Public Policy Bits: Ways of Knowing Public Policy

Farhad Mukhtarov and Andrea Gerlak have just published an article in Policy Sciences, a well-respected political science journal, on Ways of Knowing and Integrated Water Resources Management. In this article, the authorss came up with the argument that there are 3 ways of knowing reality, and public policy for that matter, which they named prescriptive, discursive and practical. The prescriptive way of knowing is action oriented and based on science and abstract reasoning; the discursive way of knowing is based on values and consideration of power relations in a policy field; and the practical way of knowing is about knowledge which originates from practice.

In developing public policies, all three ways of knowing must be utilized, as in the Graph below from the paper. Policies based on only one or two of the ways of knowing are doomed to failure as in the case of 2oth century anti-smoking regulation or water resources management. A variety of examples from the area of water management, and particularly, integrated water resources management, are given.


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