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Richard Simeon and the Policy Sciences Project

  • Michael M. Atkinson (a1)


In his classic 1976 article on the state of policy studies in Canada, Richard Simeon explicitly warned against following the path toward a policy science. Simeon was suspicious of the normative agenda embedded in the policy sciences project and worried that it would submerge politics in a broader set of interdisciplinary concerns. Was Simeon right? The policy sciences have not developed the way their principal proponent, Harold Lasswell, had anticipated or hoped, but neither has the study of public policy developed exactly as Simeon advocated. Both Lasswell and Simeon believed strongly in an empirical orientation and Lasswell, more than Simeon, focused on creating a tool kit of techniques. Schools of public policy have moved beyond both critique and technique to estimate risk, ameliorate error and mobilize knowledge. This new agenda requires students of public policy to acquire and employ practical knowledge steeped in the particular and instructed by policy narratives.

Dans son article désormais classique de 1976 sur l’état des études sur les politiques publiques au Canada, Richard Simeon mettait explicitement en garde contre la tentation de prendre le chemin menant à une science des politiques publiques. Simeon se méfiait du programme normatif inscrit dans le projet d'une science des politiques et craignait qu'il submergerait la politique dans un ensemble plus vaste de préoccupations de nature interdisciplinaire. Simeon, avait-il raison? Les sciences des politiques publiques n'ont pas évolué dans le sens où l'avait anticipé ou espéré Harold Lasswell, leur principal promoteur, mais l’étude des politiques publiques ne s'est pas développée non plus exactement comme l'avait préconisé Simeon. Aussi bien Lasswell que Simeon croyaient fermement en une orientation empirique. Lasswell, plus que Simeon, s'est appliqué à créer une boîte à outils de techniques. Les écoles de politiques publiques ont dépassé autant la critique que la technique afin d’évaluer le risque, de corriger l'erreur et de mobiliser les connaissances. Ce nouveau programme exige des étudiants en politiques publiques l'acquisition et l'emploi de connaissances pratiques ancrées dans le particulier et dictées par l'exposé des réalités politiques.



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Richard Simeon and the Policy Sciences Project

  • Michael M. Atkinson (a1)


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