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Drug Policy Constellations: The Role of Power and Morality in the Making of Drug Policy in the UK

Stevens, Alex (2024) Drug Policy Constellations: The Role of Power and Morality in the Making of Drug Policy in the UK. Bristol University Press, Bristol, 192 pp. ISBN 978-1-5292-3132-8. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:102507)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
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This book presents a new framework for analysing the making of policy - the drug policy constellations approach - and applies it to the critical explanation of drug policy processes in the UK. The main argument of the book is that drug policy in the UK is based on various forms of power and morality, not the rational use of evidence.

The book starts by introducing its key ideas. Part 1 sets the scene. In this Part, Chapter 2 describes the facts and narratives of the drug policy field in the UK. Chapter 3 explores the theoretical concepts of power and morality that can be used to explain policy making. Chapter 4 presents this policy constellations approach as a critical realist theory. The approach shows how sets of policy actors gravitate together around shared policy positions which are rooted in underlying ethico-political bases. It is the loosely concerted actions of these constellations, and their attraction and repulsion from each other, which explains the outcomes of policy processes. Chapter 5 describes the mixed methods of documentary analysis, elite interviews, and social network analysis that make these bases and actions visible.

Part 2 applies these concepts to the analysis of drug policy making at the UK level. Chapter 6 uses ethnography and discourse analysis to identify and describe five main ethico-political bases of drug policy making in the UK. These are compassion, traditionalism, paternalism, progressive social justice, and liberty. Chapter 7 uses two-mode social network analysis to create sociograms; maps of the connections between policy actors and policy positions. These show three main policy constellations in UK drug policy making; the conservative, public health, and reform constellations. Chapter 8 discusses the forms of power that are deployed by these constellations in pursuit of their policy goals. The include institutional power, as well as various forms of social power, including economic, media, epistemic, affective, and savvy social power. Institutional power in UK drug policy is held by actors in the overlap between conservative and public health constellations. This is the medico-penal constellation, which has dominated UK drug policy making since it began.

Part 3 provides critical explanations of three cases in drug policy making in the UK. Chapter 9 explains the legalisation of cannabis for medical use as an exercise in political cornering, and why access to medical cannabis is still so limited. Chapter 10 explains differences in policy responses to the crisis of drug-related death between the UK and Scottish levels of policy making. For Scotland, it shows the greater influence of ethical socialism, and the presence of two main policy constellations; the abstinence and reform constellations. Chapter 11 provides a critical explanation of the surprising outcome of the UK’s 2021 drug strategy, and its devotion of over half a billion pounds to funding drug treatment in England.

Chapter 12 provides a final, retroductive conclusion, including ten propositions of the policy constellations approach. These will help explain the outcomes of policy processes in UK drug policy and in other places and policy fields.

Item Type: Book
Uncontrolled keywords: Drug Policy, Power, Morality, Critical realism
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
J Political Science > JF Political institutions and public administration
K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Alex Stevens
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2023 09:15 UTC
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2024 09:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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