This book is in essence concerned with the quest for rationality in decision-making, and is founded on the premise that improvements in the machinery of decision-making can actually lead to better decisions. The numerous initiatives of the 1960s and 1970s established specifically to foster greater policy coordination (notably the Central Policy Review Staff or 'Think Tank') had, by the beginning of the 1980s, fallen foul of an altogether changed political climate, in which policy formation was increasingly determined by the pressures of the marketplace, rather than by the pursuit of rationally-determined consensual goals. Paradoxically, however, this process has led, in turn, to renewed interest in the possibilities of interdepartmental policy coordination, at both centre and periphery, and in Joint Approaches to Social Policy the authors seek to provide a clear understanding of what the reality, rather than the rhetoric, of policy coordination actually entails. They endeavour to familiarise policy-makers at all levels with the basic conceptual tools necessary for successful policy coordination.
A research project which began almost as an elegy for a vanished world of consensual, rational decision-making, has thus become, albeit in very different circumstances, a manual for effective policy coordination in the 1980s.