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Government policy making (akaPublic policy)is the principled guide to action taken by the administrative executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs. In general, the foundation is the pertinent national and substantial constitutional law and implementing legislation such as the US Federal code. Further substrates include both judicial interpretations and regulations which are generally authorized by legislation.[1]

Other scholars define it as a system of "courses of action, regulatory measures, laws, and funding priorities concerning a given topic promulgated by a governmental entity or its representatives."[2] Public policy is commonly embodied "in constitutions, legislative acts, and judicial decisions." [3]

In the United States, this concept refers not only to the result of policies, but more broadly to the decision-making and analysis of governmental decisions. As an academic discipline, public policy is studied by professors and students at public policy schools of major universities throughout the country. The U.S. professional association of public policy practitioners, researchers, scholars, and students is the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.[citation needed]

Various definitionsEdit

According to William Jenkins in Policy Analysis: A Political and Organizational Perspective (1978), a Public Policy is ‘a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve’. Thus, Jenkins understands Public Policy making to be a process, and not simply a choice.

According to Thomas A. Birkland in An Introduction to the Policy Process (2001), there is a lack of a consensus on the definition of public policy. Birkland outlines a few definitions of public policy (Table 1.3 on p. 21):

  • Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "The term public policy always refers to the actions of government and the intentions that determine those actions.
  • Clarke E. Cochran, et al.: "Public policy is the outcome of the struggle in government over who gets what".
  • Thomas Dye: Public policy is "Whatever governments choose to do or not do".
  • Charles L. Cochran and Eloise F. Malone: "Public policy consists of political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals".
  • B. Guy Peters: "Stated most simply, public policy is the sum of government activities, whether acting directly or through agents, as it has an influence on the life of citizens".

Birkland indicates that the elements common to all definitions of public policy are as follows (p. 20):

  • The policy is made in the name of the "public".
  • Policy is generally made or initiated by government.
  • Policy is interpreted and implemented by public and private actors.
  • Policy is what the government intends to do.
  • Policy is what the government chooses not to do.

Government actionsEdit

Shaping public policy is a complex and multifaceted process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way. These individuals and groups use a variety of tactics and tools to advance their aims, including advocating their positions publicly, attempting to educate supporters and opponents, and mobilizing allies on a particular issue. Often, the need for public policy develops over time. In the past, there might've been no way to prevent the problem from occurring, but with current technologies a solution may appear. Public Policy is easier to establish when it affects smaller groups of people.[4]

As an academic disciplineEdit

Main article: Public policy school

As an academic discipline, public policy brings in elements of many social science fields and concepts, including economics, sociology, political economy, program evaluation, policy analysis, and public management, all as applied to problems of governmental administration, management, and operations. At the same time, the study of public policy is distinct from political science or economics, in its focus on the application of theory to practice. While the majority of public policy degrees are master's and doctoral degrees, several universities also offer undergraduate education in public policy.

Policy schools tackle policy analysis differently. The Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago has a more quantitative and economics approach to policy, the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon uses computational and empirical methods, while the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has a more political science and leadership based approach. The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs provides traditional public policy training with multidisciplinary concentrations available in the environmental sciences and nonprofit management. Moreover, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers public policy training that emphasizes the stages of decision-making in formulating policy (e.g. agenda setting), as well as the importance of framing effects and cognitive limits in policy formation.

The Jindal School of Government and Public Policy in India offers an interdisciplinary training in public policy with a focus on the policy making processes in developing and BRIC countries. In Europe, the School of Government of LUISS Guido Carli offers a multidisciplinary approach to public policy combining economics, political science, new public management, and policy analysis, while the renowned French institute of political studies SciencesPo complements these core disciplines with organizational sociology, human security, political economy, and leadership.

Traditionally, the academic field of public policy focused on domestic policy. However, the wave of economic globalization, which ensued in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, created a need for a subset of public policy that focuses on global governance, especially as it relates to issues that transcend national borders such as climate change, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and economic development.[5] Consequently, many traditional public policy schools had to tweak their curricula to adjust to this new policy landscape, as well as developed whole new ones. The School of International Affairs at The Pennsylvania State University, for example, was created as a response to a new transnational landscape. The School of International Affairs is grounded on international policy making, offering interdisciplinary training from various fields, such as law, political science, international relations, geography, sociology, and economics.[6]

Feminist politics and public policyEdit

Public policy can and should be seen through different viewpoints; the feminist viewpoint helps to identify a more broad range of issues in turn providing a better scope to public policy. The study of feminist politics and public policy lends itself to more than just the male perspective.[7] If the world were seen through just a male perspective, key issues such as the lack of representation of women in policy-making roles or transgendered sport teams would be overlooked.

In feminist analysis of public policy, scholars tend to consider issues such as the welfare state, which focuses on labour practices, wages, employment and unemployment.[8] The early scholarship on the welfare state neglected efforts of women in social feminist organizations to help protect women and children who were not in the workforce.[8] Gelb suggest that there are “political opportunity structures” to help influence policy makers.[9] These structures are created by feminist movements and organizations that became professionalized interest groups focused on lobbying, while building coalitions with other organizations to influence central policy makers.[9] The Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action is a NGO which works with partner civil society organizations in the Middle East. Or Women Impacting Public Policy in the United States.

Gendered analysis has assisted public policy by bringing forth real life issues women face visible to the public sphere;[10] issues such as pay equity, maternity and parental leave, childcare, domestic violence, sexual assault, parental leave and domestic violence, each one of public concern.[10] Analytically, this broadens public policy by encompassing more than just the male perspective. Take the recent announcement in the UK that in 2015 after two weeks of maternity leave the mother and father are able to “take time off together or in turns and have a legal right to request flexible working hours”.[11] When compared to the previous policies this recognizes the need for flexibility and those fathers need to play a role in caring for their children. This policy allows women to continue their roles in the workplace despite motherhood. Subsequently the feminist thought goes beyond the traditional male views and opens up other issues faced by women and transgendered. [citation needed]

The feminist scholar should constantly be asking a variety of probing questions in order to achieve an impact on policy changes.[12] Women tend to look through a deeper lens, one beyond the male perspective addressing the needs of multiple disenfranchised groups or the marginalized, these groups such as ethnic minorities, transgender people, and lower income families are so often voices left unheard.[13] Feminist policy often takes a global approach “how will this policy be equal and inclusive” [13] is it responsive to the needs of these groups and the general public.


Types of policyEdit

There are a number of areas of government policy making that are of professional relevance to psychologists. For example, at the level of political policy, ethnic relations is discussed in terms of either assimilationism or multiculturalism. Anti-racism forms another style of policy, particularly popular in the 1960s and 70s.

Other ares of interest include:

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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