01 November 2021

‘Critical Policy Analysis: What’s the Problem Represented to be?’

presented by

Professor Emerita Carol Bacchi

Carol Bacchi is Professor Emerita of Politics at the University of Adelaide. Professor Bacchi is best known for her approach to policy analysis called “What’s the Problem Represented to be?” or the WPR approach. This analytic strategy highlights how policies represent the “problems” they purport to address and how governing takes place through these problematizations.

This novel approach to policy analysis challenges the conventional view that public policies are responses or reactions to problems that sit outside the policy process, waiting to be discovered and solved. By contrast, the WPR approach argues that policies contain implicit representations of the “problems” they purport to address. These problem representations enact “problems” as particular sorts of problems, thus becoming a crucial part of how governing takes place. The goal of the WPR approach is to treat these problem representations as problematizations that require critical scrutiny. Drawing on Foucauldian-influenced poststructural theory, the WPR approach consists of six questions and an undertaking to apply those questions to one’s own proposals or proposed ‘solutions’ in a practice of self-problematization.

Professor Bacchi has written a text introducing the approach (Analysing Policy: What's the Problem Represented to be?, Pearson Education, 2009). Examples of application of the approach are available in a recent book, Poststructural Policy Analysis: A Guide to Practice (Palgrave Macmillian, 2016), co-authored with Susan Goodwin. She has a website which provides links to important publications, replies to frequently asked questions about the WPR approach, and a research blog, where Bacchi comments on recent debates and books/articles in the field.

In this seminar, Carol will explain the WPR approach and its benefits.