Public Policy and Instrumentalism

  • Christopher L. AtkinsonEmail author
Living reference work entry

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Instrumentalism in public policy invokes a means-ends course of action, often based in administrative process and technique, which deliberately defines public problems and their solutions with a mind toward achieving a favored societal goal (Rochefort and Cobb 1994). This emphasizes “the connection of (scientific) rationality to the conduct of life itself…the methodological attainment of a definitely given and practical end by the use of increasingly precise calculation of…means” (Adorno, quoted in Held 1980, p. 65).


This work explores public policy and instrumentalism, with a focus on implications for public administration. First, the notion of instrumentalism in the public policy context is discussed. Next, instrumental reasoning is reviewed as a basis for language games, and obscuring of the purpose and intent of policy; ramifications for public service and its obligations are...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Administration & LawUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaUSA