Varieties of Risk Analysis in Public Administrations: Problem-Solving and Polity Policies in Europe

On 10 March, we welcome Regine Paul (Kassel University/Bielefeld University) to SKAPE as part of our annual seminar series.


With the EU Commission’s “Corona risk maps” analytical tools gained unusual publicity in 2020. Brussels’ common risk-analytical model for the governance of mobility restrictions in a global pandemic joins a wider, often quieter, rise of risk analysis across Europe. And yet, in a widely scattered interdisciplinary research landscape, the appeal of analytical tools in public administrations remains a matter of controversy. Are Corona risk maps merely meant to engender more effective COVID-19 governance in Europe or do they also stage the Commission as a more relevant decision-maker vis-à-vis member states and municipal public health actors?

This book, situated in critical and interpretive policy analysis methodology, innovates respective debates in three ways. First, it offers a three-fold typology of actors’ supportive interpretations of analytical tools as instrumental problem-solving, legitimacy-seeking, and power-seeking. It conceptualizes the latter two as polity policies with actors seeking to confirm or rework decision- making structures. Based on a cross-fertilization of policy studies with insights from risk regulation studies and the political sociology of quantification, I operationalize the typology for risk analysis. Second, the book explores the allures of risk analysis in decision-making contexts other than the much-debated Anglo-American forerunners. I theorize how executive fragmentation and the multiplication of coordination requirements – typical for the EU setting – nourish actors’ appreciation of analytical tools in distinct, so far rather undervalued, ways. Third, I scrutinize varieties of risk analysis across three risk-heavy policy domains in Germany’s multi-level administration (including the EU level). The comparative analysis reveals how actors’ perceptions of risk analysis as enabler of coordinated problem-solving and weapon in multi-levelled struggles over polity policies interact, how such interpretive patterns materialize in contextualized and selective ways, and how they can stabilize or transform decision-making in the multi-level setting.

This book will be of key interest to policy analysts and risk analysts, and scholars in the fields of policy studies, comparative public administration, comparative public policy governance, multi- level governance, EU studies, risk analysis, policy evaluation, but also the sociology and history of quantification.

In my talk at SKAPE/Edinburgh University I will introduce the book’s conceptual framework. I will illustrate the wider purchase of the book’s arguments about how context shapes varied appeals and uses of risk analysis – as problem- solving and polity policies – with examples from the EU’s, the UK’s, and Germany’s COVID-19 governance.

The seminar will take place online via Zoom (for link details, please email the Co-Directors – if you are already a member/associate member of SKAPE, then you will receive a Zoom link two days before the start of the event).


Mar 10 2021


11:30 am - 12:30 pm


Online - Zoom