What is policy?
commitment to a minimally interventionist and small state (monetarism) - frame and shape the possibilities in the other areas of public policy. More specifically, policy decisions in one area may have significant intended or unintended impacts in another. Take for example the case of Australia when, in the late )980s in the face of high levels of youth unemployment, the federal government abolished unemployment benefits for sixteen and seventeen year olds which effectively raised the school leaving age.
Alternatively, government departments may work together to address particular issues. For example, in Queensland in the early 1990s the State
Social policies, it becomes clear, are not responses to social problems already formed and' out there'. Social policies constitute the problems to which they seem to be responses. They are involved in problem-setting, the setting of agendas.
(Anna Yeatman 1990: 158)
In the previous chapter we illustrated a number of types of educational policies, ranging from Commonwealth policies, through those developed by State Departments of Education to those produced in schools by school communities, including administrators, teachers and parents. In our discussions of policy and policy making in this book we include all these types of policies. While there are some differences in policy making at these different levels, they also have much in common in terms of the policy processes involved. The traditional political science and public administration literature which deals with policy tends not to take such a broad approach. Rather, that literature focusses mainly on what is referred to as public policy, meaning government generated policies which are developed and implemented through state bureaucracies. This is reflected in one of the simplest definitions of policy as 'whatever governments choose to do, or not to do' (Dye 1992: 2). With Dye, we want to emphasise the area of non-decision making in the policy domain, as this may be equally significant in terms of the effects of government action. Public policy, then, refers to all areas of government action stretching across the spectrum from economic policy to those policies usually referred to under the rubric of social policy, covering education, health and welfare areas. It is important to understand, though, how these different policy domains are interrelated in various ways. First, we need to note how economic policies and their effects, along with government attitudes to the budget process - for example, a commitment to the creation of an expansive welfare state (Keynesianism), or alternatively a
government established an interdepartmental working party, with representatives trom the Women's Policy Unit from the Premier's Department, the Health Department and the Education Department, to develop a strategy to address violence against women. Such collaboration may also occur across levels of government, State and Commonwealth, as in the case of the Common and Agreed National Goals for Schooling in Australia (Hobart Declaration) (Australian Education Council 1989), as well as The National Policy for the Education of Girls in Australian Schools (Commonwealth Schools Commission 1987), which we discuss further in the next chapter on policy analysis.
Keeping all of this in mind, in this chapter we attempt to define policy as both product and process and discuss various ways in which policies may be classified. Additionally, we elaborate upon some central concepts, practices and institutions which are crucial to understanding both conceptions of policy.
There is a vast literature within a number of disciplines, including political science, public administration and policy sociology, which attempts to define policy. The one thing all of these attempts have in common is their recognition that achieving such a definition is not an easy task....
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