The central goal of the Standing Group is to explore the path of a critical and democratic policy analysis. We draw inspiration from the founding fathers of policy science: John Dewey, Charles Merriam, and Harold Lasswell, as well as Critical Theorists such as Jürgen Habermas. Their insight is that policy analysis should never be seen apart from the society in which it functions and to which it contributes. Critical Policy Studies has two broad aims. The first is enlightenment, in the sense of revealing the, often taken-for-granted, cognitive horizons of social and policy issues. Such intellectual constraints restrict both our understanding of these issues as the formulation of creative, effective and just solutions. The second is transformation, in the sense of enabling and facilitating groups to free themselves from oppressive conditions or practices.

Members of this Standing Group celebrate methodological and conceptual innovation rather than highlighting a single approach. Participants of this Standing Group use a variety of different approaches to policy analysis, such as discourse analysis, interpretive, deliberative and practice-based approaches, political ethnography, and collaborative and action research. We think that these approaches are conversant with the new insights in social theory, political theory, and contemporary theories of public administration and the policy process.

Hence, the focus of the Standing Group is on theoretical and methodological challenges in policy analysis and new strategies to develop a theoretically innovative and politically and socially relevant policy analysis. We see it as a prerequisite that these themes should be discussed on the basis of solid fieldwork. We are interested in understanding structural biases in formulating policy problems, and designing and implementing public policy. We explore the possibilities for more effective collaboration between policy makers, citizens and other social and corporate actors. We ask ourselves what the conditions are for better knowledge utilisation and a more effective interplay between lay and professional knowledge. The Group aims to contribute thereby to the restoration of the original connection between the analysis of public policy and a vibrant and inclusive democracy.

Over the past decades, interpretive and critical policy studies has become a thriving academic community. The International Conference in Interpretive Policy Analysis has held successful meetings in Birmingham, Amsterdam, Essex, Kassel, Grenoble, Cardiff, Tilburg, Vienna, Wageningen, Lille, Hull and Leicester. In addition, the Interpretive Politics Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association convenes panels at the annual PSA conference. And the Standing Group annually convenes a section at the ECPR General Conference. The biannual International Public Policy Conference provides another outlet for policy analysts where our membership is well-represented. Finally, the journal Critical Policy Studies is a well-established and recognised outlet for high quality publications. The aim of the Standing Group is to support and further develop the critical policy studies community in its various manifestations.

How to join the Standing Group

If you would like to join the Theoretical Perspectives in Policy Analysis Standing Group, you will need to create a myECPR account at This only takes a few minutes, and you need not be from an ECPR member institution to do so. Then, click on the following link, and select ‘Join Standing Group’.

If you are from an ECPR member institution your membership to the SG is automatic. If you are from a non-member institution we will need to accept your application to join, so your membership status will be ‘pending’ until we accept you.