Policy analysis: Empiricism, social construction and realism

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

70 Downloads (Pure)


In a recent article Ulrich Brand has discussed how best to perform policy analysis. I reflect upon the paper as an interdisciplinary researcher experienced in public policy problems and their analysis with a particular interest in the relationship between social, economic and environmental problems. At the centre of the paper is the contrast between two existing methodologies prevalent in political science and related disciplines. One is the rationalist approach, which takes on the character of a natural science, that believes in a fully knowable objective reality which can be observed by an independent investigator. The other is a strong social constructivist position called interpretative policy analysis (IPA), where knowledge and meaning become so intertwined as to make independence of the observer from the observed impossible and all knowledge highly subjective. Brand then offers his model as a way forward, but one that he closely associates with the latter. My contention is that policy analysis, and any way forward, needs to provide more of a transformative combination of elements from both approaches. Indeed I believe this is actually what Brand is doing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401 - 410
JournalÖsterreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft (ÖZP) (Austrian Journal of Political Science)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Cite this