Theory & Practice of Public Policy


This course is organized around three broad topics in public policy which cut across policy sectors and political/geographic jurisdictions. Topics include:

1) Representing policy problems, including how situations become defined as public problems and different modes of portraying them (narratives, numbers, causal stories, photos, maps, and classification schemes).

2) Explaining broad patterns of continuity and change, with attention to theories that emphasize ideas, interests, institutions and historical processes.

3) Understanding policy as different kinds of decisions and theories about how such decisions are “made”, including policy as the sum of individual rational and non-rational choices; policy as socially-embedded routines and practices; and policy as moral dilemmas.


Requirements include several short papers and exercises throughout the semester and class presentations/responsibility for leading discussions. No final seminar paper. Emphasis will be on how students might use the different approaches in their own research.