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Our lives increasingly take place in more complex and interconnected networks. Accordingly, the policy problems that governments are called upon to deal with have become less clear-cut, more 'messy'. What makes messy policy problems particularly uncomfortable is that science and scientific knowledge have themselves become sources of uncertainty and ambiguity. For policy-makers, this raises a number of tough questions: given scientific uncertainty, how are messy issues to be tackled? What should be done about the intractable and persistent policy conflicts that accompany messy issues? How can policy-makers structure policy processes in order to better understand, deal with and learn from messy policy issues?
This challenging book seeks to answer these questions by focusing on the conflict that characterizes policy debate about messy issues.The author first develops a framework for analysing intractable policy conflict. In the second section, he applies the conceptual framework to four very different policy issues: the environment (focusing on climate change); transport; ageing; and health. Using evidence from Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, the chapters compare how policy actors construct contending narratives in order to make sense of, and deal with, messy challenges. In the final section the author discusses the implications of the analysis for collective learning and adaptation processes.
The aims are to contribute to a more refined understanding of policy-making in the face of uncertainty, to provide practical methods for critical reflection on policy, and to point to sustainable adaptation pathways and learning mechanisms for policy formulation.