Retrieving meanings from texts is not just about reading or counting words; texts are more than words put on a paper or a screen. These two phrases have repeatedly accompanied my responses to a mainstream audience at academic meetings when explaining how interpretive approaches work. The interpretive tradition is significant, going substantially beyond political science and public policy, and encompassing many concepts and tools to retrieve meanings from texts. As structured traces of meanings (both audiovisual and textual), texts reflect the world around us and shape our view and thus can tell us how we look at this world. Continue reading →
One of the hallmarks of the Policy & Politics journal, which has been consistent across its 49 years of publishing, has been to push the boundaries of conventional wisdom and not take things at face value in developing our understanding of policymaking. Across diverse locations and contexts and employing a range of different methods, the journal is known for showcasing incisive analyses of the policy world which foreground the politics that underpin policy making. The three articles chosen for this quarter’s highlights are no exception as each, in different ways, push the boundaries presenting results that often challenge the prevailing view in their fields. Continue reading →
Social investment is an increasingly influential approach – both among policymakers and social policy scholars – which emphasizes the economic benefits of welfare state interventions. Improving people’s education, for example, not only ameliorates their wellbeing but also their productive potential, thereby contributing to economic growth.
Critics of this approach have argued that social investment tends to replace value-based considerations (e.g. based on notions of needs and rights) with an economic evaluation of social policy, e.g. conceiving individuals narrowly and instrumentally as “human capital”. By substituting “social” logic with cost-benefit calculations, social investment may also lead to the adoption of policies that reinforce the marginalisation of vulnerable groups. Indeed, the economic rationale suggests focusing policies on those groups that offer the highest returns on investment in terms of employment and productivity. But what about deprived groups who have no valuable “human capital” to offer? Continue reading →