Expansion and assumptions of Policy sciences

Political events for expanding the scope of policy sciences

Many political and social events of the 1960s and 1970s such as “the War on poverty”, “the Vietnam war”, “the Energy crisis” in the united states have had effects on the policy sciences. The policy analysts recommendations were given great value by the policy-makers for formulating good policies during that phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1970s, Lasswell’s original agenda on policy sciences given much attention from the policy scientists. Though there is a mixed response, the policy sciences remained “an intellectually viable and popular political strategy”.

Emerging crisis

In the first few years of the 21st century, the policy sciences seem to be moving towards a theory of reason from the simple theory of rational. Speaking simply, “from policy science to policy inquiry”. Policy science is a rational approach to the processes of policy-making.

According to political scientist Dror, the policy analysis has three main features

i . Technical experts who are sensitive to the ethical implications of decisions.

ii. Close cooperation between researchers in government, and

iii. An informed citizenry to fend off the anti-democratic spectre of an expert ruling class.

Policy science constitutes an interdisciplinary approach which is concerned mainly with improving the policy process through the use of systematic knowledge, structural rationality, and organized activity. Lasswell always emphasizes that knowledge of the decision process implies systematic and empirical studies of how policies are made and put into effect.

As social science does more analysis of hypothesis, predictions, causation, and optimizing there develops a body of potential premises that can be used in deducing conclusions, just as chemistry was able to deduce the existence of new elements before they were empirically discovered”.

V Subramaniam

The fundamental aspect of science is that the general assertion is subject to the discipline of careful observations. This aspect of policy sciences is stressed by Lasswell. But like any other social sciences, the policy is also not an exact science because substantive science is concerned with the pursuit of truth it seeks to understand and predict. Whereas policy science is merely on approach is concerned with improved methods of knowledge and systems for better policy-making. It is concerned with effective manipulation of the real world instead of understanding the phenomena.

Carol wesis describes policy science as a decision-driven model of research use. This model has the following stages.

  • Definition of social problems
  • Identification of missing knowledge
  • Acquisition of the relevant data using social research techniques
  • Interpretation for problem solutions and
  • Policy choice

Policy science can contribute to the selection of policy options. It directs how policy-making is done and influences the way that society thinks about issues. It will try to give possible solutions to the problems as well as the alternative measures that it considers. Stokey and Zeckhauser declare that no sensible policy choice can be made without careful analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each course of action.

Basic assumptions of policy sciences

Unity of knowledge

It encourages continuous exchange between social, natural, and administrative scientists working on common policy problems. It bridges the gap between basic and applied research through a collaboration between normal science and policy science.

Emphasis on improved methods

Improved methods and techniques occupy a vital position in the analytical approach to policy-making. Dror always emphasises is that policy science is not only about the substantive contents of policy problems but also with improved methods of knowledge, and systems for better policy-making

Application of Rationality

Rationality means involving a commitment to the scientific approach. This model overrides the tradition methods of policy-making and implies to policy analysis culture to achieve better policy outcomes.

Utilitarian ideology

Utilitarian theory prescribe the actions that give maximum happiness to the maximum people. Policy science is hampered with utilitarian assumptions. Some argue that policy science aims at happiness of individuals, efficiency and maximizing production. Policy science primarily focuses on the development of professional analysts who are experts in rational decision-making. This interdisciplinary approach is intended to afford these analysts objective criteria upon which policy decisions can be made.


The integrity of policy sciences has been questioned for its failure to produce empirical and normative truths. Slowly, scientific rationality is being replaced by a broader theory of reason in society. There is a shift from the policy sciences through policy inquiry to policy networks. Here, the policy networks include formal and informal communicative relations. The informal interactions which may not be true also have the potential to lessen the effectiveness of policy-making and policy analysis. The feasibility of successful policy-making can be increased by spanning organizational boundaries, exploring the details of organizational decision-making, and discovering barriers to implementation.

Dryzek and fisher argue that the positivist methodologies which fundamentally flawed will affect the results of the analyses. And it is impossible to make effective and appropriate policy analysis.
Lasswell’s idea of involving citizens in policy analysis. But, this approach has also been severely criticized by some theorists for its clumsy-attire. Involving too many participants is mostly a publicity exercise.

Policy sciences future will less likely to depend on the scientific rationality and more on its ability to serve the knowledge needs of the administrative and political community in the form of directed policy inquiry and analysis.

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