Policy sciences and democracy: a reexamination
Published online: 24 July 2017
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
The public, well, the dear public can be bamboozled with phrases.
–Harold D. Lasswell, 1924
The paradox of Policy Sciences
Policy Sciences has, since the inception of the journal, been beset by an apparent paradox.
Even though its keynote has been diversity, the journal has also been animated by a central
theoretical orientation. The accent on diversity was already evident in E. S. Quade’s
inaugural editorial, which promised ‘contributions reﬂecting all aspects of the policy
sciences in all forms—think pieces, case studies, ideological essays, tirades, and historical
surveys’ (1970: 2). Yet, how can such diversity be congruent with a central theoretical
The paradox can be resolved if we recognize that the theoretical orientation which
inspired the formation of the journal has a need for diversity at its core. This need for
diversity—principally of perspectives and experiences—is notable in what Brunner and
Willard have called, ‘central theory’ (2003: 4–8) in reference to the framework for the
policy sciences conceived by Harold D. Lasswell. To reexamine here the relationship
between policy sciences and democracy (cf. Dryzek and Torgerson 1993), we need to focus
on key elements of that framework, on Lasswell’s proposal for ‘the policy sciences of
democracy,’ and on the condition, moreover, of the public.
Editor of Policy Sciences, 1992–1995.
& Douglas Torgerson
Trent University, Peterborough, ON, Canada
Quoted in Torgerson (1990: 349; cf. 341n. 9 and corresponding text).
Policy Sci (2017) 50:339–350