Can public policy be counter-hegemonic? Toward a pragmatics of 'contingency' and 'disruption'

Dolores Byrnes


'Public policy' functions discursively as both the scholar's favorite example of ideology, and our most enduring, hoped-for site of truly democratic social change. Intersections of theory (post-Gramscian, Lacanian, postcolonial feminism, narrative) with case studies reinforce the insight that both discourse and social practice always hold a myriad of possibilities for either countering or reproducing structural forms of inequality and subordination. An evaluation of the metaphors of 'contingency', 'horizon', and 'disruption' is combined with research on the Mi Comunidad program in Guanajuato, Mexico, a 1996-2001 state-run job creation policy, in order to argue that even transformative and equality-driven social and political projects should be based in:

(1) careful attention to the language and norms of any planned motion toward some future, especially regarding descriptions of those who qualify for inclusion in the envisioned future; and (2) a continuous interrogation of their own foundations in inequality, e.g. in clientelism, paternalism, and hierarchized bureaucracy. 

Full Text: