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Reflections on Contemporary Debates in Policy Studies
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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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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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Constitutional arrangements in parts of the UK have been transformed by political devolution. In England, however, reliance has been placed on strengthening the regional tier through administrative decentralisation. Drawing on the views of Whitehall civil servants, this article explores how central–regional relations are being recalibrated and how government is building a regional perspective into its activities. We conclude that, in the absence of regional government, Whitehall is pursuing a cautious approach to regional working and greater attention needs to be given to incorporating regional priorities in national spending programmes and developing a more coherent approach to regional strategy making.

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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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Authors: and

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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Approaches to governance in each of the English regions during the postwar period have followed different trajectories, a consequence of historical, economic and geographical circumstances and shifts in institutional structures. In some, rivalry between local authorities constrained the emergence of a genuine commitment to regional working. In this respect the history of postwar collaboration between authorities in the West Midlands is distinct from many other English regions. Indeed, it is the only region, apart from the South East, that can claim a strong unbroken tradition of strategic planning associations since the 1960s, and which are regional rather than metropolitan or city-regional (Thomas, 1999).

A key explanation for this collaboration may lie in the region’s geographical and administrative boundaries. The West Midland conurbation – Birmingham, the Black Country towns, Solihull and Coventry – dominates the region, and accommodates nearly half the region’s population of over 5.3 million. The only comparable urban centre is on the northern edge of the region – around Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle – with a population of some 0.3 million. The administrative boundaries of the metropolitan authorities are tightly drawn, separating the conurbation from the surrounding shire counties – Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire – rural areas with both country and new, expanding towns, many of which have gained rapid population from the dispersion of population from the metropolitan area.

Drewett’s account of early postwar planning in the region showed how the conurbation and shire authorities were encouraged to collaborate by the need to find regionally based solutions to the population, housing and industrial growth of Birmingham (Hall et al, 1973).

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