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Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making (Revised Edition) 3rd Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393976250
ISBN-10: 0393976254
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Deborah Stone holds appointments as Research Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Honorary Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. She has taught in undergraduate and graduate programs at Brandeis, MIT, Yale, Tulane, and Duke, as well as in universities worldwide where Policy Paradox is used.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 3rd edition (July 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393976254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393976250
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deborah Stone's "Policy Paradox" is an important work in the field of policy analysis. The subtitle is illuminating: "The Art of Political Decision Making." Her takeoff point is the following statement (pages x-xi): "This new field of policy analysis supposedly devoted to improving governance, was based on a profound disgust for the ambiguities and paradoxes of politics. . . . In rational analysis, everything has one and only one meaning." In her own words, she (page xi) ". . .wrote this book to critique the field and to capture, I hope, a more inspiring and humane kind of policy analysis."

Her basic point is that the rational models drawn from economics do not explain very well how policy analysis works. Nor, in her view, should it be the actual model for decision making. She contends that economic rationality often gives way to political reality, to accommodation to conflicting interests, to compromise, to values other than economic efficiency (such as liberty, fairness, and so on).

The introduction opens the book strongly, with Stone noting policy paradoxes, where the economic rational model does not prevail and explain how things work. She argues (page 13) that "each type of policy instrument [e.g., inducements, rules, rights, for example] is a kind of sports arena, each with its peculiar ground rules, within which political conflicts are continued." The first chapter continues the theme, by speaking of the market (economics) and the polis (politics), with a nice table summarizing key points on page 33). She concludes that (page 34) "Problems in the polis are never `solved' in the way that economic needs are met in the market model." Two different realms, and what works in the market may or may not work in the polis.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very stimulating reading and very applicable in many kinds of negotiations & meetings, not just "policy making" as in government. Her thesis is the "most books" assume policy should be rational and analyze when it is not. She argues that policy is INTRINSICALLY a paradoxical, conflicting process where (to greatly simplify) some people see A and others see B and others see C no matter how much data and rationality are tossed about, and that is HER starting point for discussing "policy making." I found it very stimulating and see wide ranging applications in my work and even outside work for these ideas. It's a fairly long book and not to be skimmed so it defies easy summary.
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Format: Paperback
A most useful book, full of insightful theories that are backed up by realistic analysis and applications. Highly recommended and would very likely be delightful to anybody who is not a die-hard ideologue.
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Deborah Stone's Policy Paradox is an exercise in analyzing and describing how and why public policy is made in the United States. Her book is an invaluable contribution to political science and public administration.

Stone presents us with the paradox of two apparently contradictory models of policy-making: a rational-analytic model and a polis model. The two models seem to exclude each other, yet we can observe the processes of both in policy making. Stone examines and attempts to resolve the paradox by analyzing public policy through the perspectives of both models.

The rational-analytic model is the perspective and methodology of the professional policy analyst. The policy analyst examines a problem and then generates and evaluates possible solutions. He weighs the costs, benefits, and feasibility of each option. He selects and recommends a solution which he expects (or hopes) lawmakers and officials will implement. Stone describes the rational-analytic model as a "market model" because it mirrors the decision-making process made by individual consumers and business people. In the idealized marketplace, buyers and sellers carefully compare costs and benefits before agreeing to a trade.

Stone offers the polis model as the other perspective on how policy is made. In the polis model, different interest groups compete and cooperate to define problems and decide on solutions. As a society, we acknowledge common values, needs, and wants. Collectively, we recognize problems and crises when they arise. Unfortunately, individuals often hold different definitions of those supposedly "common" values, needs, and wants. The polis model recognizes that values, wants, and needs are abstract. A crisis or problem may be ill-defined. Groups (e.g.
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Format: Paperback
This is a splendid book for trying to understand the interaction between different parts of the policy-making process. The emphasis put on ideal types in most textbooks is certainly nice from the idealist perspective, but even if you could eliminate personal gain considerations from the agenda of most political entities, it would still say very little about the actual dynamics of decision formation/issue framing, etc., while this book does that in spades. I wouldn't go so far as to call Stone the Machiavelli of the 21rst century, but she's certainly trying for an empirical turn.
While I take issue with some of the normative statements/personal reflections she puts in the book (especially when it comes to the power/relevance of statistics, which she says she hopes will be of transient importance, and which just seems silly to me, as though she's confounding political uses of said things with actual uses they can be put to, given that people know how to interpret statements that contain 'facts'.. Although it does seem to be a feature of American politics that political people can safely choose to ignore any and all data in their considerations/deliberations without anyone reprimanding them for it; why everyone is allowed to invent his/her own truth is unclear to me, but it seems to me to come from some idiotic belief in 'relativism' and voter/media cynicism if anything. Anyway, continuing:) they're mostly minor quibbles that could easily be fixed in a new edition. On the whole I think this is a very useful book, though, especially for people who are hoping to gain some insight into the deliberative processes surrounding policy-making/setting. (Though it's probably not for people who can't look past the superficial shock value of the contents.)
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