Towards a new definition of the concept of public policy

  • Velasquez Gavilanes, Raul (PI)

Project: Research Project

Project Details


The analysis of public policies is a multidiscipline that, based on other disciplines such as Political Science, Law, Administration, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, among others, builds a coherent body of knowledge and skills related to the process through in which public authorities, sometimes supported by individuals, intervene in situations defined as problematic. (Laswell 1951, 1971; Torgerson; 1994; Roth, 2002).
After reviewing various definitions of public policies, produced by national and foreign authors, it is concluded that these definitions suffer from several flaws which are divided into three large groups.
Type 1 failures. Definitions that, because they are very specific, leave out phenomena that should be considered as public policy, such as those regulations that require public policies to seek common interest in order for them to be considered as such, leaving out of the concept the who deviate from this duty to be (Kraft and Furlong, 2007: 5; and Ocampo, 2004: 171).
Type 2 failures. Incomplete definitions that do not incorporate all the elements that constitute public policy, such as Tohening's: "Public policy is presented in the form of an action program, typical of one or several public or governmental authorities" (Thoening , 1999: 75); definition that ignores essential elements of public policy such as its purpose, its instruments to achieve the intended ends and the possible participation of individuals in the formation of policy. The same can be said of David Easton's definition: "Authoritarian assignments of values for the whole of society", since it does not allow for the recognition of policies that are produced under processes of dialogue and consultation with individuals and those that are directed at groups. individuals, such as the elderly or those displaced by violence (Easton, 979: 79 and the one cited by Dye in 2008: 9).
Type 3 failures. Definitions that, because they are very general and incomplete, allow decisions or activities that are not to be considered as public policy. The most representative example of this failure can be seen in Thomas Dye's definition: “[public policy is] what governments choose to do or not do” (Dye, 2008:9); and in the concept of Hugh Heclo, who establishes that politics is a "course of action advanced under the authority of the Governments". (Fact, 1978)
For this reason, a research project is justified that proposes a new definition of public policy that: a) recognizes as public policies those that, however reprehensible they may be; b) incorporate elements ignored in various definitions such as public policy instruments and the eventual participation of individuals; and c) it is not as general as Dye's to avoid losing the features of public policy and being confused with public management actions.
Effective start/end date2/1/071/30/08

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Main Funding Source

  • Installed Capacity (Academic Unit)


  • Bogotá D.C.


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