Fall 2017 - 61015 - PA 392C - Theories of Public Policy

Theory and Philosophy of Public Policy I


PA392C (60855)  

Fall 2017

LBJ School of Public Affairs

Dr. Victoria E. Rodríguez

Office hours Tue and Thur 2-4 and by appointment

SRH 3.228, Phone 512.475.8620



This is the first part of a two-course series designed to explore the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of politics and public policy and to serve as a foundation for understanding the broad theories that have influenced the policy sciences and academic policy research. Its principal aim is to provide a set of tools for understanding and analyzing the policymaking process by assessing the development of the theory and philosophy of public policy. The focus of the course will be on broad frameworks to help students better understand different perspectives on academic policy research and the role of policy analysis in a democratic society. 

As a requirement in our Ph.D. program, this part of the course is designed to provide an overview of major theories and problems in contemporary public policy from a variety of academic disciplines, as well as to search for a unique policy theory.  Public policy is also an applied field. We will evaluate the combination of theory and practice in policy analysis and research design, assessing simultaneously the creation and function of institutions, the role of official and unofficial actors in the policymaking process, and the impact of policy on a variety of constituencies, seen through the lens of democratic theory and the relations between state and society. 

Given that this is the first year of a rather unconventional presidential administration, we will have ample opportunity to apply concepts and theories of democracy and policy analysis in a real-life stage. Ultimately, the key objective of the class is to provide a strong theoretical foundation that will prepare students to design and conduct their own policy research in a way that is theoretically and empirically rigorous.

Requirements and Expectations

The reading list for the course will serve as a basis for preparing students for Ph.D. qualifying examinations in the LBJ School. Students are also expected to do additional reading on their own in preparation for the exams and are strongly encouraged to seek additional journal articles, books or other materials of interest and share them with the class. It is the best way for all of us to keep abreast of developments in the field. 

The required readings will serve as the basis for our weekly seminar discussions, complemented with those presented by students. In selected weeks, a student will be responsible for summarizing, analyzing, critiquing and presenting to the rest of the class a book of his or her choice that is considered a “classic” in the field. The student will incorporate the book into that week’s readings and will co-lead the discussion with the instructor. 


Grading will be based on students’ participation in class discussions and general contribution to the class (30%); the summaries/analyses/critiques presented to the class (10%); several weekly short papers (30%); a final exam (20%); and the preparation and design of a course syllabus for an undergraduate introductory class in public policy (10%).  These syllabi will be presented to the class in the final session.


All reading materials assigned will be available in electronic or library reserves. Journal articles and book chapters will be posted in your Canvas week modules. In every week’s assignments you will also find additional readings that are not required but are recommended if you wish to read more broadly on a given topic. A selected list of books will be on reserve at the Benson Latin American Collection library. 


Stella Theodoulou and Matthew Cahn, eds., Public Policy. The Essential Readings. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995

Daniel McCool, ed., Public Policy Theories, Models and Concepts: An Anthology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1995

Jay M. Shafritz and Albert C, Hyde, eds., Classics of Public Administration

Peter deLeon, Democracy and the Policy Sciences. SUNY, 1997

William Ebenstein and Alan O. Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present

David Robertson and Dennis Judd, The Development of American Public Policy

Hanna Pitkin, The Concept of Representation.

Ronald J. Tercheck and Thomas C. Conte, eds., Theories of Democracy. A Reader, 2001. 

Deborah Stone (2011). Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making.

Ralph D. Ellis (1998). Just Results: Ethical Foundations for Policy Analysis.

Mancur Olson (1965). The Logic of Collective Action.



SRH 3.220

Final Exam Date: 

Thursday, Dec 14, 2017

Final Exam Location: 

SRH 3.220