Form follows function in evidence-based public policy: the pragmatic alternative to the positivist orthodoxy

Pablo Garcés

Abstract


For quite some time now there has been a push for more evidence-based public policy. The premise has been that policies informed by reliable data and analysis will achieve their expected results. In great measure, this demand has been answered by evidence built on the dominant approach in science: «positivism». In this paper, it is argued that positivism has important shortcomings which make it detrimental to that project. Thus, it makes the case for pragmatism as a plausible alternative. The argument departs from the philosophy of science, establishing the principles underlining each approach and then elaborates how they translate to the production and evaluation of evidence. The abandonment of the positivist pursuit of certainty for a pragmatic recognition of the plurality of human experience and the diversity of contexts allows to set a clearer scope for the use of evidence, potentially enhancing the effectiveness of policies based on it.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26754/ojs_ried/ijds.310

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