Analysing Policy: What's the problem represented to be?

Carol Bacchi

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Analysing Policy: What's the problem represented to be?

By Carol Bacchi
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Carol Bacchi
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This book offers a novel approach to thinking about public policy and a distinctive methodology for analysing policy. It introduces a set of six questions that probe how ‘problems’ are represented in policies, followed by an injunction to apply the questions to one’s own policy proposals. This form of analysis, it suggests, is crucial to understanding how policy works, how we are governed, and how the practice of policy-making implicitly constitutes us as subjects.

The book mounts a challenge to the problem-solving paradigm currently dominating the intellectual and policy landscape, a paradigm manifest in ‘evidence-based policy’. Arguing that such a paradigm denies the shaping that goes on in the process of problematisation, it offers a ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ approach to policy analysis as a counter-discourse. In this view critical thinking involves putting ‘problems’ into question rather than learning how to ‘solve’ them.

Bacchi’s approach to policy analysis offers exciting insights in a wide array of policy areas, including welfare, drugs/alcohol and gambling, criminal justice, health, education, immigration and population, media and research policy. Invaluable to those involved in policy studies and public administration, it will also appeal to students and academics in sociology, social work, anthropology, cultural studies and human geography.


Carol Bacchi is Professor in Politics at the University of Adelaide. Her publications include Same Difference: Feminism and Sexual Difference, The Politics of Affirmative Action: ‘Women’, Equality and Category Politics, and Women, Policy and Politics: The Construction of Policy Problems.


  • Activity boxes throughout each chapter feature specific policies and provide students with an opportunity to apply the ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ framework.
  • End of chapter summaries.
  • End of chapter questions.
  • Comprehensive reference lists, including a supplement giving access to hyperlinks for key documents

Student Files

Table of contents
  • 1: Introducing a ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ approach to policy analysis
  • 2: Rethinking policy analysis: Theory and politics
  • 3: Welfare, ‘youth’ and unemployment
  • 4: ‘Dangerous’ consumptions: Drugs/alcohol and gambling policy
  • 5: Crime and justice
  • 6: Health, wellbeing and the social determinants of health
  • 7: Population, immigration, citizenship: ‘Securing’ a place in the world
  • 8: The limits of equality: Anti-discrimination and ‘special measures’
  • 9: The ambivalence of education: HECS and lifelong learning
  • 10: ‘Knowledge production’ in the ‘information society’: Media and research policy