The international literature identifies two main paradigms of policy analysis, which although associated with certain historical and national contexts, are not necessarily mutually exclusive (Lynn, 1999; Radin, 2000; Brooks, 2007). First is the positivist paradigm that spread from the North American context in the 1960s, characteristically making ample use of formal, rational, cost–benefit, linear planning and programming, efficiency, and effectiveness methodologies. These approaches were associated with hierarchical structures of government and with a time when policy analysis came to mean ‘speaking truth to power’ (Wildavsky, 1979; Patton and Sawicki, 1993; Bardach, 1996; Weimer, 1998).
The second, post-positivist, paradigm emerged in the latter decades of the 20th century, accompanying changes in the scientific and cultural discourses of contemporary democratic states and the emergence of new actors and horizontal, decentralised structures of governance (Fischer, 1980; Kenis and Schneider, 1991; Hoppe, 1999; Lynn, 1999; Radin, 2000; Howlett and Rayner, 2006; Adam and Kriesi, 2007; Howlett and Lindquist, 2007). In different policy subsystems, these actors were to produce new ‘policy analysis activities and styles’, such as argumentation, participation and interaction (Mayer et al, 2004), more appropriate to the needs of contemporary public policy and democracy (Dryzek, 2006; Goodin et al, 2006; Ingram and Schneider, 2006).
The professionalisation of policy analysis, as shown by Brooks (2007), entails various dimensions, including: the technical, connected with the formation of a modern bureaucracy and the rise of rational authority; the political, connected with the role of intellectuals in society and their relations with power; and the cultural, connected with the symbolic significance of experts and expertise in society, independently of the ideas and information that are associated with them.
As regards the social conditions surrounding its emergence, policy analysis as a professional activity is connected with the formation of the segment that Gouldner (1978), in the second half of the 20th century, called a ‘new class’ formed by the technical intelligentsia and the intellectuals. Crucially, this segment must be constituted in order to permit the social construction of professional expertise and the formation of policy communities. It is generally from this segment that the members of the technical elites, intellectuals and the professionals in government and non-government enterprises and organisations are largely drawn.