The role of national culture in shaping public policy: a review of the literature

Author name: 
Dr Katherine A Daniell

Approaches that national governments and other stakeholders take to addressing key public policy challenges—such as managing water, food, infrastructure, health, education, social welfare, economic development, the environment, international relations, security, and governance systems—can vary markedly between countries and regions too. Cultural factors influence economic behaviour, political participation, social solidarity and value formation and evolution, which are closely linked to how and why public policies are developed in different ways in different countries.

This review highlights the use of example analytics for understanding the shaping of public policy processes through two case studies on: the use of national culture orientations for understanding public participation differences in public policy and the potential for procedural transfer between countries (including water policy); and using cultural theory for comparative analysis of policy narratives and problem structuring for different issues (including waste management).

The author finds there is much potential for developing a more in-depth understanding of national cultures and the impacts that cultural orientations or biases have on the development of public policy within countries and on policy transfer between countries and, more generally, there is a need for a ‘cultural turn’ in public policy to lead to the development of more culturally-aware public policy both in Australia and internationally.

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