Policy design: its enduring appeal in a complex world and how to think it differently

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Policy design has re-appeared on the scholarly agenda. This special issue investigates the assumptions of the policy design concept, questioning its theoretical coherence and relevance for practitioners. The conventional idea of policy design implies an instrumental-rational theoretical model which is out of place in contemporary governance arrangements. While the concept appeals to academic sensibilities, it has less utility in practice. It can also become caught up in the political aspect of policymaking by being used to generate legitimacy for the actions of public managers via rationalising accounts. Contributors to this issue argue that the design idea should be reconsidered from the ground up. An alternative orientation is put forward, which regards policy design as something that emerges from policymaking practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Early online date31 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • instrumental-rational model
  • Policy design
  • policy science
  • process model


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