***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
William Fear writes...
This paper argues that the formulation of policy, at whatever level, to
whatever scale or scope, is any different to the myriad of processes
involved in strategic planning within and between organisations, and the
attendant decision making processes that abound in such an environment (e.g
see, Hage, 1980; Hickson, 1987; Thompson, 1967; Weick, 1976). Those forces
that impact upon organisations are precisely the same forces that impact
upon policy making groups who are themselves 'organisations' (or
institutions), whether actual or representative. This provides a startign
point for considering a synthesis between various models or paradigms. The
argument continues, that program theory and the program logic model can
incorporate and synthesise theories from elsewhere that, in turn, usefully
inform and develop programme theory and program logic. A 'hierarchical'
model is presented to explore the linkages between the components and
'simple' processes of theory, programme theo!
ry, logic modelling, organisational functioning, policy, and the consequent
impact. It is hoped that this model can be used as a framework to: a)
determine which components are essential to give the policy external
validity, credibility, implementability, and so on; and b) provide a common
point of reference for policy makers, stakeholders, and evaluators.
Ryan Lanham writes...
I have not read your paper; please send it along and congratulations on its
If the abstract is good, and it looks like you have been careful, I'll bite
and offer some (perhaps outrageous) comments generally relevant to it though
perhaps much more so to some of the predicaments of research on
policy-related matters (and strategy) from my twisted perspective...
I use a casual tone some will view as irreverent. Some may avoid unwanted
anger and offense by reading no further because I take a critical view of
conventional scholarly approaches that I lampoon as common in the academy.
I hope this is a straw man and that I am a fool. The latter I can be almost
sure of. Further, offense is intended only to ideas--but of course we are
often made up of our ideas--so that is drivel. Mine is meant as discussion
with acquaintances--and the boundaries of propriety are negotiated between
writer and reader.
It is a curious human need in scholarship to generalize...to synthesize.
Most 4S-type folks attribute this to a sort of collective chip on the
shoulder of the social sciences at not being able to say anything with the
identity formation power of the physical sciences. Those physical types
were there first, and they perfected hegemony in an age when it was even
more impolite to question authority. For the record, I don't much buy into
that collective idea either--it's time to move beyond conspiracy theories
and accept ourselves for what we are--fractured, uncertain and hopeful.
Yet we continue to try to reach "common points." There are none I
suspect--thank goodness. At least no one has proved one to me with anything
like proof that exists in the physical sciences or mathematics. Those
proofs are trivial. That is why so much of the interesting work in the
physical sciences was done in the wee early stages of broadly noticed
thinking. Maxwell and Darwin did some pretty compelling work. Maxwell
would likely have been Einstein had he had a decent physician.
If evolutionary biology (and virtually every other policy relevant
"science") has taught any general lesson in the last few years, it is that
there are few if any general lessons related to more complex ecosystems and
that platforms for common discussion are actually hegemonic (dare I utter
that ugly postmodern word...colonial?) attempts to dominate discussions--it
is a predatory instinct played out in the jungles of academia where alpha
predators edit journals and become "big names" and the sheep read them.
Good work if you can get paid to do it.
There is no "democratizing" that sort of knowledge (whatever that might mean
but it would seem to be relevant to a policy scholar)...because it is all
about "trust." Trust too often (if I risk a generalization) means power and
exclusion--or said another way, social networks. In short, Wikipedia is a
sort of evil socialism of knowledge that undercuts all that is bright and
beautiful and government funded. To be human is to network--to exclude--not
to link, and information technology is a threat not an opening to a broader
and more open and critical dialogue.
Borders protect our "way of life." Editors "clean up" discussions. And
ways of living and cleanliness are what it's all about--it is your turn to
be president of the society, Chumley, I'm going back to Berkeley to write my
monograph--press run 439 copies for "the field." In the end, we are about
protecting our buddies. We celebrate this band of brothers and esteem its
vertices. We rarely ask what the general process is about. And yet
knowledge is so intriguing--so hopeful.
I too would like to utter something that is useful to a lot of people. I am
increasingly doubtful that can be done. We don't know enough about cultures
and the ethics of saying THIS is right to make any useful utterances beyond
helping out in small groups--tiny enclaves and local venues. Policy for
common points is a 19th century sort of morass. It leads to clashes of
civilizations. Open the borders. Ignore the borders. Just drive from
Belgium to Germany. What do you win if you take over? You can only have
hegemony if you can get suckers to pay attention.
People like Raul Lejano are starting to take over policy studies from the
haughty old folk who hang out at elite institutions and periodically jet
down to nation-state capitals to expound their wisdom as a capstone to a
"brilliant career". Some call this patriotism. I'm sure it is. I wonder
if it is scholarship.
Even at those elite institutions, to me more interesting voices are now
emerging like Saskia Sassen who see generalizations, borders and
boundaries,and even "nations" as category errors and prejudices designed
mostly to hurt...not help...in any ethical or political sense worthy of a
One answer to this morass, if you see it as one, is to disclose ahead your
biases toward epistemology. Do you believe in generalizations? Why? What
are your hopes for your work? Do you believe science is a discussion or is
it a list of correct statements?
If science is a discussion, who is allowed to participate and who gets to
arrange the seats and lock the doors? Who is allowed to participate in
policy discussions? Who is allowed to say what organizations exist and why?
Without some basis in answering these questions, how can one presume to
offer "generalized" knowledge? Is publishing what it was originally...that
is to make things public--or is to confuse, engage in cronyism, and to build
cabals where we can snipe at other "disciplines" whatever those might be.
The usual retreats are that one's work is "empirical." Just the facts,
ma'am. Curious that. It is as if each person can watch a movie and see the
same thing. One would think we would tire of making movies because we all
see the same things...over and over again. Or that we would simply read the
book of generalizations about plots and be done with it. Boy meets girl.
'Nuff said. Knowing what one trusted reviewer said is enough isn't it? We
can trust reviewers. They never work for the production houses, do they?
The burden has fallen on the generalists to prove they are not simply
sitting by on their power dishing out hegemony like so many dukes and earls
or dukes of earl. I trust you aren't doing that in creating
generalizations. Or, maybe that is the best we can hope for from "policy."
Or perhaps...maybe we should start to have the passion and curiosity--not to
mention the ethics--to wonder aloud why we think we know something that
deserves to be "generalized"--and who we are professing that knowledge too
SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send
an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line
UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.