The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Magical thinking in public policy: why naive ideals to improve policymaking persist in cynical times

Magical thinking in public policy: why naive ideals to improve policymaking persist in cynical times
Magical thinking in public policy: why naive ideals to improve policymaking persist in cynical times
This book explores why naïve ideals about better policymaking persist even in cynical times, revealing the careful reflection at the heart of what appears to be 'magical thinking' in public policy. Contemporary policy scholarship tends to be cynical about movements to reform policymaking by making it more rational or more democratic. Scholars point to the pathologies and vagaries of realpolitik that render ideals such as evidence-based policymaking, long-term prevention, collaboration, transparency, and citizen engagement unattainable. Increasingly, many go further to warn about the democratic dangers of pursuing these foolhardy goals. The fact is, however, that scholarly objections about political obstacles and practical constraints are not news to policy actors themselves - they are acutely aware of the challenges of policy work amid uncertainty, complexity and contestation. They privately express doubt, frustration, and cynicism, but they continue to support, promote, and work towards these key aspirations in practice. Through rich case studies and wide-ranging theoretical discussion, John Boswell offers novel insights into the continuing appeal of seemingly naïve ideals. In particular, he shows how turning to these ideals helps actors to reconcile and resolve key dilemmas and challenges in their everyday work. Ultimately, the book offers a nuanced and spirited defence of the value of clinging on to seemingly naïve ideals for better policymaking, even in the face of inevitable failures and disappointments.
Oxford University Press
Boswell, John
34bad0df-3d4d-40ce-948f-65871e3d783c
Boswell, John
34bad0df-3d4d-40ce-948f-65871e3d783c

Boswell, John (2022) Magical thinking in public policy: why naive ideals to improve policymaking persist in cynical times , Oxford University Press, 208pp.

Record type: Book

Abstract

This book explores why naïve ideals about better policymaking persist even in cynical times, revealing the careful reflection at the heart of what appears to be 'magical thinking' in public policy. Contemporary policy scholarship tends to be cynical about movements to reform policymaking by making it more rational or more democratic. Scholars point to the pathologies and vagaries of realpolitik that render ideals such as evidence-based policymaking, long-term prevention, collaboration, transparency, and citizen engagement unattainable. Increasingly, many go further to warn about the democratic dangers of pursuing these foolhardy goals. The fact is, however, that scholarly objections about political obstacles and practical constraints are not news to policy actors themselves - they are acutely aware of the challenges of policy work amid uncertainty, complexity and contestation. They privately express doubt, frustration, and cynicism, but they continue to support, promote, and work towards these key aspirations in practice. Through rich case studies and wide-ranging theoretical discussion, John Boswell offers novel insights into the continuing appeal of seemingly naïve ideals. In particular, he shows how turning to these ideals helps actors to reconcile and resolve key dilemmas and challenges in their everyday work. Ultimately, the book offers a nuanced and spirited defence of the value of clinging on to seemingly naïve ideals for better policymaking, even in the face of inevitable failures and disappointments.

This record has no associated files available for download.

More information

Accepted/In Press date: 1 October 2022
Published date: 31 December 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 471596
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/471596
PURE UUID: 4eb1b2c6-ef5b-4190-aafa-d4595f51eca4
ORCID for John Boswell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3018-8791

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 14 Nov 2022 17:53
Last modified: 15 Nov 2022 02:43

Export record

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×