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Politics and Policymaking: In Search of Simplicity

Ira Sharkansky
Politics and Policymaking: In Search of Simplicity
ISBN: 978-1-58826-084-0
2002/211 pages/LC: 2002018874
Explorations in Public Policy

"The strengths of the book are rich description, insightful use of examples in Israel and the United States, and the bringing together of a disparate literature on simplifications in decision making.... Reveals [Sharkansky's] understanding of the policy process gained from years as an astute observer and participant."—Jack H. Knott, Perspectives on Politics

"Highly recommended."—Choice

"Sharkansky has produced a useful and perceptive book, examining the search for simplicity in politics, and providing an empirical challenge to those who argue that more information is always desirable. It is stimulating, informative, and a delight to read."—James Anderson


Social scientists have constructed elaborate theories involving policymakers as rational actors and purporting to predict and explain policy outcomes. In contrast, this provocative book paints a picture of policymakers who—coping with the uncertainty of constantly changing constraints—must simplify, taking shortcuts rather than surveying all of their options and pursuing carefully thought-out plans.

Sharkansky draws on wide-ranging examples to illustrate the conditions that make simplification the necessary constituent of political life, as well as the various ways in which policymakers navigate the maze of possibilities they confront. While acknowledging the shortcomings of the approach, he demonstrates that, considered in context, simplifications may in fact be more rational and effective than traditional rational models of decisionmaking.


Ira Sharkansky is professor of political science and public administration at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His numerous publications include Urban Politics and Public Policy and The Routines of Politics.


  • On Simplicity, Politics, and Policymaking.
  • The Mysteries of Agenda-Setting, Policymaking, and Implementation.
  • Organizations Designed Not To Be Governed.
  • Choosing Simple Solutions for the Problems of Politics and Policymaking.
  • Intelligence, Cunning, and Wisdom in Politics and Policymaking.