Knowledge and Policy

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 40–60

Coping with intractable controversies: The case for problem structuring in policy design and analysis

  • Matthijs Hisschemöller
  • Rob Hoppe

DOI: 10.1007/BF02832229

Cite this article as:
Hisschemöller, M. & Hoppe, R. Knowledge and Policy (1995) 8: 40. doi:10.1007/BF02832229


Intractable controversies and other types of policy disagreements correspond to policy problems with a different structure. The more structured a problem is, the more consensus there is about which values and information are at stake in the process of problem solving. Policymakers like to treat problems in as structured a way as possible. Three policy strategies are described to move away from the unstructured to the more structured problem type. However, policymakers run the risk of oversimplifying an ill-structured problem, which means that elements of the problem situation relevant to other actors are overlooked or denied. Hence, policy controversies may become intractable. The remedy is a fourth strategy, characterised by problem structuring. This strategy requires political participation of actors with different views on the problem, and an argued political problem choice.

Copyright information

© Transaction Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthijs Hisschemöller
    • 1
  • Rob Hoppe
    • 2
  1. 1.the Institute for Environmental Studies of the Free UniversityAmsterdam
  2. 2.the University at AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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