Peter John sums up


in Geek stuff, Politics

“A synthetic approach implies there are multiple causes of policy change and variation. Accounts that rely on one process to explain why decision making takes a particular course are too narrow and relegate other factors to some dominant principle. The common view of contemporary social scientists is that there is no one general principle governing social and political life. Instead, social scientists need to make sense of the complexity, variation, and changeability of the empirical world, which is constituted by conflicting ideas. As such, theories of policy variation and change must incorporate and account for continuous change and adoption. It is not possible to say that only institutions count, or that social and political phenomena can be reduced to economic drivers. Policy outputs and outcomes are the result of a confluence of the five processes [institutions, groups, exogenous factors, rational actors, and ideas] that the book outlines in chapters 3 to 7.

There are three sets of authors who try to synthesize these factors. They are Sabatier (policy advocacy coalition theory), Kingdon (the policy streams approach), and Baumgartner and Jones (the punctuated equilibrium model). The first seeks to combine ideas and networks in public policy, where policy subsystems are driven and sometimes fractured by large socioeconomic or external events. The second is based on the continual interplay of problems, solutions, and policies in the garbage can model of policy choice. The third is a model of agenda setting, seeking to describe how agendas and policies move fro periods of high stability to times of rapid change and fluidity. All three models are contemporary because they place ideas at the center of their analysis. The time when writers believed that only interests drive public policy is now over. Conceptions, discourse, beliefs, and norms define the process of policy making. Yet unlike some of the ideational theories described in chapter 7, Sabatier, Kingdon, and Baumgartner and Jones seek to place ideas with the complex interplay of individual choice, networks, institutions, and socioeconomic changes. Thus each framework has all these elements.

In keeping with the critical approach of this book, none of these authors quite succeeds in creating a theory of public policy. For all the role of knowledge and advocacy in Sabatier’s approach, the policy advocacy coalition framework is too static, as it is driven by outside events. Kingdon’s approach is highly attractive, but it relies too much on change and fluidity. Baumgartner and Jones neatly contrast stability and instability in the account of policy making over time, but in the end it is not entirely clear that they explain the transition between stability and change and back again.”

John, Peter. Analyzing Public Policy: Second Edition. 2012. p. 176 (hardcover)

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. August 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

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