Policy as (mere) problem-solving

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The policy process is not ‘mere’ problem solving. The idealised vision of a linear progression from problem to solution has been rejected for more complex analyses. This chapter reviews theory in regard to all three elements of the problem orientation; problem, solution, and the process that links them. The problem itself is problematic, therefore policy analysis involves sorting through questions rather than simply seeking the best solution. Problems are already a result. Partial solutions are the norm, reached through a succession of questioning processes. The policy process is the continuing collective management of the problematic. In theories of process, a key distinction arises between analytical and post-positivist models. Problems and solutions are not autonomous from the policy process. For many scholars, the policy process, the problem and the solution have become inextricably intertwined in a creative process of self-reference: each emerges from the other in the course of interrogation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Policy, Process and Governing
EditorsHal K. Colebatch, Robert Hoppe
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781784714871
ISBN (Print)9781784714864
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • problem orientation
  • policy process
  • partial solutions
  • problematization
  • problem solving


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