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Policy Problems and Policy Design (2019)

(Publisher : Edward Elgard Publishing)

Author(s) : B. Guy Peters

B. Guy Peters presents a critique of conventional policy design methods, placing emphasis on the need to formulate interconnecting designs for issues that cross multiple policy areas. He advocates the use of analytic categories for understanding problems rather than functional categories, such as defense and health, to change the perspective of problems and modernize policy design.


Public policy can be considered a design science. It involves identifying relevant problems, selecting instruments to address the problem, developing institutions for managing the intervention, and creating means of assessing the design. Policy design has become an increasingly challenging task, given the emergence of numerous ‘wicked’ and complex problems. Much of policy design has adopted a technocratic and engineering approach, but there is an emerging literature that builds on a more collaborative and prospective approach to design. This book will discuss these issues in policy design and present alternative approaches to design.

Whereas previous literature takes a top-down, technocratic approach, this new perspective emphasizes the importance of context and the pressing need to unite designs between policy areas. Effective methods should be open and inclusive by reviewing a wider range of policy alternatives. Chapters discuss the logic of policy design, the different problems that can arise in policy and how to link these issues with the correct policy instruments successfully. Peters also provides a set of ten key principles that can be used to improve the technique of policy formulation for effective and realistic designs.

For any academic, researcher or student of public policy interested in the formulation of policy decisions, this book will be an essential tool for successful policy analysis. Current policymakers and strategists will benefit from the in-depth discussion on tackling policy problems as well as improving and interconnecting policy designs.

Table of contents


  1.  Preface
  2. The Logic of Policy Design
  3. The Problem of Policy Problems
  4. Wicked, Complex or Just Difficult Problems
  5. Linking Policy Problems and Policy Instruments
  6. The “New” Policy Design
  7. Conclusion: Toward Better Policy Design
  8. References Index

Bibliographic Information

‘The new book from B. Guy Peters is a review of the latest thinking on public policy design. It will serve as a key resource for scholars researching this topic and also for practitioners seeking a broad guide to the field. It is clearly organised and written well, with many insights for specialists in the subject but without requiring advanced knowledge from other readers. Policy practitioners will be able to take much from it, as well.’


– Nick Turnbull, Local Government Studies


‘In the 1980s, Guy Peters pioneered the idea that public policy could be understood as a process of design. Three decades later, he returns with this new book which critically reflects on that idea’s re-emergence under the banner of the “new” policy design. His analysis is, by turns, thought-provoking, challenging and surprisingly uplifting. Highly recommended.’


– Andy Jordan, University of East Anglia, UK


‘Much has been written recently about the “new” policy design orientation. But distinguishing what is “new” in this approach compared to earlier studies, and how exactly the new approach advances earlier work on the subject, is a critical activity not usually undertaken in enough detail to make a convincing and forward-looking case. In this very timely and comprehensive volume, B. Guy Peters, one of the founders of the field, draws upon his wealth of experience and knowledge to examine in depth both the “new” and “old” design literatures and to critically assess their merits and demerits. The book offers a solid grounding for both design approaches in better understanding the processes of problem identification and problem solving. It is essential reading for all those interested in policy design and, more broadly, contemporary policy formulation, decision-making, implementation and evaluation.’



– Michael Howlett, Simon Fraser University, Canada


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