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Policy Sciences

Policy Sciences


The policy sciences study the process of deciding or choosing and evaluate the relevance of available knowledge for the solution of particular problems. When policy scientists are concerned with government, law, and political mobilization, they focus on particular decisions. Policy scientists also study the choosing process of nongovernmental organizations and individuals and consider the significance of the current stock of knowledge for specific issues. Since an official decision or a private choice is a problem-solving activity, five intellectual tasks are performed at varying levels of insight and understanding: clarification of goals; description of trends; analysis of conditions; projection of future developments; and invention, evaluation, and selection of alternatives. The policy sciences integrate philosophy, history, science, prophecy, and commitment.

Although policy scientists appear in every civilization, the term dates from the years immediately after World War II (Lerner & Lasswell 1951). The present discussion is concerned with the professional problems of the policy scientists, who in our civilization are recruited from legal, historical, social, biological, and physical sciences.

Goals. The value goals of policy scientists differ widely from one another. For many scholars, especially historians and social scientists, the primary lure is knowledge. They seek understanding of the spectacle of kings and presidents, ministers and generals, popes and prophets. Closely related to the pursuit of enlightenment is the desire to acquire, exercise, and achieve excellence in legal or other skills that are directly implicated in some phase of decision. When the value of greatest salience is power, scholars identify themselves with the ambitions of individuals, political parties, nation-states, or other participants in the internal or external arenas of politics. In many cases religious and ethical goals predominate, or perhaps specialists aspire to nothing more grandiose than a steady income, a respectable job, and a happy home life.

When a policy scientist deals systematically with value goals he meets two challenges: to justify (ground) his choices, and to specify abstract conceptions in operational terms. It is sometimes suggested that lacking value orientation, the individual must search for values. However, by the time anyone is mature enough to struggle with fundamental questions his predispositions have been shaped by years of exposure to the social environments of childhood, youth, and early adulthood. Since the problem is to clarify rather than to acquire value demands, the starting point is self-observation of conscious and unconscious value perspectives. In what sequence were they acquired? What factors of opportunity and capability help to explain why they were adopted? Can they be attributed to the influence of culture, class, interest, or personality?

Several methods of self-observation are available. There is, for example, the psychoanalytic technique of free association, and there are tests devised by social, clinical, and individual psychologists. Life history information can be obtained by interviewing kinfolk, friends, and acquaintances. The emerging self-image can be projected to the future as a means of judging the consequences of adhering to current preferences and volitions.

A value problem culminates in the comparison of alternative commitments in the social context. What “ought” one to want? The fundamental choice refers to the degree of value shaping and sharing. A policy scientist may commit himself to democracy, fraternity, and security, or he may support a social order in which power, wealth, and all other valued outcomes are in the hands of a self-perpetuating caste.

Value positions may be grounded empirically or transempirically. In the latter case the method may be theological or metaphysical. The fundamental propositions of the theological method assert: “God prefers value Y; I ought to prefer God’s will; I can know (or have faith in) God’s will in this matter; hence I prefer Y.” The metaphysical method is parallel: “Nature (or history) prefers value Y; I ought to prefer what nature (or history) prefers; I can know (or feel convinced of) the preferences of nature (or history) in this matter; hence I prefer Y.”

When value positions are grounded empirically, no attempt is made to justify the subjective event of commitment by a further subjective event of reference to theology or metaphysics. The pattern may be “I prefer Y” or “I prefer what he prefers, which is Y.” In the former case the ego assumes full responsibility; in the latter responsibility is masked.

Since evaluations cannot be eliminated, it is possible to modulate them only by methods that reduce arbitrariness and produce a relatively disciplined result. The policy scientist who applies a contextual approach forestalls arbitrary judgment. Arbitrariness is precluded by the use of principles that provide criteria for the content to be considered and propose an agenda for guiding attention to the discovery and assessment of appropriate content. Principles of content and procedure formulate strategies that render any initial value commitment subject to the discipline of suspended and tested judgment.

Policy scientists who are committed to the free man’s commonwealth find it difficult to believe that anyone who applies a fully contextual approach can stop short of making a similar commitment. It is particularly persuasive to emphasize that all members of the community are better off when everyone has an opportunity to develop latent talent, subject only to the limitations necessary to obviate destructive mutual interference. It must be conceded, however, that human judgments are infinitely diverse and only partially predictable.

A contemporary policy scientist who seeks to specify his preference for an abstraction such as human dignity finds that the task is somewhat lightened by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration is in harmony with the following definitions of value sharing: (1) shared power is authoritative and controlling participation in the making of important decisions; (2) shared enlightenment is access to the intelligence required for the discovery of common interest; (3) shared skill is opportunity to acquire, exercise, and achieve excellence in the arts, crafts, and professions; (4) shared wealth is access to the benefits of production; (5) shared well-being is enjoyment of safety, health, and comfort; (6) shared affection is enjoyment of congenial and intimate human relations and love of inclusive groups; (7) shared rectitude is a common demand to act responsibly on behalf of human dignity (McDougal et al. 1963).

Trends. An inclusive view of the role of policy scientists calls for an examination of the part they have played in history and in contemporary affairs. In some measure the importance of basing policy on knowledge has been recognized in every civilization. Confucius, the most influential thinker in Chinese history, spent a lifetime preparing himself and his students to answer a call that never came to him. The idea of a secular scholar-adviser was competitive with other advisers, especially with untrained kinsmen and friends, soldiers, magicians, and priests. The sayings attributed to Confucius gave prominence to three of the five intellectual tasks we have identified, since he dealt with the clarification of values, the examination of historical succession, and the analysis of conditioning factors. Confucius took note of local traditions and consulted historical records. In modern terms we can say that he engaged in field work and historical criticism.

Ancient Indian civilization gave prominence to teachers and advisers of the prince who were more concerned with the invention and weighing of strategic alternatives than with religion or magic. The writings of Kautilya, for example, are impressive demonstrations of objectivity in the critical evaluation of principles of efficient statecraft. They were designed to instruct the prince, and his advisers, in the management of all aspects of foreign and domestic affairs.

The world of Greece and Rome led to the exfoliation of intellectual tasks adapted to the city-state, to the confederation and the empire, and to citizen assemblies, senates, tyrannies, and autocracies. In the Roman and Byzantine empires the most distinctive intellectual figures were jurists. The roles of jurist and theologian were merged in Muslim countries.

The revival of learning in western Europe brought with it the renewal of scholarly proficiency in law, philosophy, medicine, and science; universities came into existence. Science depended upon academies, which eventually made peace with universities. Many scientists became official advisers and expert witnesses on the significance of the new knowledge for policy. With the recent rise of the social and behavioral sciences to supplement law and philosophy, new specializations are being developed in order to mediate between research workers and teachers, officials, or revolutionaries.

Conditions. What factors favor the rise of the policy sciences? The coming of urban civilization played a crucial part in the history of intellectuals. The urban division of labor introduced literacy and record keeping and favored new arts and sciences. As civilizations expanded in the sea of folk societies, institutions were adapted to the purposes of authority and control. Power passed from kinship to territorial units, a change that favored the impersonality of legislation, bureaucratization, and policy-oriented knowledge.

Although urban civilization arose before policy scientists existed in considerable numbers, many basic intellectual specializations—partly explicit in folk societies—were carried into the new environment. Since value goals were taken for granted in simpler communities, no provision was necessary for clarifying values. The older generation collectively performed the historical function. The earliest tendency to specialize had probably been linked with the interpretation of omens or with attempts to employ magical or religious rites as means of coercing the future to yield value indulgences. The early cave paintings of southern Europe and Africa, for instance, were evidently expected to influence the future in favor of good hunting. Side by side with coercive spells and related strategies were propitiatory rites that were probably assumed to establish necessary, if not sufficient, claims on transempirical forces or spirits to grant value indulgences, either by preventing losses or by bringing abundant food, health, successful childbirth, or security from enemies.

The approaches we have described were largely manipulative, rather than contemplative, since they were expected to compel or induce the future to gratify the value demands of groups or individuals. The origin of the contemplative frame of mind and the pursuit of enlightenment as an end in itself, a scope value, cannot be traced. It is probable that soothsayers and astrologers would foresee many occurrences that were expected to remain outside the realm of manipulation. We can also imagine that speculative minds devised images of man and nature that seemed credible, even when known techniques were unable to modify their traits.

Magicians or priests were ritualists whose principal reliance was exact repetition. Hence repetitive skill was a base for influencing all preferred events. The distinction between skill and enlightenment was latent in the difference between specific information closely related to circumscribed ends and comprehensive pictures of social and natural order.

In the context of urban life empirical observation gained importance. When any attempt at manipulation fell short of success some shadow of doubt was cast on fundamental assumptions, and the quest for better empirical information was enlivened. In many cultures the technique of discovery was highly internalized, since it was believed to depend on cultivating moments of illuminating contact with the transempirical. However, many empirical and relatively externalized methods were also used. Towers were built to observe the sky; the natural habitat was scoured to find unusual plants, animals, or inorganic objects; laboratories were constructed to assist in disclosing the inner working of substances.

Without pretending to isolate unvarying sequences, it is possible to identify several long-range trends that have been conditioned by the cumulative growth of civilizations. We can follow the rise of astronomy from astrology, of chemistry and physics from alchemy, of physicians from medicine men, and of the social, behavioral, and policy scientists from early practitioners of witchcraft, divination, and sorcery. Empirical methods improve; transempirical perspectives grow dim. The movement has been from the fear and propitiation of nature, or of individual and collective personifications, to universal religions and secular ideologies. Some secular myths appeal to faith in history or science or sources of absolute knowledge of coming events. The empirical techniques and the tentative perspectives of science are of relatively recent prominence or weight; they are incompatible with claims for absolute knowledge of the future, even in the name of science, since they put the accent on probability, not inevitability.

As the globe shrinks into interdependence, relying more fully on science and technology, the policy sciences gain significance. The scientific pattern, diffusing slowly through the world, is at last receiving detailed application to the policy process itself. Interdependence implies that every participant and every item in the social process is affected by the context in which it occurs and that the future structure of the context is in turn influenced by the changing pattern of detail. The growth of factual interdependence is followed, even when unanticipated, by subjective awareness of interdependence and by demands to obtain a more comprehensive and realistic map of the whole, a map capable of providing rational guidance for attempts to maximize values. The policy sciences play a part in the social process equivalent to the role of specialized channels of information in individual organisms. Besides ministering to the requirements of each cell, specialized channels integrate the total organism in the context of its environment.

Policy sciences spread as a function of perceived conflict, as when nations, classes, interests, and personalities are aware of crises where seemingly incompatible demands are put forward. During less critical phases there may be less attention to specialized advice.

Degrees of effective centralization and of autocracy or oligarchy influence the function of policy sciences. The decision makers of an autocratic or oligarchic body politic strive to maintain their position, especially if new, by editing the public map of reality and excluding competitive elements from access to information. Access is deliberately segmented so that comprehensive summaries and credible reports are restricted to the pinnacle elite. The media of public communication become ritualized and trivialized. Ritualization leads to the managing of news to provide parables of confirmation for the established ideology; trivialization is accomplished by omitting realistic images of the whole and by playing up news and comment whose relevance to serious decision is marginal.

In such a body politic those who are skilled in inquiry are pushed to one side by dogmatists. The technique of the dogmatist is to reaffirm the full truth of selected doctrinal propositions. Hence if public policy culminates in military defeat, the responsibility may be alleged to lie not with the doctrine but with false interpreters. Inquiring minds are discouraged, since able people must devote time and ingenuity to demonstrating that empirical facts, estimates, and analyses confirm the basic dogma.

The avenues to power in a centralized autocracy or oligarchy put premiums on the arts and crafts of the political police, who monopolize or fabricate the information on which estimates of loyalty and capability are based. Indoctrination is carried on in an intimidating context. However, the elite of a body politic of this type suspects that subversive thoughts and impulses lurk behind any faÇade of seeming acceptance. Hence the use of physical means of ensuring conformity is both attractive and widespread. Among the oldest physical strategies is insistence that activity be incessant and observable; hence there is the compulsion to apply programs of supervised work and play. A related strategy favors extremes of physical mobility or immobility, the former being exemplified in the mixing of strangers in mass undertakings, the latter in the prohibition of unapproved and unsupervised travel or change of residence. As modern science and technology expand, they are likely to put ever more sophisticated physical instruments of compliance in the hands of political elites—such devices for the invasion of privacy as secret electronic equipment or narcosynthesis.

In large bodies politic where power is rather widely shared, the policy sciences are as diverse as are the public orders themselves. Every decision-Making organ usually finds it expedient to obtain expert advice. Hence all structures of government from the world community to a locality tend to draw on trained policy specialists. Political parties, pressure groups, and other voluntary associations develop administrative services and a brain trust.

An autocratic or oligarchic elite that depends on science and technology finds that it must engage in a continuing struggle against the liberating consequences of freedom to theorize and observe, which are built-in threats to an established myth.

Projection. It is possible to estimate our position in the past, present, and future of world politics with the aid of “developmental constructs” (Lasswell 1935). The first step is to characterize in provisional fashion the most important political patterns at a recent cross section and to imagine a similar slice through the immediate or more remote future. The best publicized approximation to a developmental construct is the Marx–Engels image of our epoch as in transition between capitalism and socialism. The sequence is alleged to move from the primacy of the bourgeois class to the classless society (via the proletarian society).

The Marxist model is not, however, a true developmental construct, since it is put forward in the name of the inevitability that is alleged to be justified by scientific knowledge. A true construct makes no claim to the status of a scientific proposition, since it puts forward no generalized hypothesis about invariant relations among basic factors. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to assert that developmental constructs are undisciplined by historical and scientific knowledge. For instance, they are influenced by the extrapolation of trend curves into the future. Such extrapolations often show when and where conflicting lines of development are likely to collide. In attempts to estimate the probable result of collision, the existing stock of quantified scientific knowledge is brought to bear on the variables involved. When quantified knowledge is exhausted it is acceptable to use with appropriate reserve less-organized information from expert sources.

Developmental constructs can be employed as a means of directing critical attention to any significant feature of the social process. We referred above to a class construct, and suggestive models have dealt with cultures, interests, forms of personality, and ideological or organizational components of institutions.

Because our present concern is with policy scientists, we briefly present a model that sets forth the role of intellectuals in the world context. The construct proposes that a distinctive political change in our epoch is the rise of the intellectual class to power—more specifically, the permanent revolution of modernizing intellectuals (Lasswell 1965). Relying upon knowledge as their base value, intellectuals express and manipulate the aspirations and dissatisfactions of other elements of society. In the last century one section of the intellectual class began to specialize in organizing the dissatisfactions of peasants and factory workers in the name of proletarian socialism. A subsection of this group seized power in Moscow in 1917 and liquidated both the caste system based on land and the rising business class. Another subsection seized power in Germany (in 1933) in the name of national racist socialism and installed a bureaucratic garrison-police state. In Japan the officers’ corps and small groups of conspirative agitators reacted against the parliamentary institutions borrowed from western Europe and took power (in 1931 and after). In advanced industrial and democratic countries the intellectual classes have been less seriously provoked to revolutionary violence by lack of upward mobility in the social system since they have been able to advance through the institutions of a nonhierarchized society, specializing in propaganda, diplomacy, administration, engineering, and related skills. In countries of former colonial and nonindustrial culture the political initiative most obviously lies in the hands of party agitators, mass party organizers, officials, military, police, and engineers.

The persons who seize or exercise power are not necessarily recruited from among policy scientists. But they must rely on policy scientists to cope with the complexities of large-scale modern civilization. The study of decision making has been facilitated by modern social and behavioral sciences and by several branches of mathematics, physics, and engineering, particularly the specialties connected with communication. The use of the propaganda instrument has been affected by the research and advice of political scientists and social psychologists, as well as by students of journalism, advertising, and marketing. Decision analysis owes much to the mathematics and statistics of probability, to industrial management, and to the political and administrative sciences. The fundamental analysis of culture and personality—pioneered by anthropologists, psychiatrists, and specialists on child development—has deepened and widened the relevant map of knowledge.

As the physical and biological sciences become more diversified and important, self-appointed specialists act as mediators between colleagues of the field, the library, or the laboratory, on the one hand, and the final decision makers of government, business, and other institutions, on the other.

If the conditions suitable to democracy are not realized, power will eventually be concentrated in an elite class (eventually a caste) of intellectuals who constitute a ruling oligarchy. In addition to using communicative skills for purposes of indoctrination, they can be expected to adapt medical skills to check on loyalty and inculcate obedience. Not the whole intellectual class but an oligarchical segment can be expected to rise to a dominant position under these circumstances.

Alternatives. What strategies are open to policy scientists to improve their effective role in decision? As a means of limiting the scope of the present discussion, we emphasize the problems of policy scientists who identify themselves with realizing the goals of human dignity on the widest possible scale.

Gathering intelligence. A major requirement is an open network of intelligence that supplies the data from which a realistic and comprehensive map of the whole can be kept current (Lasswell 1963). Existing institutions survey selected features of the social process on a global or more limited scale; the coverage and technique of these institutions can be improved.

Inclusive surveys of voting or fighting, for example, need to be put in a deeper context of conditioning factors by mobilizing more intensive techniques of investigation. Prolonged interviews with representative samples of culture, class, interest, and personality groupings, for instance, disclose the changing directions and intensities of internal conflict, often unconscious, which are invaluable in estimating future political developments.

The microstructure of variables can be examined by experimental methods in laboratory situations. New variables may be brought into view, new theoretical models verified, and new procedures of measurement and manipulation invented and tested. When new measurement methods are simplified for application in inclusive surveys, the yield from intelligence institutions is improved.

The strategy of prototyping introduces innovations in social institutions. The practices are not broken up into the many variables appropriate to a laboratory experiment, since the main object is to weigh the role of the practice as a whole in relation to other practices in the social process. Prototyping requires the choice of situations that are sheltered from the stress and strain of major political arenas. Opportunity is needed to develop a group whose members are intellectually committed to the innovation and whose character systems enable them to live up to their professed perspectives. Prototypes of power sharing, for example, can be explored in remote provinces or in pluralistic associations.

When prototypes have operated effectively in test situations, it is appropriate for the results to be made known and for changes to be introduced by public authority. This is the strategy of intervention which, unlike prototyping, is not typically controlled by scientists who are free to devote themselves mainly to the advancement of knowledge.

Taken together, the strategies of surveying, experimentation, prototyping, and intervention strengthen one another and improve the intelligence or appraisal operation of which they are part. The correlations among the data obtained by survey methods often point to factors whose impact can be studied more intensively under experimental conditions. Prototyping brings into the open the characteristic cluster of predisposing factors current in a particular situation and draws attention to the problem of improved analysis and control. The intelligence network appropriate to the policy scientist needs to identify and describe predispositions on a global scale. With such knowledge at his disposal a policy scientist is able to estimate the probable impact of any combination of environing factors upon each cluster of predisposition.

Presenting information. Special methods are essential to permit the policy scientist to cope with the enormous load of information relevant to his contextual task. Modern technology is making available procedures of micromodeling that can be used to prepare concise, representative, and realistic summaries of the social process of the world community or of any component context. Audio-visual devices supplement print; they can be mobilized in chart, map, and model rooms for purposes of research, instruction, and consultation.

Haphazard use of audio-visual aids is not an efficient application of these instruments. A “decision seminar” is necessary to provide continuity and organization. When first introduced, each item needs to be evaluated by seminar members with respect to reliability and relevance. Material that gains acceptance is assigned to the wall space allocated to the feature of the social process it best represents. The exhibits provide an auxiliary brain, supplementing and guiding individual storage and recall. Surrounded by selective representations of the entire relevant social context, seminar members are able to give methodical consideration to the relationship between each detail and selected goals, trends, conditions, projections, and alternatives.

If details are to be systematically compared with one another, it is necessary to describe them in categories that refer to a theoretical model of the whole social context (Lasswell & Kaplan 1950). Exhibit space is allocated to the social process under study, which may be world inclusive or a territorial or pluralistic component. Space is allocated to depicting the “participants” in the interaction, to the “outcomes” (values) that the participants seek to maximize, to “institutional practices” that are relatively specialized to each value, and to the “resource” setting involved. Value outcomes are culminating events in the unending flow of interaction. They can be described for convenience in a list of categories that is manageably short and that refers to the value-institution processes studied by political scientists, economists, and other specialists.

IIIustrations are provided of the events which are classifiable as value outcomes and which are referred to in appropriate chart, map, or model rooms. Votes and victories or defeats in combat are decisions (power outcomes) which are depicted during selected periods by charts which show the frequency of contested elections, for example, and maps which display the location and frequency of collective violence. Typical wealth outcomes are exchanges of claims to goods and services. In enlightenment outcomes, information is exchanged. The giving or receiving of physical or mental care comes within the scope of well-being. The interchange of intimacy and friendship is affection; of acts of recognition, respect. Evaluations of excellence are given at skill outcome phases. If evaluations are in terms of theology or ethics, rectitude is the value involved.

Outcome events are located in pre-outcome and post-outcome sequences. In portraying the power process, for example, we note the “participants,” such as nation-states who act upon one another. It is relevant to describe the “perspectives” of all participants, which are the subjective events of identification, demand, and expectation. Perspectives are integrated in myths, each of which is composed of doctrine, formula, and miranda. A world map of communism, for instance, may show the first appearance and the subsequent diffusion and restriction of Marxist doctrine. Maps of the legal systems of the globe show, among other patterns, the narrowing or enlarging shadow of Roman law. A map of the distribution of world heroes is evidence of unity (or disunity) of world miranda. When the level of interactions that involve power reaches a discernible minimum, an “arena” is created. In the case of a nation-state the arena is highly organized; not so the present arena of world politics. Participants in arenas use the assets (or “base values”) at their disposal by employing “strategies” to influence outcomes and effects. A comprehensive image of the social process depicts all values, not simply power, in terms of participants, perspectives, situations, base values, strategies, outcomes, and effects.

For the purpose of aggregate comparison, value shaping and sharing can be summed up in terms of “accumulation” and “enjoyment.” To some extent everyone participates in shaping power outcomes even though the most controlling and authoritative decisions may be dominantly shaped and shared by a small elite. We are accustomed to distinguishing between the production (shaping) of wealth and its distribution (sharing). Those who share any value may employ it for further shaping (accumulation) of the same value, or they may enjoy its use in obtaining other values. During any time period it is desirable to describe the “gross” outcome of any value that results from shaping activities and the “net” outcome, which deducts the quantity of the value depleted in the shaping process. Thus a chart of gross skill outcome during a period will show changes in the level of excellence; the net outcome deducts the outlay of skill in teaching. Similarly, gross enlightenment outcome is the flow of research and news reports; the net outcome deducts the losses of stored information. Besides the outcome figures it is important to summarize the aggregate accumulation of each value. National wealth, for example, is commonly depicted in terms of production factors, which are a nation’s predispositions and capabilities to produce. A rough depiction of the rectitude assets of a community shows the strength of predispositions to conform to standards of responsible conduct (conformities minus frequency of nonconformity). The measurement problems that arise in describing some values, such as power, wealth, and well-being, have been extensively considered in our civilization. The contextual approach of the policy scientist is bringing into the open neglected dimensions of affection, respect, rectitude, skill, and enlightenment.

For comparative purposes the outcome events relatively specialized to any value require separate consideration. Under penalty of severe deprivation, for example, some decisions limit access to particular intelligence reports. Other decisions involve the promotional activities of governments, political parties, or pressure associations. Some decisions lay down fundamental (constitutive) prescriptions in regard to power sharing. Decisions may provisionally invoke prescriptions in the act of characterizing concrete cases or make final application of prescriptions to particular circumstances. Decisions also provide appraisals of the degree to which policy objectives have been accomplished and perhaps terminate official prescriptions. Among the charts that summarize appraisal are reports of the case load handled by welfare agencies or the proportion of recidivists among convicted offenders. Any comprehensive presentation of a social context shows that each value outcome has its own relatively specialized intelligence, promoting, prescribing, invoking, applying, appraising, and terminating outcomes.

The distinction between conventional and functional usages is important in gathering and presenting all social data for policy analysis. The terms employed in any community are part of its conventions. Functional definitions, on the other hand, serve the purposes of scientific description and comparison. As a matter of technique in the conduct of field investigation, the observer begins by classifying situations according to the conventional usages that most closely approximate his functional categories. Thus, local usage may refer to various councils and assemblies as part of “government.” Scientific study of the values and institutions in a community may culminate in a reclassification of these councils and assemblies and in the identification of quite different structures as power institutions. A secret society, for instance, may make the controlling decisions, and research may reveal that this is generally expected to be the case and is accepted as authoritative. Hence public assemblies may be more significant for general information (enlightenment) than for power.

Recruiting policy scientists. Since the policy sciences specialize in the decision process and in assessing the significance of all knowledge for policy purposes, the range of potential recruitment is as wide as the intellectual class. At any stage in his career a specialist may choose to perform a mediating role between his particular group and the decision process of the larger community. In some cases a scientist or scholar may become aware of the fact that his work is largely administrative, perhaps as head of a department or laboratory. He may discover latent talent as a clarifier of technical information to nonspecialists or as a representative to the general public of scholars and scientists. The discovery of these roles may be gradual, perhaps beginning with a consultative contact with the officials of governments, parties, or pressure associations. If the original specialty is regarded as highly important for security purposes, the initial step may involve covert or overt intelligence agencies. Conflicting policy views may bring him into the arena of promotional activity, where he attempts to influence public demand. Legislative committees may invite consultation, and in exceptional instances the individual may take an official role in prescribing, invoking, applying, appraising, and terminating organs. An important part of the problem of the policy sciences is to provide supplementary orientation for a specialist who is beginning to concern himself with public affairs.

The chief obligation of the policy sciences relates to the decision process itself. At present the academic disciplines most immediately involved include political science, law, public administration, business management, political sociology, and contemporary political history. Graduate schools are only partly successful in providing fully contextual programs of preparation and in encouraging the use of available theoretical and procedural techniques of the social and behavioral sciences. Academic experience is being supplemented by internship programs that bring students into intimate contact with the decision process.

The training of policy scientists does not as yet include much systematic exposure to suitable opportunities for study of the self, nor are the contextual potentialities of the decision seminar fully used. During the years of active professional life there are insufficient opportunities to participate occasionally in advanced centers for inventing and evaluating policy in the light of new knowledge in every major field.

The importance of long-range and middle-range policy thinking is in harmony with present expectations that change will accelerate. One need consider only a few long-range possibilities to substantiate this point. Weapons of a novel kind lie close at hand, including bombs that paralyze temporarily without inflicting permanent damage. Teaching and research are already in active reconstruction as a result of new instruments of storage, retrieval, and instruction. Competent biologists foresee that the genetic inheritance of man can be deliberately modified. We are told that death itself may be abolished by the substitution of molecules as they wear out. Engineers expect to devise machines that simulate or improve on existing forms of life, including man. We are on the threshold of the astropolitical age, where we are learning to penetrate a new habitat that may eventually bring us in touch with other advanced forms of life. The possibility is not to be ruled out that new forms of energy, possibly parapsychic, will be uncovered.

Can policy scientists achieve and sustain a level of creativity commensurate with the threats and opportunities that face mankind? To a phenomenal extent the future of man is contingent on perfecting the permanent revolution of modernizing intellectuals—a revolution that is presently in the process of finding its distinctive aims and appropriate strategic instruments.

Harold D. Lasswell

[See alsoBehavioral sciences; Decision making; Political science; Political theory.]


Lasswell, Harold D. 1935 World Politics and Personal Insecurity. New York and London: McGraw-Hill.

Lasswell, Harold D. 1963 The Future of Political Science. New York: Atherton.

Lasswell, Harold D. 1965 The World Revolution of Our Time: A Framework for Basic Policy Research. Pages 29–96 in Harold D. Lasswell and Daniel Lerner (editors), World Revolutionary Elites: Studies in Coercive Ideological Movements. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press. → In six parts; parts 1–3 were first published in 1951.

Lasswell, Harold D.; and Kaplan, Abraham 1950 Power and Society: A Framework for Political Inquiry. Yale Law School Studies, Vol. 2. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1963.

Lerner, Daniel; and Lasswell, Harold D. (editors) 1951 The Policy Sciences: Recent Developments in Scope and Method. Stanford (Calif.) Univ. Press.

Mcdougal, Myres S.; Lasswell, Harold D.; and Vlasic, Ivan A. 1963 Law and Public Order in Space. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.

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