Policy Sciences

, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 291–319

Implementation as communicative action

An interpretive understanding of interactions between policy actors and target groups
  • John Grin
  • Henk Van De Graaf

DOI: 10.1007/BF00138406

Cite this article as:
Grin, J. & Van De Graaf, H. Policy Sci (1996) 29: 291. doi:10.1007/BF00138406


Many social problems can only be solved through some form of governmental involvement. In this article, a model is formulated for policy implementation. The various criticisms against a top-down model of implementation can be taken into account by conceptualizing implementation as communicative interaction between policy actors and their target groups, each characterized by distinct rationalities (section 4) with important consequences for the likelihood of learning and behavioral change (section 5). As explained in section 3, ‘communicative action’ is being used to underline that we go beyond the top-down vs. bottom-up distinction, thus doing justice to empirical findings and adopting a post-positivist epistemology. Normatively, this expresses a critical approach to ‘implementation as the continuation of politics with different means.’

The need for such an approach is illustrated by two case stories (section 2), one about fresh dairy packing in the Low Countries, the other one about nuclear missiles in the United States. Examples from these stories are used in sections 4 and 5 to clarify our model.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Grin
  • Henk Van De Graaf

There are no affiliations available