Power, Politics And Policy: Creating, Deploying And Resisting Meaning In New Zealand Public Sport Policy
All policy involves the transmission of language and ideas and therefore power. Public sport and recreation policy, through which millions of tax dollars are allocated and which disseminates knowledge and understandings about sport and recreation, is one arena where power relations are constantly formed, reformed and challenged. To understand more about the exercise of power in New Zealand sport and recreation policy, this research examines the dissemination and challenge of policies written by Sparc (Sport and Recreation New Zealand), the organisation responsible for public sport and recreation policy in New Zealand. Three questions were used to understand the exercise of power in New Zealand public policy. These questions included: How is knowledge about sport and recreation produced and disseminated through public policy? How is ‘the truth’ about sport and recreation proclaimed and constructed in public policy? How can individuals affected by sport and recreation policy challenge existing relations of power? Theoretically, this research draws on Foucauldian conceptions about power, knowledge, truth and the self. Foucault argued that individuals and groups exercise power discursively, by promoting and deploying certain dominant discourses (or understandings) to the exclusion of other (subjugated) knowledges. As such, the way in which individuals within a society understand knowledge, truth and the self is governed by dominant discourses, and is continually formed discursively over time. Discourses are deployed through a variety of means, including the writing, implementation and resistance of public policy. Methodologically, the thesis merges Foucault’s archaeological and genealogical approaches to studying discourses. Further, it is guided by a critical discourse analysis, which enables the researcher to question the assumptions behind policy discourses. Data is gathered from various sources, including policy documents, public debate over policy, media articulations of policy and interviews with individuals involved in the writing and resistance of public policy. This research highlights four distinct practices (or techniques) that illustrate how power is exercised in public sport and recreation policy. These techniques include an analysis of bio-power, techniques used to analyse, control, and define the body; governmentality, which dictates the range of possible actions of individuals and citizens; games of truth, through which ‘the truth’ is part of a constant discursive debate; and parrhesia, a practice through which citizens can lessen the effect of dominant discourses on their lives. These practices are analysed through specific case studies within the discursive terrain of public sport and recreation policy. With each case study both theoretical considerations and practical suggestions for policy making are offered. Four findings are discussed. Firstly, public policy can discursively and problematically construct understandings of the world through policy goals and measurements. Secondly, the thesis suggests that while public sport and recreation policy is often defended by policy makers as scientific and rational, its writing and implementation is formed by a number of other understandings which cannot be reconciled with the espoused, positivist logic. Thirdly, the thesis suggests that because policy writing is an ongoing process, and because of changing social conditions, ‘the truth’ about particular policies is also susceptible to change. Fourthly, despite protestors of public policy often believing their resistance is in vain, this study suggests that their efforts do appear to influence the subsequent writing of policy. The research concludes with reflections about the problematic discursive effects of public policy as well as a consideration of the potential for groups and individuals to challenge or resist understandings about sport and recreation which they do not agree with. In turn, it offers recommendations about the future development of sport public policy, as well as a reflection of this particular type of research approach used. Finally, using this research as a pivot point, sites for future research are considered. In particular, an examination of the effect of public policy on individuals’ lived experiences (as distinct from communities or nations) might be of interest, as would an investigation of effects of global discourses about sport, recreation and physical activity on national public policy.
Advisor: Jackson, S; Lewis, M
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: School of Physical Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: sport; policy; physical activity; discourse analysis; health promotion; Foucault; governmentality
Research Type: Thesis