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Chapter 8

Developing Policy Arguments

Learning Objectives
 Understand the origins of argumentation analysis as an
approach to policy
 Describe elements of the structural model of argument
 Contrast types of policy claims
 Explain the dynamics of policy argumentation
 Distinguish different modes of policy argumentation
 Identify formal and informal fallacies of reasoning
 Apply methods of argumentation analysis to a case of
intervention in the Balkans
 Historical origins in Aristotle’s Rhetoric and
Thucydides’ Melian Dialogues
 Modern development in Stephen Toulmin’s The Place
of Reason in Ethics (1948) and The Uses of
Argument (1958)
 Toulmin’s structural model of argument and his theory
of practical reasoning are highly influential
 The “argumentative turn” in policy studies represents
a shift from formal to practical reasoning, and a
movement from the idea of “proof” to that of
 Argumentation analysis has been used to expose the
misuse of language in political ideologies and in the
social and behavioral sciences.
 Policy analysts in universities and in corporations and
government departments have been influenced by the
structural model of argument.
 The use of argumentation analysis is a reaction to
“logical positivism” and notions that quantification is
an ideal language, pure objectivity is an attainable
goal, and science is value free.
 The main purpose of argumentation analysis is to
fight dogma, facilitate open, critical discourse, and
protect democratic institutions now threatened by the
“scientization” of policy.
The Six Elements of the
Structural Model of Argument
 [I]nformation: Is the information relevant to the issue and does
it provide grounds for the claim?
 [C]laim: What conclusion or recommendation can we reach on
the basis of the information?
 [Q]ualifier: How plausible or true is the claim?
 [W]arrant: What assumptions or arguments justify moving from
information to claim?
 [B]acking: What additional assumptions or arguments
establish the truth or plausibility of the warrant?
 [R]ebuttal: Are there special circumstances or conditions that
weaken Q by challenging the plausibility of W, B, or I?
Structure and Dynamics of Argumentation
Types of Policy Claims

 Designative (“The end of the Cold War was due to

President Reagan’s ‘get tough’ policy with the Soviet
 Evaluative (“The distribution of income has become
more and more inequitable. This is unjust”)
 Advocative (“We recommend that the Department of
Health and Human Services oversee the
implementation of universal health care.”)
Modes of Policy Argument

 Authority  Motivation
 Method  Intuition
 Generalization  Analogy-metaphor
 Classification  Parallel case
 Cause  Ethics
 Sign
Argumentation from Authority
Reasoning is based on warrants having to
do with the achieved or ascribed statuses
of producers of knowledge. For example:
experts, insiders, scientists, consultants,
gurus, power brokers. Footnotes and references
are authoritative arguments.
(“The National Academy of Sciences
concluded that the temperature of the earth
will increase by 1 degree F. every 11 years.”)
Argumentation from Authority
Argumentation from Method

Reasoning is based on warrants about the

status of methods used to produce knowledge.
The focus is on the status or “power” or
“robustness” of methods or their results, rather
than authoritative persons. Examples include
statistical, econometric, qualitative, and
ethnographic methods.
Argumentation from Method
Argumentation from Generalization
Reasoning is based on similarities between
samples and populations, or on qualitative
comparisons. The assumption is that what is
true of members of a sample will also be true of
members of the population not included in the
sample. Example: Random samples of n  30
are taken to be representative of the unobserved
(and often unobservable) population from which
the sample is drawn.
Argumentation from Generalization
Argumentation from Classification
Reasoning has to do with membership in a
defined class. The reasoning is that what is true
of the class of persons or events described in
the warrant is also members of the class.
Example: The ideological argument that
because a country has a socialist economy, it
must be undemocratic, because all socialist
systems are undemocratic.
Argumentation from Classification
Argumentation from Cause
Reasoning is about generative powers
("causes") and their consequences ("effects").
Claims are based on social or economic laws
stating or implying invariant relations between
causes and effects, or on observations that a
policy always has a certain effect. Most
argumentation in the social and natural sciences
is based on reasoning from cause. Example:
“Privatization improves governmental efficiency.”
Argumentation from Cause
Argumentation from Sign
Reasoning is based on signs, or indicators. The
presence of a sign indicates the presence of an
event, because the sign and what it refers to
occur together. Examples: Indicators of
institutional performance such as “organizational
report cards,” “best practices,” “benchmarks,” or
indicators of economic performance such as
“leading economic indicators”—they are
sometimes used as causes. But indicators are
not causes, because causality must satisfy
requirements not expected of signs.
Argumentation from Sign
Argumentation from Motivation
Reasoning is based on the motivating
power of goals, values, or intentions in
shaping behavior. Example: A claim that
citizens will support the strict enforcement
of pollution standards is based on
reasoning that, since citizens are
motivated by the desire to achieve the
goal of clean air and water, they will act to
offer their support.
Argumentation from Motivation
Argumentation from Intuition

Reasoning is based on the conscious or

preconscious cognitive, emotional, or
spiritual states of producers of knowledge.
Example: The awareness that an advisor
has some special insight, feeling, or "tacit
knowledge" may serve as a reason to
accept his judgment.
Argumentation from Analogy-Metaphor
Reasoning is based on similarities between the
relations found in a given case and the relations
described in a metaphor or analogy. Example: The
claim that a government should “quarantine” a
country by interdicting illegal drugs—with the illegal
drugs seen as an “infectious disease”—is based on
reasoning that, since quarantine has been effective
in cases of infectious diseases, interdiction will be
effective in the case of illegal drugs. “Garbage cans,”
“primeval policy soups.”
Argumentation from Analogy-Metaphor
Argumentation from Parallel Case

Reasoning is based on similarities among two or

more policies. Example: A local government
should adopt a particular tax code, because a
parallel policy was successfully implemented
under similar conditions in another country.
Argumentation from Parallel Case
Argumentation from Ethics
Reasoning is based on the rightness or
wrongness, goodness or badness, of policies or
their consequences. Claims may be based on
moral principles of a “just” or “good” society, or on
ethical norms prohibiting lying in public life. Many
arguments about economic benefits and costs
involve unstated or implicit ethical reasoning.
Example: “A just social state is one in which one
person is better off and no one is worse off; or the
winners can compensate the losers, at least in
Argumentation from Ethics