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The Policy-Making Process: A Review

Charles E. Lindblom=s The Policy Making Process (Prentice-Hall, 1980)is a seminal work in the policy planning canon, one in which a deceptively spare volume (126 pages) speaks to a wide range of heuristic issues that are germane to the field.

That the writing is also spare speaks to the practical wisdom accumulated by this Yale University Sterling Professor Emeritus of Economics and Political Science who in 1997 was awarded the ADwight Waldo Award for outstanding contributions to the literature and leadership of public administration through an extended career@(APAR Awards,@ 1998, II).

Lindblom=s book is AIssue oriented@ in that it attempts to provide a structure for questioning and inquiry, rather than providing a template for policy-making procedures. ATo understand who or what makes policy@ he stated in the first chapter, Aone must understand the characteristics of the participants, what parts or roles they play, what authority and other powers they hold, and how they deal with and control each other@ (p. 2).

Quickly he dismisses the trend du jour of analyzing policy that Aseparates policy making into its component steps and analyzes each step in turn...Our approach, for the most part, organizes the analysis around those aspects of policy making common to all steps@ (p. 3). Here, then, is the organizing theme, the grand scheme if you will, of the entire work. Policy making is not a definitive outcome but a process, a changing and evolving of issues and people (players, as he describes them) who interact and interrelate. Given this theme, he structures the book into three distinct sections B Information, The Play of Power, and The Citizen in the Play of Power. After discussing the first two of these, an attempt at considering the entire opus will conclude this analysis.

AHow far do facts, reason, rational discussion, and analysis, go in policy making? In all political systems people gather facts, analyze them, a...

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