Much post-positivist policy theory implies that positivism exists as a self-protecting paradigm. Inspired by a one-sided reading of Kuhn, this understanding suggests that policy positivism must be overcome as a whole. This approach is problematic. In particular, there are important contradictions between various elements commonly said to be part of the positivist paradigm, contradictions that make it difficult to believe that the paradigm can be embraced as a whole. An alternative approach views positivism as a culture. Since components of any culture can evolve independently of each other, a cultural approach would focus its critique on specific dimensions of positivism. This approach would provide more rigor to policy critique, and push post-positivists to overcome weaknesses in their own theories, in particular those concerning the question of truth.

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Keywords Fischer, Hawkesworth, Kuhn, paradigms, positivism, post-positivism
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Journal Policy Studies
Ryan, P. (2015). Positivism: paradigm or culture?. Policy Studies, 36(4), 417–433. doi:10.1080/01442872.2015.1073246