Sunday, July 6, 2014

O’Connor and Netting, 2011, Analyzing Social Policy: Multiple Perspectives... (Methodology)

O’Connor and Netting are both professors in schools of social work, with backgrounds in sociology and practical experience of social work, including the Peace Corps in O’Connor’s case.  What interested me about this book was not just the analytical tools, but the variety of approaches to policy analysis.  I was struck by the idea that policing and security could be viewed as social policy. If security policy were analyzed as a social policy using some of these tools, I think it would be instructive. Basic policy analysis questions all apply: how is the policy formulated, how is it initiated,  implemented, disseminated, and with what impact?  What is the policy-practice link?  what are the opportunity costs and unintended consequences?  In fact, police and military are mentioned only tangentially, and police and military policy are not touched upon at all, but the tools are no less relevant for that.  The overview defines rational, non-rational, and critical approachs, as well as level and scope of policies and tools for assessing them. Treating policy analysis as research (ch. 2) permits any number of systematic frameworks, opening up a lot of alternative methods, rather than a single “policy analysis” toolkit (as in some of the policy-evaluation texts, like Weiss, 1997, or Nagel, 2001). Three pairs of chapters address rational, non-rational, and critical policy analysis and their applications.  Rational policy analysis assumes a single objective truth and utility-maximizing behaviour. Non-rational policy analysis assumes alternative narratives, so it isn’t possible to see why people choose to do what they do unless you understand their world-view, and different world-views push the effects of policies in different directions. Critical policy analysis assumes oppression and the need for social restructuring to achieve emancipation. In the applications chapters (4, 6, and 8), there are five analytical models for each form of policy analysis.  For rational policy analysis, there are Chambers and Wedel, Janssen, Huttman, Holcomb and Nightingale, and Segal and Buzuzy.  For non-rational policy analysis: Stone’s policy paradox, the UK’s “primeval soup” or garbage can model, Prigmore and Atherton, Guba’s “policy in action”, and impact analysis. Finally, for critical policy analysis, there’s Marxist historical dialectic, cultural responsiveness, Lejano’s normative model, Moser’s gender model, and Schiele’s afro-centric model. 15 different models is a lot to choose from.  Now imagine for a moment that counter-insurgency is just a social policy in which a government (or an external agent) is trying to implement social and cultural change - it is a set of social policies, that can be analyzed using a variety of different models or tools.  I haven’t worked it through, but I think this might be a really interesting approach to campaign evaluation.  I wonder if any of the models have been applied to policing alternatives?
(also on Amazon)
David Last, 19 November 2013

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