Red alerts and political thinking: Preliminary thoughts on “data”

Every day (unless it is ferociously stormy, which happens seldom in Adelaide) I take a 45-minute morning walk and listen to the Australian public broadcaster, Radio National. I am a creature of habit! This morning (Dec 3, 2021) two items caught my attention.  They both mentioned “data”, and this is the topic I’ve been thinking about. I was prompted to reflect on “data” by a question/comment in the “Kick-off” event for the scheduled International WPR Symposium in Karlstad, August 2022 ( 

The researcher noted that she had been challenged to explain how she used “data” given that WPR is an interpretive approach. This question of the relationship between “data” and research methods is highly topical and will be pursued in subsequent entries. 

Returning to my morning walk and the radio program, in one item, a Melbourne academic, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, commented on the Federal Government’s proposed “anti-trolling” legislation. Under the proposed legislation, the laws would require social media companies to collect personal details of current and new users, and allow courts to access the identity of users to launch defamation cases. 

Dr Rosewarne raised several concerns. The proposed legislation, she noted, was complaint-based, and hence relied upon individuals having the resources to pursue complaints. She also asked if the listeners wanted social media companies to hold “data” on them. At one point she made this additional point: “The solution doesn’t seem to match the policy problem from my perspective”. My ears pricked up at the mention of “problems” (trolling) and “solutions”. Those familiar with WPR will be able to see its thinking at work in the analysis produced. 

Dr Rosewarne pointed out that the “postulated solution” (the policy) produced the “problem” as defamation. She elaborated on the inadequacy of this approach. Defamation of character, she explained, which politicians assume characterizes abuse online, does not cover the forms of harassment trolling entails. Things are missing from this analysis (WPR, Question 4), with severe limitations for the usefulness of the intervention (WPR, Question 5; see Chart below.).

I would like to suggest that the terms “problems” and “solutions” serve as “red alerts”, stopping us in our tracks and impelling us to apply WPR thinking.  The hope is that such a strategy produces a useful form of political thinking. 

The second item that caught my attention, reported in the Radio National News on 3 Dec 2021, was on emissions measurement (I was still walking!). It was based on a Dutch study which claimed that the Australian government was underreporting levels of emissions (

The headline, indicated in the link, read: “New data suggests Australia could be underreporting …”. One point jumped out in the summary of the Dutch report – it seems the Australian government received its emissions data from the oil companies. So “data” proved useful in questioning “data”. The point resonated with some of the reading I have been doing around “data” – that they [note the plural usage; explained in next Research Hub entry] can be useful to some researchers and that, at the same time, “data” are not simply inert “facts” but that they are produced in social processes. These are themes I intend to pursue in subsequent entries.

The point of this very brief interlude is to suggest that I was sensitized to the political relevance of “data” by my recent reading and by the appearance of the issue as a topic of concern at the “Kick-off” event. For me, “data” is now a “red alert” term. I now notice the term “data”, whereas previously it had operated as a taken-for-granted concept that escaped attention. I wonder if readers might like to share with us some other “red alert” terms. I could post them in a subsequent entry. I would also love examples where WPR became useful for you in your daily encounters with the news or some political announcement, where it prompted what I would like to call political thinking

What’s the Problem Represented to be? (WPR) approach to policy analysis 

Question 1: What’s the problem (e.g., of “gender inequality”, “drug use/abuse”, “economic development”, “global warming”, “childhood obesity”, “irregular migration”, etc.) represented to be in a specific policy or policies? 

Question 2: What deep-seated presuppositions or assumptions underlie this representation of the “problem” (problem representation)? 

Question 3: How has this representation of the “problem” come about? 

Question 4: What is left unproblematic in this problem representation? Where are the silences? Can the “problem” be conceptualized differently? 

Question 5: What effects (discursive, subjectification, lived) are produced by this representation of the “problem”?
Question 6: How and where has this representation of the “problem” been produced, disseminated and defended? How has it been and/or how can it be disrupted and replaced? 

Step 7: Apply this list of questions to your own problem representations.

C. Bacchi and S. Goodwin (2016) Poststructural Policy Analysis: A Guide to Practice. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 20. 

Can WPR contribute to “solution-construction”? Should it do so? Part 3

See 30 Dec. 2021 for Part 1 and 30 Jan. 2022 for Part 2.

In 1999 I wrote the first book, entitled: Women, Policy and Politics: The Construction of Policy Problems (London: Sage), that explored the propositions that became WPR (a “What’s the Problem Represented to be?” approach). in that book I introduced an approach I referred to as: “What’s the problem?”, with a parenthetical reference: “(represented to be)”. I realized shortly after publication that the abbreviated question – “What’s the problem?” – was misleading, since people tended to interpret it to mean that the goal was finding the real problem. My friend and colleague, Angie Bletsas, suggested the acronym WPR to ensure that those who adopted the analytic strategy I was developing kept the focus on how “problems” were represented in policy proposals. 

The subtitle of the 1999 book – “The construction of policy problems” – signals my engagement at that time with social construction theory. Reflecting a constructionist perspective, I often referred to competing interpretations of “problems” (e.g., see pages 9-10). Alongside these references, I developed the position that I went on to endorse in later work (Bacchi 2009; Bacchi and Goodwin 2016) – that policies “enact” or produce “problems” as particular sorts of problems: “every policy proposal contains within it an explicit or implicit diagnosis of the problem, which I call its problem representation” (Bacchi 1999: 1).

It is important to recognize that researchers can modify their theoretical positions as they encounter fresh perspectives. Over the last twenty years, I have worked more closely with the performative approach as developed in the work of John Law (2004; Law and Urry 2005) and Annemarie Mol (1999; 2002). I now regret the way in which the language of “interpretation” crept into the 1999 analysis. Indeed, I have struggled ever since Women, Policy and Politics to distinguish WPR frominterpretive approaches to policy analysis (Bacchi 2015). While some researchers express the view that it is quite acceptable to use the label “interpretive” in a broad sense that could encompass WPR (Barbehon 2020: 143 fn 5), I draw a contrast between the focus in interpretivism on people’s understandings of issues and a WPR analysis of the implicit problem representations in governmental problematizations. The point in drawing this contrast is to emphasize that WPR is not geared to study what goes on in people’s heads but directs attention to mechanisms of rule and how they function. 

In Women, Policy and Politics, then, I was experimenting with a particular way of thinking that has since been elaborated and clarified. The 1999 volume represents the initial steps in an intellectual journey that remains ongoing. In this entry I revisit Women, Policy and Politics to consider how I dealt with the question of “solutions”, to see what might be of value in my first thoughts on the matter and to indicate what I would now wish to revise. 

The question of “solutions” is dealt with most directly in the chapter on pay equity (Bacchi 1999: Chapter 4). This chapter offers, I believe, some tentative guidance on how to use WPR to think differently about reform efforts. I use the chapter on pay equity to introduce Part 2 of Women, Policy and Politics, which deals with the major legislative attempts to produce what was described as “women’s equality”. Alongside pay equity, I examine education reform, childcare policy, affirmative action and anti-discrimination, abortion reform, domestic violence and sexual harassment reform. 

In the chapter on pay equity I start from specific proposals (as in my later publications on WPR; Bacchi 2009; Bacchi and Goodwin 2016). I then show how each proposed reform represented the “problem” of pay inequity quite differently. The topic of pay equity is complicated and I can recall being daunted by the technicalities in specific attempts to establish fairer pay scales for women. I recommend those interested in the topic to read all of Chapter 4 (Bacchi 1999, pp. 72-92). 

Put briefly, I distinguish among several ways of “framing” the “problem” of pay inequity: equal pay for equal work, equal pay for work of equal value (otherwise known as “comparable worth”) and wage solidarity. In “equal pay for equal work” the target of critique is employer discrimination. In comparable worth approaches, the “problem” is represented to be the wage gap between women’s and men’s wages due to women’s location in specific undervalued jobs (e.g., the “caring” professions). In wage solidarity, the proposal to raise women’s wages by raising wages across the board creates the “problem” as worker exploitation.

In close approximation to my present position, I note that “a focus on proposals” permits “the elaboration of problem representations which in turn provides insights into the kinds of claims being made and the effects these claims tend to produce” (Bacchi 1999: 72). The “elaboration of problem representations” involves the identification of deep-seated presuppositions (Question 2 in WPR; Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 20). The focus on effects points to the need to consider how specific problem representations affect people’s lives. In later work this focus becomes Question 5, which insists it is possible to “assess” problem representations in terms of their discursive, subjectification and lived effects (Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 20). 

The insistence that “assessment” of problem representations is possible raises the question about the purpose of this intervention. Surely, it could be argued, the point of assessment is to assist in the determination of which reforms are most “useful”. In Women, Policy and Politics (Bacchi 1999:90) I describe the goal of assessment as encouraging “reformers to make proposals which reduce or obviate some of the regressive effects which have been identified in some problem representations”. 

I would now describe this comment as insufficiently critical on my part. I would no longer refer to “regressive effects” as if it is clear and transparent what such effects look like. For similar reasons, I am unhappy with my claim regarding pay equity that it is possible to work “carefully within constraints to frame problems in ways that maximize gains and minimize losses” (Bacchi 1999: 91), as if “gains” and “losses” can easily be identified. Rather, I would now insist that any such assessment needs to remain open to discussion and contestation. 

At the same time, I think it is possible to make the case that the kind of interrogation of policy proposals encouraged by WPR assists reformers/activists “in pinpointing what it is about particular proposals that disturbs us” (Bacchi 1999: 90). I use the remainder of this entry to explain the grounds for this argument, in the process clarifying the ways in which WPR can assist at the coalface of legislative reform. 

My example is Burton et al.’s (1987: 90-94) pay equity intervention and how it produced the “problem”. The Burton intervention avoided the tendency to speak about women’s “caring” work and “caring skills” in job evaluation, concerned that such a designation tended to essentialize women as carers. Instead, it offered a reworking of the category “Human Relations”, highlighting how current practices tended to value responsibility for people if those practices involved “pursuit of organisational objectives” but not if they involved “contributing to the quality of working relationships in other ways”. So, “working through and down the hierarchy” is valued over working “laterally and up”. This careful reframing of the “problem” problematizes hierarchy at the same time as it targets the need to rethink the roles played by those designated “women” and “men” in organizations. 

In this instance applying WPR to specific pay equity initiatives encourages reflection on factors (here, job hierarchy) that may not be identified as problematic in conventional pay equity evaluations. In other words, it serves to broaden the parameters of what ought to be considered relevant to a specific area of reform. 

Similarly, applying WPR to pay equity strategies highlights their reliance on a conventional understanding of “skills”, a category that requires critical analysis. As Bastalich (2002) argues, the felt need to justify women’s “skills” as “learned”, as opposed to “natural”, buys into a particular version of human beings as “skill-acquiring” animals. WPR encourages us to ask where this concept comes from and how our assumptions about its existence shape our thinking and reform proposals. Campaigns for “skills” recognition can no longer be treated as obviously appropriate and worthwhile; rather, reformers are challenged to reflect on the effects of the categories of thought they adopt. 

Women, Policy and Politics is filled with examples that highlight the need for feminists to question their own underlying premises. In fact, it takes its inspiration from the numerous feminist interventions that have undertaken precisely this task (Bacchi 1999: 11). In this sense, Women, Policy and Politics (1999)  can be seen to be an exercise in feminist self-problematization. I offer one more example of this dynamic – the introduction by the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board of guidelines on gender-related persecution (Bacchi 1999: 177-178). The Guidelines cover two types of cases: first, “women fleeing severely abusive spouses, who can show that their countries of origin are unwilling or unable to protect them”, and second, “women living in countries where they encounter severe state-sanctioned discrimination” (Immigration and Refugee Board 1993, cited in Razack 1995: 47). 

Razack (1995: 47) notes that the Guidelines are “the culmination of intensive lobbying by women’s groups and various Canadian and international efforts to address the issue of domestic violence as a form of persecution”. At the same time, she is concerned about some of the effects that flow from the way in which the “problem” tends to be represented. She notes (1995: 46, 49), for example, that refugee hearings are always “profoundly racialized” events in which the “outwardly compassionate process of granting asylum” creates “First World countries as benefactors”, while the people of the Third World are created as “supplicants asking to be relieved of the disorder of their world and to be admitted to the rational calm of ours”. This representation of the “problem” ignores and belies the role of the First World in creating, through economic exploitation, the circumstances of the distress suffered by refugees.

Now, importantly, Razack does not argue that feminist reformers ought to stop using “gender persecution” to advance the cause of women refugees. But she does want feminist reformers to “explore ways in which we might talk about women and the violence they experience” that acknowledge the operation of power relations between First and Third Worlds. She suggests that a way forward here is to produce gender persecution legislation “as one element of a multi-pronged strategy in which the goal would be to change social structures that propel men to be violent and condone their excesses” (Razack 1995: 71). WPR, I suggest, provides assistance in thinking through precisely what this task entails. 

In a WPR approach to policy development, context plays a critical part. Returning to the example of pay equity, there is a hesitancy to make sweeping generalizations about reform approaches – e.g., preferring wage solidarity over comparable worth (or vice versa) in every instance. Rather, it encourages a sensitivity to specific contexts where particular forms of engagement may or may not be possible. For example, Acker (1989: 196) shows that, in Oregon in the 1980s, constructing the problem as poverty relief (wage solidarity) proved to be a more successful reform strategy than equity agreements which, given the specific labor relations context, appeared to set worker against worker. In tune with Foucault’s own “version of emancipation”, universals are replaced with “specific transformations” that minimize domination (Moss 1998: 9). 

Lest this example seem to herald a pragmatic approach to policy development, I question the pragmatist’s claim that skepticism (questioning or problematizing) “forms an obstacle to a creative handling of problems”: “Anyone who puts everything up for discussion will simply have no time left for the real problems of the moment” (Keulartz 2002: 15; emphasis added). It is of course the very presumption in these statements that “real problems” exist as self-evident “things” or conditions that WPR sets out to challenge. 

The objective in WPR is to tease out the implications of different problem representations. It sharpens an awareness of the effects of the frameworks we adopt and encourages us to find proposals that “diminish effects we want to discourage” (Bacchi 1999: 90). Importantly, the question of what ought to be discouraged remains an open question – one that needs to be on the table – not one that is assumed beforehand.  


Acker, J. 1989. Doing Comparable Worth: Gender, Class and Pay Equity.Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Bacchi, C. 1999. Women, Policy and Politics: The Construction of Policy Problems. London: Sage.

Bacchi, C. 2009. Analysing Policy: What’s the Problem Represented to be? Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education.

Bacchi, C. 2015. The turn to problematization: Political implications of contrasting interpretive and poststructural adaptations. Open Journal of Political Science, 5, 1–12.

Bacchi, C. and Goodwin, S. 2016. Poststructural Policy Analysis: A guide to practice.  NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Barbehon, M. 2020. Reclaiming constructivism: towards an interpretive reading of the “Social Construction Framework”. Policy Sciences, 53: 139-160.

Bastalich, W. 2002. Politicising the productive: subjectivity, feminist labour thought and Foucault. PhD thesis, University of Adelaide, Departments of Politics and Social Inquiry. 

Burton, C., with Hag, R. and Thompson, G. 1987. Women’s Worth: Pay Equity and Job Evaluation in Australia. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. 

Hacking, I. 2007. On Not Being a Pragmatist. In C. J. Misak (ed.) New Pragmatists. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Immigration and Refugee Board 1993. Guidelines Issued by the Chairperson Pursuant to Section 65(3) of the Immigration Act. Immigration and Refugee Board. 

Keulartz, J., Korthals, M., Schermer, M. and Swierstra, T. 2002). Ethics in a Technological Culture: A Proposal for a Pragmatist Approach. In J. Keulartz et al, (eds) Pragmatist Ethics for a Technological Culture. Dordrecht: Springer-Science+Business Media.

Law, J. 2004. After method: Mess in social science research. London and New York: Routledge. 

Law, J. and Urry, J. 2005. Enacting the social. Economy and Society, 33(3): 390-410.

Mol, A. 1999. Ontological politics: A word and some questions. In J. Law & J. Hassard (Eds.), Actor network theory and after. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Mol, A. 2002. The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Moss, J. (1998). Introduction: The later Foucault. In J. Moss (Ed.), The later Foucault: Politics and philosophy. London: Sage. Razack, S. 1995. Domestic Violence as Gender Persecution: Policing the Borders of Nation, Race and Gender. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 8: 45-88.

“Becoming More Mortal”: governing through “risk”, “vulnerability” and “underlying health conditions”

“Becoming More Mortal”:  governing through “risk”, “vulnerability” and “underlying health conditions”

I apologize for breaking the flow of promised Research Hub entries, but such is the nature of the times. I felt compelled to say something about modes of governing COVID-19 that are currently (Jan – Feb 2022) being practised. Specifically, I wish to reflect on dominant people categories and their governing effects, including lived and subjectification effects (see WPR question 5; Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 20). The categories I wish to target are interconnected: “underlying health conditions”, “at-risk populations”, “vulnerable groups”, “hospitalization [or death] with COVID as distinct from hospitalization [or death] from COVID”. I intend to consider these issues alongside a narrative of my own experiences to indicate the power and influence of governing categories.


I have a chronic health condition. It leaves me immunocompromised (immunosuppressed). Notice how I’ve already taken on two categories, and I have only just begun! 

Allow me to digress briefly. In my 2003 memoir, entitled Fear of Food: A Diary of Mothering (Spinifex Press), I reflected on the repercussions of being classified as an “elderly primigravida” when I became pregnant at age forty-four: 

“Being of a certain age for your first child means that you are automatically considered a high-risk pregnancy. … I tried to deny the implications of being labelled ‘high risk’, but we shouldn’t ignore the impact of medical diagnoses on our psyche. In fact, you could say that being called ‘high risk’ was not a way to make you feel relaxed about your pregnancy” (Bacchi 2003: 3). 

This sensitivity to the impact of governing categories was reflected in my 1996 book, The Politics of Affirmative Action, which developed the notion of “category politics”. This concept (which germinated in my pre-Foucauldian days) incorporates the political uses of both conceptual and identity categories. 

With this background, unsurprisingly, I pay close attention to the categories of analysis deployed in responses to COVID-19. Hence, I began to dwell on a category that was receiving almost daily mention in the numerous press conferences by the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Health Ministers and Public Health Officers in Australia. Allow me to note in passing the impact of the pandemic on the status and influence of public health, at least in certain settings, indicated in Australia and overseas in the “rock star” status accorded certain Public Health Officers (see Anders Tegnell in Sweden,

The category that drew my attention and my ire was “underlying health conditions”. It started to appear in daily reports of deaths “associated with COVID-19” in November 2021. With my chronic health condition, I recognized myself in the category and wondered about the possible objective in its use. Perhaps the intent was to make “regular” people feel less worried about their possible sickness and death (Laterza & Romer 2020). Or, just perhaps, the category diverted attention from COVID-19 itself and its (mis)management to “underlying” conditions that would probably/possibly do you in. 

And then serendipity!  I was reading Louise Erdrich’s wonderful novel The Sentence at the time of these increasingly disturbed concerns about my chronic condition and COVID-19. She writes:

“The Reports kept saying that those who died had underlying health issues. That was probably supposed to reassure some people – the super-healthy, the vibrant, the young. A pandemic is supposed to blow through distinctions and level all before it. This one did the opposite. Some of us instantly became more mortal. We began to keep mental lists. One morning we started figuring the odds.”

“You get an automatic point for being a woman”, said Pollux, “plus ten years younger. That’s two points.”

“I think we both get a point for having blood type O. I’ve heard type A is more susceptible”. 

“Really? I’m not sure. I’d question that”. 

“We have to subtract those points anyway for being a teeny bit overweight”. 

“Okay, let’s cancel those two factors out”.


“I lose a point for having asthma”, said Pollux. “You get a point for not having it”. 

“Although now they’re saying it might not make a difference. But I’ll give you the point”. (Erdrich 2021: 183-184; emphasis added).

But that is me, I decided! Was I keeping score? Not intentionally, but perhaps under the radar I thought – you may have a chronic condition but at least you are not obese, and you don’t have sleep apnoea. Queensland’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Kerry Chant, recently reported that a coroner’s review of deaths of 28 people under the age of 65 infected with  COVID-19 identified both obesity and sleep apnoea as “related” conditions (

It was time to put on my Foucauldian hat before I threw up my hands in despair and surrendered completely to the practices of categorization dominating public debate.

Governing through risk technologies

Dr. Chant drew a connection between “underlying health conditions” and “risk”: “… those who are elderly and those that have underlying health conditions are most at risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death” (

This reference to “risk” is an uncontroversial statement in public health terms. However, that does not mean that it is uncontroversial.

A great deal has been written about “risk”, “risk categories” and “risk technologies” by critical scholars, including those interested in governmentality. The notion of “risk technology”, associated with those researchers, highlights the role of “risk” categories as mechanisms of governing. In a subsequent entry on “data”, I illustrate this point with references to the role of risk categories in welfare governing, in statistical risk assessments in criminal justice, and in predictive risk modelling. 

The governmentality scholar, Mitchell Dean, provides us with a way to think about “risk” and its role as a governing technology. He reminds us: 

“There is no such thing as risk in reality …Risk is a way, or rather a set of different ways, of ordering reality, of rendering it into a calculable form. It is a way of representing events in a certain form so they might be made governable in particular ways, with particular techniques and particular goals”. (Dean 1999: 177)

To come to understand how “risk” functions as a governing mechanism, Dean advises that researchers tease out “the forms of knowledge that make it thinkable”, and “the political rationalities and programs that deploy it” (Dean 1999: 178). 

This approach to “risk” indicates how a WPR analysis can be useful in this context. Instead of generalizing about the notion of “risk” as if it has a set and obvious meaning, we need to identify the knowledges relied upon to give it meaning, and to examine how the concept represents the “problem” in specific circumstances. 

How then does the creation of “the elderly” and those with “underlying health conditions” as “at risk” of disease and death shape governing practices? It could, of course, translate into increased resource allocation or more targeted health services. Or, it could serve to “explain” and explain away higher than usual death rates (see

Governments at both the federal and state levels in Australia decided that the practices of relaxing restrictions and opening borders (international and state) in December 2021 needed to be accompanied by a shift in focus from COVID-19 case numbers to the numbers of those hospitalized and of deaths. As the numbers in hospitals rose, Prime Minister Morrison sought a new definition for hospital cases, distinguishing those admitted due to Covid from those admitted for “unrelated reasons” and testing “positive during routine inspections” (Day 2022). As the death toll rose, it became important to offer plausible explanations for this rise that did not draw attention to poor pandemic management practices or to COVID-19 itself, as these deaths could be anticipated (Herrick 2020). “Underlying health conditions” proved to be a useful public health intervention in this regard.

A J P Morgan economist defended the practice of recording the deaths of people who died with COVID-19 separate from those people who died because of COVID-19 – a difficult distinction to make (Trabsky 2020) – lowering the CFR (case fatality rate) in Denmark from 0.045 per cent to 0.027 per cent ( In Australia Morrison continues to defend the distinction between “passing away with Covid” and “passing away because of Covid” (Daily Mail 16 Feb 2022;

I am not suggesting deliberate manipulation in this usage. Rather, I wish to draw attention to the way in which public health knowledge served to make a case about the need to “open up”, a case that would resonate with many in the general population – since we have been told for decades that if we don’t keep the weight off and exercise regularly, we will develop “underlying health conditions”. 

Governing through vulnerability 

At the same time, targeted groups – and these usually include the elderly, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and those with chronic health conditions – are frequently described as “vulnerable”. Indeed, the main riposte to perceived government mismanagement of the pandemic, at least in Australia, is that our “most vulnerable citizens” have been ignored. In this situation it becomes difficult to suggest the need to rethink the category of “vulnerability”, but I believe it is necessary to do so. 

In a previous entry (Research Hub 31 Aug 2020) I described how, in work with Chris Beasley, we challenged a dominant conceptualization in Australian public policy that sets “vulnerable” bodies against other healthy bodies. Vulnerable bodies are seen to reflect a view that people are controlled by their biology, that they are (so to speak) at the mercy of their bodies (Bacchi and Beasley 2002). This view is contrasted to a preferred default position, in which perceived autonomous rational actors keep their bodies in line or “under control”.

There are downsides to both positions – the citizens who are deemed to have control over their bodies become “responsibilized”, and are held responsible for their health outcomes. Petersen and Lupton (1996) argue that public health constructions of risk are premised on the expectation that individuals will govern their own risk-taking practices (see also Nettleton 1997). This perspective is currently endorsed in the federal government’s refrain that, in relation to the pandemic, it is time for Australians to demonstrate “self-responsibility” (SBS News 21 Dec. 2021; (on this theme in Sweden see NyGren & Olofsson 2020). Australian government websites offer guidance on “what you can do to reduce your risk or that of someone you care for.

On the other hand, those characterized as controlled by their bodies – i.e., the “vulnerable” – are constituted as lesser citizens (Bacchi and Beasley 2002). In these cases, Beasley and I highlight the often, inadvertent acceptance of a hierarchical relationship between those who can care versus those who need care. We further characterize this relationship as displaying “the residues of noblesse oblige”, effectively denying the socio-political relations that constitute this hierarchy (Beasley and Bacchi 2007: 293). 

It is important also to note that health promotion programs that target “at risk” populations can be stigmatizing (Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 74), singling them out as wanting or weak. Shani (2020) adds that the fact that the most “vulnerable” people are also those of retirement age is significant “for they are deemed surplus to the requirements of a functioning capitalist economy”. They are “disposable” populations (Duffield 2007), expendable, exerting “additional pressures” on government budgets (Australian Government 2013). 

At some level this willingness to accept the deaths of specific groups of elderly people, Indigenous peoples, those with disabilities and those with co-morbidities raises disturbing reminders of eugenic theories and the notion of survival of the fittest (Laterza & Romer 2020). Connections have been drawn between the defence of “herd immunity” as a pandemic strategy and Malthusian population theories (Malinverni 2020). “The ‘herd’ will survive, but for that to happen, other ‘weaker’ members of society need to be sacrificed” (Laterza & Romer 2020). At the same time the “herd” will build up its immunity to SARS viruses. 

I don’t have space here to sort through the competing ideas about the role of heredity in evolution in the 19th and 20th centuries (Bacchi 1980), or the distinctions between “negative” eugenics, with its endorsement of compulsory sterilization of the “unfit”, and “positive” eugenics, looking to environmental and hygienic reforms to improve “the race” (Dean 2015: 25). Rather, I’m suggesting that it is useful to take a broader perspective and to think about how policy decisions create the “problem” of “population” – here in terms of “the people” versus “the expendables”. 

Of course, the language of “herd immunity” is less popular today, at least in Australia. Rather, there are suggestions that we should  “let it rip” or, more commonly, that we have to learn to “live with the virus” (

 In any event, the lived effects for members of the disability community, Indigenous peoples, and residents in aged care homes frequently involve severe illness and, all too often, death. 

Ways forward

Beasley and I (2007) suggested that there is a need to develop new frameworks of meaning to rethink the ways in which governmental practices conceptualize bodies. To this end we offer the concept of “social flesh” to bypass the constructed dichotomy between those characterized as controlling their bodies and those deemed to be controlled by their bodies, between the “marketable” and the “disposable” (Shani 2012). 

Our hope is that “social flesh” might serve to disrupt the current dominant neoliberal ethic that privileges autonomous, rational actors who are held responsible for their lives and health, and to highlight the unequal burden of infectious diseases (Research Hub 31 July 2020). “Social flesh” does this by drawing attention to shared embodied reliance, mutual reliance, of people across the globe on social space, infrastructure and resources (Beasley and Bacchi 2007).  

The call by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization, to get “all countries to work together to reach the global target of vaccinating 70% of people in all countries by the middle of 2022” indicates recognition of that embodied reliance. In the place of “narrow nationalism and vaccine hoarding by some countries”, he argues, there is a need to negotiate “a global pandemic accord to strengthen the governance, financing, and systems and tools the world needs to prevent, prepare for, detect and respond rapidly to epidemics and pandemics”.

The goal, put simply, is for all of us to become more mortal rather than scapegoating those with “underlying health conditions”. 


Australian Government 2013. An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future. Productivity Commission. Available at:

Bacchi, C. 1980. The nature-nurture debate in Australia, 1900-1914. Historical Studies, 199-212.

Bacchi, C. 1996. The Politics of Affirmative Action: “Women”, Equality and Category Politics. London: Sage. 

Bacchi, C. 2003. Fear of Food: A Diary of Mothering. Spinifex Press. 

Bacchi, C. and Beasley, C. 2002. Citizen bodies: Is embodied citizenship a contradiction in terms? Critical Social Policy, 22(2): 324-52. 

Bacchi, C. and Goodwin, S. 2016. Poststructural Policy Analysis: A Guide to Practice. NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Beasley, C. & Bacchi, C. 2007. Envisaging a new politics for an ethical future: Beyond trust, care and generosity —towards and ethic of “social flesh”. Feminist Theory, 8(3): 279-298. 

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Dean, M. 2015. The Malthus Effect: population and the liberal government of life. Economy and Society, 44(1): 18-39.

Duffield, Mark (2007) Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples, Cambridge: Polity.  

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Nettleton, S. 1997. Governing the risky self: How to become healthy, wealthy and wise’. In A. Petersen and R. Bunton (Eds) Foucault, Health and Medicine. London: Routledge. 

Nygren, K. G. & Olofsson, A. 2020. Managing the COVID-19 pandemic through individual responsibility: the consequences of a world risk society and enhanced ethopolitics”. Journal of Risk Research, 23(7-8).

Petersen, A. & Lupton, D. 1996. The new public health: Health and self in the age of risk. London: Sage.

Shani, G. 2012. Empowering the disposable? biopolitics, race and human development. Development Dialogue. Available at:

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Trabsky, M. 2020. “Died from” or “died with” COVID-19? We need a transparent approach to counting coronavirus deaths. The Conversation, 9 September. 

My sincere thanks to Anne Wilson, Jennifer Bonham and Angie Bletsas for comments on an earlier draft. 

Title: Can WPR contribute to “solution-construction”? Should it do so? Part 2

In the last entry I made the case that, in Foucauldian-influenced critical approaches, including WPR, problematizations (“the forms themselves”) constitute a necessary part of critical analysis. This position sits in contrast to that developed in Savage et al. (2021) where “problematisation” as a critical practice is contrasted to “solution-construction”. They argue that, in poststructural approaches, too much emphasis is placed on problematization, and solution-construction ought to be recognized as equally capable of critical insights. I suggest in the last entry that two different meanings of problematization explain this difference in interpretation and that there is a need to keep these distinctions clear in order to better understand the contrasting forms of critical analysis associated with each meaning. 

In this entry I address the question I often receive about the practical usefulness of WPR: if WPR does not provide guidance on designing “optimal” reforms, why should policymakers be interested in it?  To address this question, I take up a second theme prominent in Savage et al. (2021: 309), the place of “self-reflexivity” in critical analysis.

The ways in which these topics are connected is made clear if one starts by asking why poststructural scholars are reluctant to endorse specific reform proposals. Put briefly, the hesitancy to endorse specific reforms stems from the concern that those reforms may inadvertently buy into established ways of thinking that need questioning. That is, there is a concern that researchers are necessarily implicated in those ways of thinking – hence the need for “self-reflexivity” or “self-problematization”, my preferred term as explained below. 

As Savage et al. (2021: 308) note, poststructural scholars shy away from prescribing specific courses of action because such a stance presumes a “capacity to step outside of the dominant technologies of governance that contour the lives of research participants and academic labour to determine what is ‘good’ and ‘just’”. That is, the hesitation about advancing “solutions” is tied to the poststructural stance that “‘liberatory’ or ‘emancipatory’ impulses” may well be “implicated in the constitution of governing practices” (Teghtsoonian 2016: 341). Wendy Brown (1998: 44) makes this point clearly in her elaboration of “genealogical politics”:

“It aims to make visible why particular positions and visions of the future occur to us, and especially to reveal when and where those positions work in the same register of ‘political rationality’ as that which they purport to criticize”.

This stance also helps us to understand the debate and contestation over meanings of the “subject” in critical theory. I mentioned in the last entry the focus in some versions of assemblage theory (Savage 2020: 331; Li 2007a) on “actors” and “agency”. Li (2007a: 287 fn 3) explains that, with Barry (2001), she “stresses agency, process and emergence over the kind of completed order suggested by Foucault’s term dispositif”. She (287 fn 4) elaborates that her argument “builds upon those of Clarke (2004) and O’Malley et al. (1997) who critique the neglect of practice and instability in studies of government”. Again, I hope that readers of earlier entries will recognize some well-rehearsed debates about the role of “actors” in policy processes and Foucault’s conception of the “subject” (Research Hub entries 30 Sept. 2019; 31 Oct. 2019).

The questioning of the humanist “subject” in poststructural theory explains the tension between these positions. It also helps explain the priority placed upon self-problematisation in poststructural analysis. The level of questioning of grounding presuppositions, prompted by Question 2 of WPR and reinforced in Step 7, is intended to assist researchers to probe precisely this point – how they themselves may well accept premises that ought to be questioned (Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 20).

Now, Savage et al. clearly recognize the importance of what they call “self-reflexivity”. In fact, they “question whether research that lacks such reflexivity can be considered ‘critical’ at all” (Savage et al. 2021: 309). However, as with the notion of problematization (see previous entry 30 Dec 2021).  I would have liked some clarification about how the term is understood. To say that one needs to be “reflexive”, I suggest, is the beginning not the end of the matter (see Rasmussen 2015). For example, there is a need to consider the kind of subject who is deemed to be capable of “reflexivity”. There is a tendency for the notion of reflexivity to rely on a political subject who appears to be able to draw upon inner resources of insight and judgement, a subject reminiscent of the humanist subject questioned in poststructural arguments (see Research Hub entries 21 Oct. 2018; 5 Nov. 2018).

Stengers (2008: 46) explains that “reflexivity” is vulnerable to “capture” in terms of knowledge: “it can easily mean paying attention to defects and biases to be avoided, and for instance to the way our own discrimination patterns and habits negatively affect the knowledge we produce”. Think here of the tendency for some authors to acknowledge their location in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, class, (dis)ability or sexuality. Recognizing the importance of such interventions, Stengers (2008: 41-42) explains that this stance does not “overcome the ‘subjective’ attachments that situate us” whereas there is a need to “make ‘us’ hesitate about our own conditions of thought”. 

Foucault spoke about his quest to “se deprendre de soi” – to detach oneself from oneself (Rabinow and Rose 2003: 17). He describes this position as an “ethic of discomfort”, a ceaseless discomfort with one’s own presumptions:

“never to consent to being completely comfortable with one’s own presuppositions. Never to let them fall peacefully asleep, but also never to believe that a new fact will suffice to overturn them; never to imagine that one can change them like arbitrary axioms”. (Foucault 2000: 448).

Clifford (2001: 134; emphasis in original) describes this proposition as akin to Nietzsche’s “active forgetting” – 

“Counter-memory consists of essentially forgetting who we are. It is a forgetfulness of essence … Counter-memory holds us at a remove, a distance from ourselves: not in the traditional sense of self-reflection, but of wrenching the self – this identity – apart, through an incision, a cutting that makes the self stand naked and strange before us across an unbridgeable divide, a gap of difference”.

The question that arises is how to achieve this “distance from ourselves”. Foucault’s argument that the self is produced in practices leads to the proposition in WPR that researchers need to institute a practice of active self-problematization (Gherardi 2009: 118). This practice of the self involves applying the WPR questions to one’s own proposals (Step 7 in Chart, Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 20). To self-problematize, we ask: if this is my problematization, where does it come from and how is it possible? What meanings and presuppositions do I accept that render it possible? 

Clearly, a question arises here about the feasibility of policy workers and researchers engaging such questions. Li pays close attention to the ways in which policy workers become implicated in specific governmental agendas. In her study of community forest management in Indonesia, she emphasizes how policy workers are constrained to “frame problems in terms amenable to technical solutions” (Li 2007b: 2), a practice she describes as “rendering technical”. This task, explains Li, means that policy workers, whom she designates “programmers”, cannot be critics: “Under pressure to program better, they are not in a position to make programming itself an object of analysis”. In contrast, Sue Goodwin and I (2016: 9) avoid fixing the role of policy workers as “technicians”. In our 2016 book, Poststructual Policy Analysis, we offer numerous examples of “policy workers cum analysts” who deploy WPR to assist in the practices of interrogating, criticizing and evaluating policies.

At the same time I would query the implication in Li (2007b: 2) that “critics” are somehow freer than “programmers” from the practice of “rendering technical”, that they can “take a broader view”. Researchers (“critics”), I suggest, are frequently asked to analyse “problems” pre-set by those who fund the research, often governments (Bacchi 2008; Research Hub entry 20 August 2018). Evidence-based policy provides an example where this occurs – the task assigned researchers is to provide “evidence” for questions (“problems”) set for them by others (Bacchi 2009: 252-255; Bacchi 2012). Along related lines, Savage et al. (2021) describe how current education policy researchers “follow the policy”, a practice that risks producing “research of elites, by elites and for elites” (2021: 313; emphasis in original). 

Hence, “critics”, like “programmers”, are in a sense constrained in the terrain they can explore. This situation highlights the need for a “tool” such as WPR to interrogate all governmental problematizations, including those that lodge within our own proposals. Bringing attention to governmental problematizations, which I see as the task of a WPR analysis, can assist policy workers and researchers to question the parameters within which their work is cast. 

Linking back to the discussion of postcritique (Research Hub 29 Nov 2021) I see this encouragement to policy workers and researchers to engage with the problematizations in policies and in their own proposals as a positive research contribution. Applying the WPR questions in these ways, I suggest, makes it easier to recognize the full range of issues that need to be included in any “reform” design. They also alert researchers and policy workers to facets of the issues that may well have escaped their/our attention. While poststructuralist analysis, therefore, does not put forward a blueprint for political change, which people are expected to adopt, it opens a space to think differently and creatively about the relations and rules through which governing takes place. In the next and last entry on this topic, I revisit the example of pay equity initiatives, first broached in my 1999 book Women, Policy and Politics: The construction of policy problems (Sage), to consider more precisely how WPR can play a role in reform design. 


Bacchi, C. 1999. Women, Policy and Politics: The construction of policy problems. London: Sage.

Bacchi, C. 2008. The politics of research management: Reflections on the gap between what we “know” [about SDH] and what we do. Health Sociology Review, 17: 165-176.

Bacchi, C. 2009. Analysing Policy: What’s the Problem Represented to be? Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education.

Bacchi, C. 2012. Strategic interventions and ontological politics: Research as political practice. In A. Bletsas and C. Beasley (Eds) Engaging with Carol Bacchi: Strategic Interventions and Exchanges. Adelaide: University of Adelaide Press. Available as a free downloard from the University of Adelaide Press website (

Bacchi, C. and Goodwin, S. 2016. Poststructural Policy Analysis: A guide to practice. NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Barry, A. 2001. Political Machines: Governing a Technological Society. London: Athlone.

Brown, W. 1998. Genealogical Politics. In J. Moss (ed.) The Later Foucault: Politics and Philosophy, London: Sage. pp. 33-49.

Clarke, J. 2004. Changing Welfare, Changing States: New Directions in Social Policy. London: Sage.

Clifford, M. 2001. Political Genealogy After Foucault. Psychology Press.

Foucault M. (2000). For an Ethics of Discomfort. In J. D. Faubion (Ed.), Power: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984 (Volume III, pp. 443-448). New York: The New Press. 

Gherardi, S. 2009. Introduction: The critical power of the “practice lens”. Management Learning, 40(2): 115–128.

Li, T. M. 2007a. Practices of assemblage and community forest management. Economy and Society, 36(2): 263-293.  

Li, T. M. 2007b. The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics. NC: Duke University Press. 

O’Malley, P., Weir, L. and Shearing, C. 1997. Governmentality, criticism, politics. Economy and Society, 26: 501-517.

Rasmussen, M. L. 2015. “Cruel Optimism” and Contemporary Australian Critical Theory in Educational Research. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(2): 192-206. 

Savage, G. C. 2020. What is policy assemblage? Territory, Politics, Governance, 8(3): 319-335. 

Savage, G. C., Gerrard, J., Gale, T. and Molla, T.  2021. The evolving state of policy sociology: mobilities, moorings and elite networks. Critical Studies in Education, 62(3): 306-321. 

Stengers, I. 2008. Experimenting with Refrains: Subjectivity and the Challenge of Escaping Modern Dualism. Subjectivity, 22: 38-59.

Teghtsoonian, K. 2016. Methods, discourse, activism: comparing institutional ethnography and governmentality. Critical Policy Studies, 10:3, 330-347, DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2015.1050426

Can WPR contribute to “solution-construction”? Should it do so? Part 1.

In the last three entries (30 Sept 2021, 30 Oct 2021, 29 Nov 2021) I have tried to elucidate some fine distinctions in political stances associated with varieties of critical analysis. In this entry I pursue this task a step further, examining the position advanced by some who endorse “assemblage thinking” (Savage 2018, 2020). My specific target is the different relationships imagined and carved out between “problems” and “solutions” in policy development. This topic comes up often in WPR applications. Many contributions use WPR to make the case that, if we examine how a problem is represented, we will be able to see how solutions are affected. By contrast, I have argued that it is more useful politically to start the analysis from “postulated solutions” to see how “problems” are constituted within those “solutions”, how “problems” are implicit within such “postulated solutions”. Does this mean that WPR is unhelpful in formulating (or constructing) “solutions”?

I am often pressed on this issue. I’m asked: “Just what follows from a WPR analysis? Where does WPR lead in terms of a reform agenda?” There are concerns that researchers who draw on WPR remain trapped in an endless cycle of problematization, re-problematization and self-problematization. I explain that proposing reforms is not the purpose of WPR. Rather, its objective it to create a space to reflect on issues that may escape our attention, largely because they rely on taken-for-granted assumptions about the world and social/political relations. Therefore, WPR is put forward, not as a method for devising policy “solutions”, but for critically commenting on the “solutions” (policies) that have been put in place.

My decision to revisit these questions is prompted by a recent article on developments in “critical policy sociology” (Savage et al. 2021). The article asks about the nature of critical scholarship and usefully sets out to “agitate the field” (p. 316) around this question. I am particularly interested in pursuing two themes raised in this paper: the discussion of problematization and “solution construction”, and reflections on the importance and nature of “self-reflexivity” (Savage et al. 2021: 309). I address the first theme in this entry and pursue the second in a follow-up entry. Links to assemblage theory (Savage 2020) are drawn where relevant.

On the first theme, the relationship between problematization and “solution construction”, Savage et al. (2021) put in question the emphasis placed on problematization in poststructural policy analysis. They (2021: 308) note that “scholarship that draws on poststructuralist philosophy and theory” often foregrounds “the benefits of critique and forms of problematisation but in lieu of articulating explicit solutions or visions for change”. They make the case that, compared to “acts of problematisation”, the “processes of solution construction are … just as capable of producing new possibilities for thinking and understanding the world” and that “the formulation of solutions should not be viewed as necessarily non-critical” (p. 309). 

As I mention in the previous entry (29 Nov 2021), Savage et al. (2021: 309) argue, appropriately in my view, that the poststructural refusal to adopt a specific reform agenda itself constitutes a form of “preferred politics”. Importantly, however, Savage (2018: 310; emphasis in original) endorses “a more pragmatic orientation towards public policy research”, directing attention “away from theoretical abstractions and ideal types” and “towards more materialist, relational, and bottom-up orientations that seek to understand the tangible stuff of policies”. The conviction that “at the end of the day all policy makers must do something” helps explain the focus on “solution construction” (Savage 2018: 317). Extrapolating from this argument, the question for researchers becomes: why should policymakers be interested in WPR, if it doesn’t assist them in making decisions/policy? 

Importantly, Savage et al. (2021: 309) retain a place for “problematisation” in political analysis. They argue that “problematisation should be seen as integral to the critical formulation of solutions for those who choose to engage in such work”.  While this proposition sounds useful, I would like to have seen some elaboration of what it entails. Specifically, I feel there is a need to clarify how “problematisation” is used in this argument. What precisely is meant by stating that “problematisation should be seen as integral to the critical formulation of solutions”?

On the place of problematization/s in critical research, I need to repeat a point I have made elsewhere (Bacchi 2012): that the term problematization/s both in Foucault and in critical literature more broadly has several meanings. To clarify this diverse and tricky terrain I draw a distinction between a verb form of problematization as a form of critical practice – i.e., scholars are involved in problematizing ways of thinking, modes of ruling, etc. For example, Webb (2014: 371) identifies those engaged in critical thinking as “policy problematizers”, those engaged in problematizing. This use of problematization lines up with Foucault’s endorsement of “thinking problematically” as a form of critical analysis (Research Hub entries 9 July and 23 July 2018). This usage is also the most common way in which the term “problematization” is deployed in everyday speech – i.e., we talk about the need to problematize something, to put it into question.

The second usage, which I designate a noun form, simply to distinguish it from the activist process of problematizing just described, refers to the ways in which governing takes place through producing problematizations (note the plural noun form) – specific forms of “problem” creation. The analytic task in this case involves identifying these “forms themselves” (Foucault 1986: 17-18) and subjecting them to critical questioning. It is precisely this critical questioning of governing problematizations that WPR facilitates. The argument here is that such interrogation is necessary because we are governed through these problematizations (“the forms themselves”), through the ways in which “problems” are produced as particular sorts of problems (Bacchi and Goodwin 2016: 39). 

Returning to Savage et al., I suggest that they are using problematization in the first sense as a mode of critical analysis. For example, elsewhere, Savage and O’Connor (2018: 4-5) quote approvingly Ansell and Geyer (2017) who argue that “problems are themselves problematic” and are always “contested” (italics in original), making it imperative for “researchers to problematise problem-setting and definition processes” (italics added). And it is this sense of problematization as critical thinking that Savage et al. (2021) contrast to “solution construction” as an alternative mode of critical analysis. 

Similarly, in Savage’s (2020) particular adaptation of “assemblage theory”, which draws on the work of Tania Li (2007), the emphasis is on the practices of policy actors. Li (2007: 264) explains that the primary focus of her assemblage theory is on “agency”, “the hard work required to draw heterogeneous elements together, forge connections between them and sustain these connections in the face of tension”. Li identifies “problematization” as one of several practices undertaken by policy actors, a practice she describes as “identifying deficiencies that need to be rectified” (Li 2016: 80). 

I hope that this “activist” view of problematization can be seen to sit in contrast with the focus in WPR on the problematizations (“the forms themselves”) implicit in policy proposals. In the latter, problematizations (“the forms themselves”) are always and necessarily a part of governmental practices. Hence, interrogating problematizations constitutes a requisite part of critical analysis: “the underlying intent is to problematise the problematisations on offer” (Bacchi 2009: 12). In this approach policy is not a “response to existing conditions and problems, but more of a discourse in which both problems and solutions are created” (Goodwin 1996: 67).

This quote from Nikolas Rose’s Powers of Freedom (2000: 58; emphasis added) in my view helps clarify the different form of thinking and analysis involved in a WPR usage of problematisation. Rose explains:

If policies, arguments, analyses and prescriptions purport to provide answers, they do so only in relation to a set of questions. Their very status as answers is dependent upon the existence of such questions. If, for example, imprisonment, marketization, community care are seen as answers, to what are they answers? And, in reconstructing the problematizations which accord them intelligibility as answers, these grounds become visible, their limits and presuppositions are opened for investigation in new ways.

Rose’s “answers” are the “proposals” or “postulated solutions” in WPR. And, as Rose says, we need to start from the proposed “answers” and work backwards to see what prompted these positions, what made them possible. The task, as he describes it, is to reconstruct “the problematizations [note the plural noun form] which accord them intelligibility as answers”, including their “limits and presuppositions”. In tune with this thinking, in WPR we examine what was necessary for certain proposals (policies) to be intelligible – what meanings needed to be in place for them to make sense.  The critical task, therefore, entails analysing those governmental prescriptions and their implicit problematizations (“the forms themselves”). 

To be clear, I do not wish to imply that there is one proper meaning of problematization. As discussed above, the word can be and is used in various ways. My argument is that, because of this complexity in usage, it is useful to clarify how we deploy the term when we develop our arguments – in this case arguments about the meaning and purpose of critical thinking. In the next entry, therefore, I pursue further the question of whether the Foucauldian-influenced analysis of governmental problematizations (“the forms themselves”), as in a WPR approach, contributes in any way to “solutions” or “solution construction”. This discussion will entail reconsideration of the place of self-problematization (“self-reflexivity”) in critical theory (see Research Hub entries, 21 Oct. 2018; 5 Nov. 2018). 


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Bacchi, C. 2009. Analysing Policy: What’s the Problem Represented to be? Frenchs Forest: Pearson Education.

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Goodwin, N. 1996. Governmentality in the Queensland Department of Education: policies and the management of schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 17(1): 65-74. 

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Li, T. M. 2016. Governing rural Indonesia: convergence on the project system. Critical Policy Studies, 10(1): 79-94.  

Rose, N. 2000. Powers of Freedom: Reframing political thought.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

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Savage, G. C. 2020. What is policy assemblage? Territory, Politics, Governance, 8(3): 319-335. 

Savage, G. C., Gerrard, J., Gale, T. and Molla, T.  2021. The evolving state of policy sociology: mobilities, moorings and elite networks. Critical Studies in Education, 62(3): 306-321. Webb, P.T. 2014. Policy problematization. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(3): 364–376.