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How does morality influence drug policy? Analysing drug policy constellations in the UK

Stevens, Alex (2022) How does morality influence drug policy? Analysing drug policy constellations in the UK. In: 15th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, 22 November 2022, Lisbon. (Unpublished) (KAR id:97946)


Background: There is growing interest in how drug policy is not just a technocratic process of fittingmeans to politically agreed ends, but riven with normative conflict in which both aims and methods of policy are profoundly influenced by moral concerns.

Aim: This paper sets out to show how empirical analysis can throw light on the influence of moral positions through empirical operationalisation of a new theoretical perspective; the policy constellations approach.

Data: The data for analysis comes from drug policy discussions at UK level between 2015 and 2021. They are in the form of policy documents, discourse, and transcripts of 20 semi-structured interviews with policy actors.

Methods: Critical realist discourse analysis is used to identify policy positions, narrative tropes and factoids, and then analyse them to identify the moral influences on UK drug policy. The connections between 294 members of policy constellations (policy actors) and 157 policy positions they hold are then mapped using two-mode social network analysis (SNA).

Findings: Analysing the policy discourse reveals five underlying ethico-political bases that influence UK drug policy. They are: compassion, traditionalism, paternalism, progressive social justice, and liberty. The SNA confirms that this posited five-part structure of ethico-political bases succeeds in showing the influence of these bases on the pattern of connections between policy actors and positions.

Conclusion: A mixed methods analysis of policy discourses and networks that is informed by the policy constellations approach can contribute to the explanatory critique of policy making, and especially of the role of morality in this process.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Additional information: This paper is written in preparation for the book that I am writing for publication by Policy Press on 'Drug Policy Constellations'.
Uncontrolled keywords: drug policy; policy constellations; social network analysis; critical realism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
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: 13 Nov 2022 10:48 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2022 15:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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