Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing
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Handbook on Policy, Process and Governing

Edited by H. K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe

This Handbook covers the accounts, by practitioners and observers, of the ways in which policy is formed around problems, how these problems are recognized and understood, and how diverse participants come to be involved in addressing them. H.K. Colebatch and Robert Hoppe draw together a range of original contributions from experts in the field to illuminate the ways in which policies are formed and how they shape the process of governing.
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Chapter 23: Choice v. incrementalism

Robert Hoppe


This chapter traces how scholars have moved from theories of policymaking as decision based on systematic choice to incrementalism, and from there to post-incrementalism. First, the tension between policymaking as decision/choice for a single decisionmaker and as incrementalist heuristics in a multi-actor political arena is spelled out. Next, the chapter turns to works that have amended incrementalism to account for longer-term nonincremental change. Subsequently, it discusses “neo-incrementalist” successors to incrementalist policy design heuristics. After dealing with the shift from an optimistic view of incrementalism as embodying “the intelligence of democracy” to a tragic view of policymaking as a “troubled attempt to understand and shape society”, the final section turns to the still contentious issue of limits to responsible policy change under democratic governance, especially under contemporary trends, the “Great Regression”, which appear to threaten both the intelligence of democracy and democracy itself.

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