Policy is often defined in the literature on policy analysis as the output of processes in which governmental institutions plan, formulate, adopt, implement and evaluate interventions aimed at addressing those problems that political actors have defined as relevant in specific social contexts (Dye 1972; Hogwood and Gunn 1984; Anderson 2006; Lombardo, Meier and Verloo 2013). Gender equality policies, for example, are generally put into place with the aim of making the economy, society and politics more equal. This definition of policies, while helpful in many ways, makes them sound as if policy problems were objectively discovered ‘out there’ and the role of policy solutions were simply to fix them (Allison 1971; Bacchi 1999). Policy scholars, and not only from gender perspectives, have long challenged this premise and proposed constructivist approaches to policy analysis. These suggest that public policies are social constructions that reflect subjects’ ideas, norms and values about what a problem is, and what solutions are offered to the problem (Allison 1971; Elder and Cobb 1984; Bacchi 1999). It is not the same, for instance, when policies talk about the problem of ‘reconciliation of work and family life’ or about the problem of ‘equal sharing of care responsibilities’ (Peterson 2013). Policy itself produces biases and power relations, and the literature on policy analysis is aware of this (Hogwood and Gunn 1984: 119).
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