Analysis as Craft

  • Aaron Wildavsky


A lot of “stake claiming” goes on in defining policy analysis. The landscape of our knowledge is surveyed and boundaries that delimit the domain of each discipline are drawn: “this belongs to political science, that belongs to economics.” Over past centuries, the great empires of theology, geometry, and natural history have broken up, spawning a multitude of disciplinary fiefdoms. New alliances, formed on marginal lands, claim independence: econometrics, social psychology, political economy. Subdisciplinary groups coalesce, border disputes flare, while intrepid basic researchers of each discipline fan out in search of virgin territory on which to plant their flags. Explorers bearing the ensign of policy analysis seem bewildered by this scramble for territory. They expropriate lands claimed by political scientists decades ago and more recently by planners and public administrators. They skirt the edges of economics, law, organizational theory, and operations research. Some seek refuge in these disciplines. Others wait for a Moses to lead them out of the wilderness to the promised land of professionalism. Still others, being more nationalistic, want to carve out a “policy analytic” domain. But where? Establishing a discipline in the interstices of disciplines already distinct is risky; the new map is likely to reveal an impossibly gerrymandered state composed of marginal lands already contested by others.


Clay Depression Mold Amid Income 


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  1. Heinz Eulau, “Workshop,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 21 (May 1977), p. 419.Google Scholar
  2. Martin Landau, “The Proper Domain of Policy Analysis,” in “Workshop” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 21 (May 1977), p. 424.Google Scholar
  3. See the preface to Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky, Implementation (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973) for the difficulties of distinguishing “policy” from its implementation.Google Scholar
  4. For a discussion of how far policy ideas can control (or are responsible for) their implementation, see Ciandomenico Majone and Aaron Wildavsky, “Implementation as Evolution: Exorcising the Ghosts in the Implementation Machine,” in Howard E. Freeman (Ed.), Policy Studies Annual Review, Vol. 2 (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1978), pp. 103–117.Google Scholar
  5. See Imre Lakatos, “History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions,” from Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Vol. 8 (1970–1971), pp. 91–136, 174–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. On organized skepticism, see Robert K. Merton, Sociology of Science (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), pp. 277, 278, 311, 339; andGoogle Scholar
  7. Harriet Zuckerman, “Deviant Behavior and Social Control in Science,” in Edward Sagarin, ed., Deviance and Social Change (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1977), especially pp. 91–93, 125–127.Google Scholar
  8. From Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (London: Paladin, 1970).Google Scholar
  9. Sir William Osler, A Way of Life, an address to Yale students (New York: Hoeber, 1937).Google Scholar

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© Aaron Wildavsky 1979

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  • Aaron Wildavsky

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