New Perspectives in Policy and Politics

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The relationship between social scientists and the broader social sphere is changing as greater pressure is placed on academics to demonstrate the social relevance and public impact of their research. This pressure is creating widespread concern – intellectual, professional and moral – about the direction of many disciplines and what can be done to thwart what some academics view as the ‘tyranny of relevance’. It is in exactly this context that this paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach in order to offer a more sophisticated and informed account of ‘the politics of engaged scholarship’.

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This article offers reflections on contemporary debates in policy studies. It starts by mapping the contours of the terrain covered by Policy & Politics over the last 40 years. It does so under four headings: (1) theorising policy (2) evidence and the policy process (3) transforming structures and processes and (4) implementation and practice. It then uses these headings to draw out themes from the articles comprising this 40th anniversary special issue. We conclude by arguing for greater tolerance of diversity in theoretical and empirical enquiry and for continued reflection on the foundational assumptions of the field of policy studies.

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Reflections on Contemporary Debates in Policy Studies

In recent years the nature of policy and politics has witnessed significant transformations. These have challenged perceptions about the ways in which policy is studied, designed, delivered and appraised. This book –the first in the New Perspectives in Policy and Politics series - brings together world-leading scholars to reflect on the implications of some of these developments for the field of policy studies and the world of practice.

First published as a special issue of Policy & Politics, the book offers critical reflections on the recent history and future direction of policy studies. It advances the debate by rethinking the ways in which scholars and students of policy studies can (re)engage with pertinent issues in pursuit of both scholarly excellence and practical solutions to global policy problems.

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Coordination has been a continuing challenge to governments. This paper examines the nature of those challenges, and proceeds to consider the possibilities for a theory of coordination. In particular the paper considers means of overcoming the collective action problems involved in coordination through means other than hierarchy. Several alternative mechanisms for producing greater coordination in policy are examined, and then situated in their broader political and organisational contexts.

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English local authorities face a combination of deep budget cuts and sharp increases in citizen demand, linked to the costs of recession and demographic changes. Evidence from case study research shows the dominance of cost-cutting and efficiency measures, as in previous periods of austerity. But creative approaches to service redesign are also emerging as the crisis deepens, based upon pragmatic politics and institutional bricolage. While the absence of radical new ideas and overt political conflict is surprising, local government reveals a remarkable capacity to reinvent its institutional forms to weather what amounts to a ‘perfect storm’.

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