The Wickedness of Rittel and Webber’s Dilemmas

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Rittel and Webber connected their notion of “wicked problems” to three fundamental planning dilemmas. Many approaches within public administration theory have explicitly addressed wicked problems yet hardly paid attention to the dilemmas. We revisit the planning dilemmas to find out their potential relevance for current administration theory and practice. We argue that the dilemmas evolve out of the current institutional setup, meaning that wicked problems cannot be resolved by better administrative frameworks or methods. Rather societal matters are to be included in decision-making, for instance, by seeing societal opposition as opportunities to learn to deal with the planning dilemmas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-979
Number of pages20
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • dilemmas
  • normativity
  • plurality
  • wicked problems

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