Understanding the Policy Process: Analysing welfare policy and practice, by John Hudson and Stuart Lowe

The Policy Press, Bristol, 2004, pb 1 86134 540 2, xiv + 283 pp, £17.99, hb 1 86134 539 9, £50. Order this book

This is a textbook designed for undergraduates and graduates studying social policy, and its content is both the policy process and the welfare state. It is clearly based on practical experience of teaching social policy, and it is structured to enable both teacher and student to handle a complex field.

Following an introduction on ‘What is policy analysis?’, there are chapters on globalisation, political economy, changes in the world of work, technological change, the changing nature of governance, structures of power, policy networks, institutions, policy transfer, decision-making and personality, implementation and delivery, and evaluation and evidence; and a concluding chapter entitled ‘policy analysis and welfare states’. The various schools of thought are dealt with within the framework provided by the chapter headings (for instance, rational choice theory in the chapter on decision making and personality), and the structure of the welfare state is discussed in depth in the chapter on political economy and then referred to as necessary in subsequent chapters.
The coverage is generally comprehensive, though it might have been helpful to have a chapter (between chapters 3 and 4) on differences between welfare states in different countries. Whilst Esping-Andersen’s categorisation can be found in box 3.5 on p.51, and in various places there are references to other countries’ welfare provision and policy processes, the lack of an international perspective early on leaves us with the chapter on globalisation’s ‘convergence’ message without the ‘divergence’ balance which a chapter on different types of welfare state would provide.

And somewhere in the book there really ought to have been a discussion of the differences between means-tested, insurance and universal benefits and of their respective consequences for individuals and society.

But these are minor quibbles. The book will be a most useful teaching tool.