Author: P.Zittoun Genre:

Zittoun Philippe (2011), “Knowledge and politics inside the policy process: contradiction or complementarity?”, in Papaganou Georgios, Social Science and Policy Challlenges. Democracy, values and Capacities, UNESCO Publishing, pp. 143-164

Since the 1950s, policy analysts have confronted a paradox when using this scientific approach. To build their general model, they need to inquire about the empirical reality of the policy process. However, how can the specificity and disorder of reality be reconciled with the generality and order of the model? How can the “muddling through” of empirical reality, which is always contingent and particular, be reconciled with “science” that needs regularity and universality??

This article will first look at traditional policy analysts and show how their project to build policy analysis as a positivist science, which attempted to produce an objective and depoliticized model, encountered an impasse. We will then reconsider the controversy between Perry and Simon-Lasswell by proposing a new approach that extends beyond the two positions. With Perry we will take into account the central role of language in carrying knowledge to order reality and shape the interaction between participants in the policy process. With Simon and Lasswell, we will consider the production of a methodological science to observe the policy process, not in order to predict or to judge but rather to understand how politics works.