assist and mediate between relevant policy actors, helping them to articulate their views, deal with disputes, and develop and implement possible collaborative actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-436
Number of pages10
JournalPolicy Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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