Lasswellian Policy Sciences and the Bounding of Democracy

Patrick McGovern and Peter Yacobucci

Department of Political Science

315 Social Sciences

Tucson, AZ 85721


This paper traces the development of Harold Lasswell's Policy Sciences and its implications concerning democracy and the role of policy studies therein. While much hope has been recently placed upon the policy sciences approach, the authors of this paper remain skeptical that its primary focus may be made to remain consonant with democratic norms. Recent models of the policy process, the Advocacy Coalition Framework developed by Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith and the Institutional Analysis and Design Framework offered by Elinor Ostrom, remain wedded to the rational actor model of individual behavior and Lasswell's conception of democracy. Without development of a more accurate conception of human behavior, these models will remain without predictive success and lacking in their understanding of the policy process. We also argue that post-positivist assumptions of increased participation will only be co-opted until the instrumental assumption of rational decision-making is augmented with a fuller model of behavior.

There is today among a number of policy scholars a growing sense of frustration with the general state and direction of policy studies; a frustration conditioned at least in part by the notion that there is at its very core a critical lack of an essential, unifying element. The discipline, like nature, seems to abhor a vacuum and, as a result, has seen a number of frameworks and approaches put forth from all its various corners as a means of filling this void. One approach that many scholars have embraced recently as a particularly compelling candidate for this task, capable of being all things to all policy scholars, is the "policy sciences" framework foreshadowed by the work of Lynd (1939), Kaplan and Merton, and first outlined by Harold Lasswell (1949), and elaborated by Lasswell and Daniel Lerner in their 1951 work, The Policy Sciences. Although many are enamored with its primary tenet which suggests that "better policy", and hence "better government", may be achieved through the intelligent use of the social sciences, there have been dissenting voices from those policy scholars concerned with the normative aspects of Lasswell’s approach, particularly with regard to its conception of democracy and the nature of the individuals within. While the authors of this paper applaud the work of a number of these skeptical scholars, work without which this paper could not be written, this paper questions whether they have gone far enough in describing the problematic relationship that exists between the policy sciences and democracy. While authors like Peter DeLeon and John Dryzek open challenges to Lasswell’s framework with regard to his vision of democracy, they fail to address the fundamental issue concerning the nature of the individual and the democratic context in which they are bound. In their silence, DeLeon and Dryzek seem to give tacit approval of a Lasswellian individual that is essentially envisioned solely in terms of market characteristics. If Lasswell and the policy sciences are to be adequately critiqued, these critiques must at their most basic level begin a dialogue that addresses Lasswell’s narrow construction of his democratic individual and the tensions this creates with theories of democracy and democratic policy making.

Learning the Wrong Lessons

According to Dryzek (1990), the idea of democracy has never been more universal or more popular than at this time in our history; and yet, both democratic theory and the empirical study of democratic possibilities are in a state of fundamental disarray. Helen Ingram and Steven Smith appear to build upon Dryzek’s sentiments in the introduction to one of their recent works, noting that a growing number of public policy scholars both within and without political science are increasingly exhibiting doubts that the frameworks presently employed for understanding and evaluating public policies are adequate to address issues related to the choice of appropriate institutions and types of policy capable of fostering citizenship and democracy. "These failings in analytical equipment," they write, "are most serious because the landscape of institutions and public policies are undergoing fundamental changes which beg for investigation … Rather than providing useful research questions about citizenship and democracy, existing frameworks and methods ignore normative questions about citizenship and democracy through which public policy scholars can assess contemporary institutional and policy changes" (Ingram and Smith 1998:1). If this is indeed the case, and Ingram and Smith’s warnings about the limited nature of present frameworks and methods used in addressing the challenges facing democracy and its policies are correct, there becomes a need to examine the deficiencies of policy studies present ‘tool kit’.

We argue that while the sentiments of post-positivist centered researchers within the policy sciences are instructive, they have missed the main deficiency of the development of the policy sciences. Increased participation of an involved citizenry is a step in the right direction but it is unable to overcome the market bias of the behavioral model still left largely unexamined within the policy sciences. The reliance on varying forms of instrumental rationality and behavioral individualism, even within newer institutional models, will continue to hamper efforts to implement policy solutions that are both palatable to the general populace and effective in alleviating policy crises facing our society. Only through the augmentation of the homo economicus model of human behavior with a more realistic representation of the human actor can the policy sciences begin to approach the bright future predicted by Lasswell and Lerner nearly fifty years ago.

This paper will outline the lessons first given to us from Lasswell and his co-authors concerning the development of the policy sciences focusing on the role of the individual and the continued reliance on a simplistic, detrimental view of the human individual. Next, we will focus on the advances made by two of the most recent developments made within the field, the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework forwarded by Elinor Ostrom and the Advocacy Coalition (AC) framework developed by Paul Sabatier and Hank Jenkins-Smith. While these new models are a clear advance on the traditional cost calculus approach favored within the policy sciences they are rightly critiqued by several post-positivism scholars. We will review their arguments and note their fundamental lack in addressing what we believe as the most damning flaw with these promising new models of the policy process. Finally, we will hypotheses what a reliance on these models will mean for the policy process and the role of the individual.

Before we address the shortcomings of the policy sciences and its most recent manifestations a note on definition. For the purposes of this essay, frameworks may be understood as mechanisms that delimit inquiry and direct attention to critical features of the socio/cultural/historico/political landscape. According to Edella Schlager, frameworks provide a basis for inquiry by specifying classes of variables and outlining the fit of their general relationships in a coherent structure. "Thus," notes Schlager, "frameworks organize inquiry, but they cannot in an of themselves provide explanations for, or predictions of, behavior and outcomes. Explanation and prediction lie in the realm of theories and models" (Schlager 1998: 2). Rather, as Ostrom describes them, frameworks help to identify the elements and relationships among the relevant aspects of the world, rules, and cultural phenomenon that one need to consider for political and policy analysis. "Frameworks organize diagnostic and prescriptive inquiry. They provide the most general list of variables that should be used to analyze all types of [policy] arrangements. Frameworks provide a metatheoretic language that can be used to compare theories. They attempt to identify the universal elements that any theory relevant to the same kind of phenomena would need to include …Thus, the elements contained in a framework help the analyst generate the questions that need to be addressed when first conducting an analysis" (Ostrom 1997: 6).

Lasswell’s Democracy of Manipulation

Largely credited with initiating the field of policy sciences, Lasswell’s stated purpose in advocating the notion of a ‘policy science’ framework is that it sets the stage for a comprehensive, integrated understanding concerned with the knowledge of and in the policy making process for the public and civic order. According to Lasswell, knowledge of the decision process implies systematic, empirical studies of how policies are made and put into effect. A commitment to empirical criteria for analysis commits policy studies to the ‘discipline’ of careful observation, while his emphasis on the decision process underlines the difference between the policy sciences and other intellectual pursuits. "By focusing on the making and execution of policy, one identifies a relatively unique frame of reference, and utilizes many traditional contributions to political science, jurisprudence, and related disciplines. However … in the interest of realism … it is essential to give full deference to the study of official and nonofficial processes" (Lasswell 1971: 1). Therefore, decision-making processes are studied not only at the public level, but at the civic level as well, assuring that policy sciences are able to distinguish between functionally and conventionally relevant phenomena.

Just as the policy sciences attempt to account for all the relevant phenomena that help to explain policy decisions, so too do they attempt to gain functional knowledge in the decision making process of policy formation. The study of the policy decisions within Lasswell’s framework is not limited to the mere explanation of decision making processes: knowledge of the policy making process is to be used in the decision making process itself. Such an active ‘practitioner’ approach to decision making is consonant with Lasswell’s overall approach to politics and policy making. In his earlier work on policy entitled The Future of Political Science, Lasswell asserts that it is directly within the scope of political science and its scientists to identify the factors that impede the realization of policy goals and where necessary, provide the civic leadership to negotiate such obstacles and aid in the implementation of policy programs. This sentiment is echoed in Pre-View as well when Lasswell notes that with the advent of science-based technology comes the need to anticipate the needs of decision makers and to mobilize knowledge when and where it is most effective. "It is, for instance, unthinkable that the Chinese Peoples’ Republic could develop a nuclear capability without drawing on the knowledge and skill of nuclear physicists and engineers. Or that the central banks of Western Europe, Britain, and the United States would tackle the problem of monetary stabilization without benefit of economists" (Lasswell 1971: 2). According to Lasswell it is not only the explanation of the decision making process that occurred in each of these instances that is the realm of the policy scientist, but participation in these kinds of decisions as well.

What appears to be of considerable importance to those interested in Lasswell’s framework is his attempt to provide a comprehensive, inter-disciplinary approach to the understanding, description, and practice of the decision making process within public policy. In committing the policy sciences to the broad goal of accounting for both knowledge of and in decision making, Lasswell commits his policy sciences framework to the following attributes: contextuality (the idea that decisions are part of a larger social process); problem orientation (Lasswell’s recognition that policy scientists should approach policy making as a rational, purposeful process); and diversity (methods employed by the policy scientist are not of a limited, narrow range). Contextuality, for both Lasswell and those wishing to utilize his framework, is of primary importance. For Lasswell, contextuality is an inescapable theme for the policy scientist. "To be professionally concerned with public policy is to be preoccupied with the aggregate, and to search for ways discovering and clarifying the past, present, and future repercussions of collective action (or inaction) for the human condition. In a world of science-based technology every group and individual is interdependent with every other participant, and the degree of interdependence fluctuates through time at the national, transnational, and subnational level" (Lasswell 1971: 14).

It could be argued that the context in which Lasswell hopes to imbed his 'scientific' policy process is already democratic and that this need not concern those wishing to utilize the framework as a potential means of analysis. But what does this say of Lasswell's view of democracy and the role of the policy scientist in it? As John Gunnell suggests in his work on the history of political thought in the United States, Lasswell is not really concerned with democracy, but rather with a rational management approach that favors an active role in politics for policy scientists. Lasswell believes that through the rigorous application of scientific methods, democracy is made to operate smoothly and efficiently. The focus of the framework then is clearly instrumental: how can policy scientists best order society to make it run more effectively and allocate values to individuals or groups? The focus for Lasswell is never upon the values themselves, mediation among competing values, or the questioning of such values as being 'good' or 'bad'. Upon closer examination, there does not seem to be much of anything that is democratic about either the context in which the policy process is supposedly embedded or the policy process itself; nor is there any real suggestion in his research program or his role for the policy scientist that Lasswell wishes that it might become so.

Much of what Lasswell outlines in his policy sciences with regard to the role of policy scientist and academic in constructing a rational society may be seen in his 1926 dissertation, Propaganda Technique in the World War. In it Lasswell can be seen emphasizing the dangers as well as the possibilities of elite manipulation of the masses, a theme closely mirrored by his mentor at the University of Chicago, Charles Merriam, in his series on the comparative study of civic training and political socialization. According to Gunnell, Lasswell's review of Walter Lippmann's 1925 work, Phantom Public, seems to accept the limitations of the people as a source of substantive decisions, but doubting that the public would bow out except for providing procedural checks on government as Lippmann had urged, he stressed the need for the leadership of the intelligentsia and academics. "Lasswell put less emphasis on civic education," writes Gunnell, "than on the development of scientific hypotheses that would expose the psychological reality behind politics and political ideology and make society manageable. His early work might even be construed as devoted more to the elimination of politics than its management" (Gunnell 1993: 123). The idea of democracy in Lasswell's work, if there is indeed any, is ultimately articulated in terms of the scientific and political elite's ability to socially engineer and manipulate the masses.

According to Lasswell, elites come inevitably to dominate the masses through the manipulation of symbols, a manipulation which for him represented both the potential for evil and for hope. "It is indubitable that the world could be unified if enough people were impressed by this elite. The hope of professors of social science, if not the world, lies in the competitive strength of an elite based on vocabulary, footnotes, questionnaires, and conditioned responses, against an elite based on vocabulary, poison gas, property, and family prestige" (Lasswell 1934: 20). Gunnell argues that Lasswell believed that academicians who seek the truth were "bound to have some control". With this in mind, he continued to pursue his idea of a 'preventative politics' which was the special province of political psychiatrists who would control the masses, through the use of some newly acquired scientific myth and succeed in "mastering the sources and mitigating the consequences of human insecurity in an unstable world" (Gunnell, quoting Lasswell, 1993: 125). Much of his notion of the policy scientists' agency is echoed in the introduction to his Analysis of Political Behaviour:

The developing science of democracy is an arsenal of implements for the achievement of democratic ideals. We know enough to know that democracies do not know how to live; they perish through ignorance -- ignorance of how to sustain the will to live and of how to discover the means of life. Without knowledge, democracy will surely fall. With knowledge, democracy may succeed. The significant advances of our time have not been in the discovery of new definitions of moral values or even in the skillful derivation of old definitions from more universal propositions. Our inheritance of brief definitions has been adequate. The advances of our time have been in the technique of relating them to reality … Science can ascertain the means appropriate to the completion of moral impulse (Lasswell 1966: 1).

Lasswell took the moral impulse for granted, believing that it was part of the cultural context that the policy process hoped to improve. It was simply up to the elite policy scientist, armed with intensive personality studies that concentrated on the unconscious aspects of human action, to control "mass security by manipulating [the] significant symbols" the masses "accept as authoritative".

Does Lasswell then provide a framework capable of fostering citizenship and democracy for the masses? It would appear that Lasswell's framework could nurture some sense of democracy and citizenship; they are, however, ideals that look far from appealing. In his arguments for a democratic society to show concern for the "flow of appreciation, of clarification, [and] of consultation" (what he describes as 'deference') among its citizens, deference seems to be limited to those who are most capable of implementing 'reliable knowledge' and thus secure society from its destructive passions. The masses are not in possession of such knowledge and therefore, despite their desire for democratic values and norms, are not ultimately entitled to any sort of respect or deference. Rather, reliable knowledge in this case is limited to those practitioners of political psychology and the policy sciences like Lasswell himself. Politics and political practice become the realms of the policy scientist; a scientist armed not with an interest of "new definitions of moral ideas" (although his/her belief in science represents a new morality in itself), but with the means of control and manipulation. For Lasswell, then, democracy is the allowance of the masses to choose the myths and symbols that in effect lead to the greatest amount of deference possible, so long as that deference favors the type of knowledge that best allows for their own manipulation and domination by the appropriate intellectuals and policy makers. Without such deference, Lasswell believes 'democratic' society hasn't the means to access the knowledge that will save it from its own irrationality and self-destruction. Ultimately, for Lasswell, a democracy that lacks a scientific policy process and respect for it practitioners is doomed to be both "blind and weak " (Lasswell 1966: 12). As Gunnell notes, Lasswell's work leaves little doubt that his pursuit of science was instrumental and that it was in service of a distinct set of values. It does not appear, however, that values were subject to either critical exploration or discussion; nor does it appear that they were at all democratic.


New Models, Similar Lessons

Even those little concerned with the role of democracy within the policy process pause at the suggestions forwarded by Lasswell of a limited, ignorant and manipulated general population. Can the policy sciences be reformulated to allow for an active citizenry, engaged within the policy process and informing the researcher not simply of amorphous general values but of more detailed policy preferences throughout the policy process? Two models have been developing in the 1990s that hope to achieve a more democratic policy process than the top-down heavy-handedness of Lasswell. The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) and Advocacy Coalition (AC) frameworks represent new attempts to create a comprehensive, integrated project concerned with the knowledge of and in the policy making process for the public and civic order. However, both of these models to a degree cling to the individualistic value position embedded in Lasswellian democracy through behavioral isolation and a limited focus on the nature of man. As a result these models, while clear advances beyond the positivist stance of archetypal policy science analysis, continue the values bias inherent in Lasswellian democracy.

Ostrom’s relates that the IAD framework bases its roots in classical political economy, neoclassic microeconomic theory, institutional economics, public choice theory, transaction cost economics, and noncooperative game theory. Each of these subfields hinges on the individual, if not considered fully autonomous, then as a limited rational agent within a constrained institutional environment. Ostrom sells the framework as a generally applicable toolbox that is not limited to one particular theory:

Depending on the context of the decision environment, an analysis may in fact use

the framework as a foundation for investigating the predictive power of complementary or competing theories and models. . . . What is distinctive about the IAD framework, as contrasted to many frameworks that are closely tied to a single social science discipline, is that all situations are viewed as being composed of the same set of elements. (Ostrom et al. 1994: 26-28)

Ostrom sets out to provide a categorization of the policy environment to allow for generalizability among differing policy situations. She begins with an emphasis on the policy-making decision environment. Attention is paid to three constructs: institutional arrangements, or what Douglass North refers to as rules, define for Ostrom what actions are permissible or forbidden within a particular decision environment. Second, the characteristics of the physical world in which the action arena is situated are analyzed. The third aspect contains the attributes of the community in which the action occurs. Ostrom focuses on the institutional arrangements because she argues that these are the most malleable to the participants to alter the potential benefits and costs of their actions. Ostrom continues by further categorizing the action situation into levels of action. As Ostrom notes, "All rules are nested in another set of rules that define how the first set of rules can be changed." (Ostrom 1991: p. 8) She begins with an operational level defined as those actions of individuals in relating to each other and the physical world. Second are collective action decisions at which individuals establish the rules that govern their operational level actions. Finally, at the constitutional choice level rules and procedures are established for taking authoritative collective decisions.

Using her categorization scheme, Ostrom forwards that certain situations increase the probability of the development of voluntary, self-governing organizations. These conditions are necessary, Ostrom argues, because of the collective action difficulties associated with the well known problems of collective action and the model of the rational actor. Ostrom does little to examine the assumption of the rational individual. As Schlager notes, "for Ostrom, very little need be known about the individual." (Schlager 1995: 248) The individual remains trapped inside the ‘black box.’ The individual within the IAD framework is interchangeable with the rational actor except that constraints are placed on the choice sets and information processing ability of the individuals involved. Once these are acknowledged, the individual within the IAD framework resembles the rational actor. It is assumed that individuals are self-serving and utility maximizing in all situations. Cultural and ethical constraints that are not accounted for within the categorized institutional environment are either strongly discounted or fully ignored. As Schlager notes, "individuals continually face incentives to defect, to pursue their own self-interest at group expense. If members can cheat on each other at will, cooperation will quickly disappear." (Schlager 1995: 250) The assumption of a self-serving, goal orientated individual is pervasive within the IAD. However, this result is not routinely borne out in real decision situations. Repeatedly, individuals make commitments that are not based primarily on incentives and sanctions. While at times these trust-embedded relationships collapse, there are numerous examples of long-lasting cooperative arrangements that are not based on incentives. Their existence calls into question the necessity of sanctions and penalties in all collective action situations and calls out for the inclusion of a more realistic model of the individual.

The Advocacy Coalition framework (AC) presented by Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith moves beyond the IAD framework in that the individual is not simply assumed away. Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith at least attempt to peer into the ‘black box.’ Sabatier specifically mentions that the preferences of individual are included within the model, "I personally have great difficulty in specifying a priori a clear and falsifiable set of interests for most actors in policy conflicts. Instead it seems preferable to allow actors to indicate their belief systems"(Sabatier 1988: 28) However, no mechanism is established that guides the researcher in this search. These researchers attempt to model the development of policy within specific policy subsystems. They argue that within subsystems a long-term learning process occurs which results in policy change and advancement. Moving beyond the rational actor model of human behavior, these authors stress the importance of belief systems within a policy environment. "They involve value priorities, perceptions of important causal relationships, perceptions of the state of the world (including the magnitude of the problem), perceptions of the efficacy of policy instruments, etc. Mapping beliefs and policies on the same canvas permits assessing the influence over time of the role of technical information or beliefs on policy change." (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1994: 180)

Even with their emphasis on belief systems, Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith’s model of the individual is limited. The individual remains goal orientated. As Sabatier notes, "policy-orientated learning refers to relatively enduring alterations of thought or behavioral intentions which result from experience and which are concerned with the attainment (or revision) of policy objectives" (Sabatier 1988: 133) Sabatier even goes farther in a movement back to the rational actor model. While he correctly observes that a thick rational actor model (Green and Shapiro 1992) is too limited he embraces a restrained version of rationality, "Rationality is limited rather than perfect. The framework relies heavily on the work of March and Simon, …, and many others in terms of satisficing, placing cognitive limits on rationality, carrying out limited search process, etc." (Sabatier 1993: 30) Such a return brings the AC framework back to the difficulties encountered in Lasswellian democracy. The individual becomes isolated, assumed-away and removed from the policy creation process. Inclusion of the individual within the model relegates citizen input to easily manipulable, and marginalized roles within the policy process. As such, the AC falls prey to the same dilemma as the IAD in attempting to explain individual action through a self-serving rational actor lens instead of developing a more full model of the individual. These shortcomings within the new models of the policy process would not be detrimental if the parsimony provided by the rational actor model had little significant effect on the policy predictions or if few policy situations are accurately characterized by non-rational decision-making. However, as we argue this is not the case.

Beyond Rationalism

The most important bases of individual choices are not cost calculation or rational decision-making but affective and normative value positions. That is, people often make sub- or non-rational decisions, first because they build upon their normative-affective foundations, and only secondly because they have limited intellectual capacities. Our thesis suggests that (1) the majority of choices individuals make, including economic and political ones, are largely based on normative-affective considerations; and (2) that within the more limited range of decisions made using a rational decision calculus, these situations are themselves defined by normative-affective factors that legitimate the actors involved and motivate specific decisions. Lasswellian democracy and, to a lesser extent, the recent works of Ostrom and Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith are based on an assumed individual who has a clear set of objectives and who sets out to collect, analyze and process information on the efficient means to achieve those ends. The role of the individual is to choose the most efficient means to achieve his or her ends. We argue that many of the important decisions within the policy arena are not driven by a means-ends calculus but through affective involvements and normative commitments. Normative and affective factors guide to a significant degree the means to achieving most goals. Cognitive decision-making is not a logical-empirical endeavor divorced from emotion and normative engagements but governed by non-cognitive factors, reflecting individual, psycho-dynamic and collective processes. For example, normative-affective factors determine to a large extent the sources individuals rely on for information, how this information is interpreted, and the lessons they glean from this information.

The reliance on the rational model would remain untroubling if its predictive success was reliable. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Examples are pervasive throughout the literature revealing the limits of the rational actor model and the policy frameworks linked to it. Alterations in the tax code (Lewis 1982; and Kwitny 1984), worker motivation (Thurow 1983), employee dishonesty (Ehrenberg and Smith 1982) and problems concerning moral hazard (Varian 1984) are but a few of the studies that have revealed incorrect and misguided policy positions based on a simplistic model of human behavior. What is most interesting is that the parsimony that has been sought through the rational actor model is a recent development. Originators of the utilitarian concept of the rational man did not remove normative commitments from the decision calculus. As a simple example, the grandfather of neoclassic economics, Adam Smith, argues that people act out of a conscience and are related to one another not merely via the market but also as individuals whose psychic health is dependent on the approval and acceptance of others. "How selfish so ever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him." (Smith, [1759] 1966, p. 9) However, the sentiments of Smith have been lost on recent generations. As the policy sciences have developed over the past fifty years, the connection of rational action to normative and affective sentiments has been broken. This is largely the result of methodological concerns, not theory advancement. The rational actor model allows for simple deductive statements concerning human behavior. Only recently have models addressing the role of norms, communal values and environmental situations been developed.

Policy Science and Consumer Democracy

Practically none of the voluminous writings on the concept of rationality and its various applications acknowledge its normative nature. Many seem unaware that this model is deeply routed in a particular political philosophy and ethics. The concept of rationality is closely linked to a singular notion of liberty that stresses individual freedom and rights. The idea that individuals know what is best for themselves is widely expressed throughout neoclassical writings and is at the core of the pivotal notion of ‘consumer sovereignty.’ Authors acknowledge that individuals sometimes do not perceive what is in their best interest but, in practical situations, it is best to assume that individuals are well informed. While Lasswellian democracy explicitly reserves a more limited role for the individual, the new models outlined above, the IAD and AC frameworks, implicitly posit individuals as consumers. This breaks the connection between individuals and their community and lessens the democratic nature of policy-making. Citizens within this model become less an important input in the policy-making apparatus and more a commodity to be dealt with through economic means. The connection of individuals to their community below and the government above is lost. Everyday citizens, if involved at all, are co-opted into a system of government that superficially addresses their concerns and relegates their advice between choosing among several policies all relying on economic validation. This is the more positive diagnosis. Recent public opinion polls have suggested that it is also likely that individuals have been more completely alienated from the policy process, not due to a lack of concern but through the development of a consumer mentality within the policy analysis community that predetermines most policy decisions.

Participation as the Solution?

Within the policy sciences framework, efficiency is elevated to an end, not a method of achieving an end. Efficiency is but a single value to be compromised with many others. However, models that rely on the behavioral individualism inherently return to efficiency as the dominant value of policy creation. This has detrimental effects on democracy. Indeed, efficiency often conflicts with other highly valued social norms - goals such as equity, or fairness, and the desire to promote ‘altruistic,’ or unselfish behavior. "The marketplace is the realm of inequality and self-interest, where those with wealth can gratify their desires at the expense of those less well off. The later may quite reasonably feel skeptical about the expansion of this realm." (Ayres, 1981, p. viii cited in Etzioni 1988) The isolation of individuals within the policy making process has been noted by numerous critics. Authors such as Dryzek, Stone and DeLeon have attempted to instill more democratic features through increased participation. Dryzek condemns the policy analyst’s methods concluding that, "most policy analysis efforts to date are in fact consistent with an albeit subtle policy of tyranny." (1989: 98) Stone furthers by adding that the market model adopted within the policy sciences "utterly fails to explain political behavior." (1988: 8) DeLeon emphasizes the isolation not of the citizen but of the policy analysis; "a strong bias exists in the arrangement towards recognizing the policymaker as the analysts’ legitimate - often, only - client, thus reinforcing the isolation of the analyst. In the analysts’ current position (geographic and bureaucratic), they are effectively sequestered from the demands, needs, and (most critically) values of the people they are reputed to be helping." (1992: 126) Each of these authors keys their redevelopment of the policy sciences and democracy to increased participation within the policy making process reinvigorating the process with a renewed sense of democracy. Dryzek, relying on the post-positivist theoretical tradition, calls for the active participation of a broad spectrum of individuals within the policy process. He asserts that, "political education, participatory action, and successful social problem solving could together help constitute a community fully capable of steering its own course into the future." (1989: 118) DeLeon calls for a lesser version of public participation with his introduction of a ‘participatory policy analysis.’ Rather than having the many engage in the actual policy decision, it asks that the policy analysts develop and utilize methods to recruit and include citizens’ personal views into the policy formulation process.

However, researchers within this tradition have done little to solve the inherent difficulties of a limited model of the individual. The inclusion of citizens within the policy process, whether in large numbers as suggested by Dryzek and Stone or in a more limited version of participatory policy analysis presented by DeLeon, is laudable but cannot be seen as the cure to the democratic ills of policy analysis. Without a reinterpretation of the human individual, increased participation is likely to be co-opted and have little impact on the development of sound public policy. The addition of a participatory component to the policy sciences may even have a detrimental effect through the validation of policy decisions without a truly democratic element. Lasswell’s original goal of the policy sciences to provide, "intelligence pertinent to the integration of values realized by and embodied by interpersonal relations [such as] human dignity and the realization of human capacities" has been lost through the insertion of a consumer-orientated, economic rationality. (Lasswell and Kaplan, 1950: p. xii) Until a renewed model of the individual which is not based on mono-utility of logical empirical action, the hopes of the creation of a more democratic policy sciences will remain unfulfilled and disappointed.


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