This chapter reviews the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), analysing its account of how ideas transform policy advocacy, sometimes leading to coalescence of opposed forces. It argues that the ACF is a largely descriptive account of belief formation and how those beliefs input into policy change. It examines the hypotheses generated from the ACF and uses the inversion strategy to suggest that most are relatively trivial yet there is a paucity of empirical confirmation. The ACF largely produces proximate descriptions of policy change through historical examination of token cases. This type of informed, qualitative and detailed historical analysis is vital to our understanding of policy change.
Browse by title
Research on the policy agenda offers a unique perspective on how public decisions are made and implemented, in particular highlighting the influence of the mass media and the salience of ideas and argumentation. This chapter contains a summary of agenda-setting theory in the classic works of public policy, followed by a review of the policy agendas approach as advocated by Baumgartner and Jones in the research on punctuated equilibrium. Then a more critical viewpoint is offered, which suggests that writers on agenda-setting find it hard to make causal inferences about the sources of change in public policy.
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.
The concept of design implies that practice is preceded (and guided) by prior systematic thought. Its application to policy is compatible with the perception of governing as systematic instrumental action, though it has to contend with such constructs as ‘policy sciences’ and the field of knowledge and practice known as ‘policy analysis’. This chapter traces the emergence of ‘policy design’ as a concept, and its problematic relationship to existing practices, relationships and concepts in the process of governing. It explores the puzzles and tensions involved in applying the concept of design to policy activity, notes recent attempts to identify a ‘new policy design’, and the place for ‘creativity’ in design, and suggests an alternative way of recognising these tensions, and making sense of the concept of design in the analysis of the policy process.
Olof Bäckman, Vibeke Jakobsen, Thomas Lorentzen and Eva Österbacka
Existing research on labour market entry has largely ignored the consequences of the different ways in which upper secondary education is organized. This chapter contributes to rectifying this gap by evaluating whether prospects for labour market inclusion among vocational school dropouts differ depending on the type of programme from which they drop out, that is, on whether they dropped out from a vocational track that included extensive workplace-based training or from a school-based vocational track. The chapter tests hypotheses derived from theories on signalling effects of education and labour market rigidity. In Norway and Sweden, female vocational school dropouts fare worse than their male peers. The data demonstrate no firm evidence that the signalling effect of education can explain much of the between-country variations in opportunities in the labour market, and it is not possible to draw conclusions about the effect of labour market rigidity in the Nordic countries.
Today evaluation is widely spread and advocated by powerful institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the OECD. In many countries legislation makes evaluation a mandatory part of different decision-making processes. It has been taken for granted that evaluation speaks truth to power and contributes to social betterment. However, today evaluation itself has now come under scrutiny. Evaluation is a specific form of social praxis developed in the United States in the 1960s that is associated with specific notions about politics, social change, policy development and implementation. The diffusion of evaluation around the globe has also meant a diffusion of these notions. The author argues that these notions will be less relevant when change processes will often be less gradual than they were assumed to be some decades ago. Evaluation therefore must adapt to a world where decision makers will often confront situations where fundamental change is unavoidable. In such situations, they will need a different knowledge than that they can get from evaluations produced within the framework of earlier policies. This leads to fundamental challenges for evaluation.
How policymakers conceive of – which is to say, frame – their problems, options, constraints, resources and even the policy fields in which they work, is hugely consequential for understanding the ways in which they conduct their conflicts and strike whatever settlements they do. This chapter reviews definitions and types of frame and policymakers’ use (framing) of these conceptions. Against fashionable ‘power of ideas’ theories, the chapter argues that very often the really important frames are ‘thought styles’ of reasoning rather than those which set out substantive claims or worldviews. Moreover, it argues that frames and framing themselves require explanation and should not be taken as fundamental. The neo-Durkheimian argument is presented that informal institutional ordering of accountabilities among policymakers provides more convincing explanations of the range of variation in most basic kinds of frame, why people reach for some frames rather than others, why frames change and therefore why policies shift.
This chapter examines Theodore J. Lowi’s ‘Arenas of Power’ approach to analysing the policy process, a theoretical approach with considerable – though incompletely fulfilled – _promise. It notes that much of the subsequent related scholarship centred on the political impact of policy has broadened out into the terminology of ‘policy feedback’. It is suggested that, while this has been insightful, it has is less theoretically parsimonious than Lowi’s Arenas of Power. The chapter reviews critically both Lowi’s approach and that of Pierson (as the leading advocate of policy feedback), concluding that Lowi’s approach has been limited by a couple of issues that can be remedied, and that when this is done, the feedback approach — while it provides additional insights — has less justification. It also notes that the social constructivist turn adds value, especially by drawing attention to the significance of normative ideas in impacting the policy process.
When people use the word ‘implementation’ they may refer to a task for others. On the other hand, people from whom such subsequent action is expected may see their task as anything but the ‘implementation’ of the plans of others. In policy processes both contrasting views, implementation as following instructions and implementation as continuous practice, can be observed. Despite development in terms of methodological rigour and the availability of comprehensive explanatory approaches, in implementation research the two views have not merged into a broadly accepted, ‘synthesized’ approach. The view of implementation as practice may explain more, certainly when the ‘policy politics’ concerned is taken into account. At the same time the alternative view remains attractive in terms of democratic accountability. Because each has an appeal in its own right, the two views of implementation can be expected to continue their co-existence side by side.
Rune Halvorsen and Bjørn Hvinden
This final chapter draws together the ways in which the contributions in the book show a considerable diversity among the Nordic countries. First, the authors find variation in how the Nordic countries have designed their education and other redistributive social protection policies. Second, they see diversity in the effective role of social regulation provisions in relation to minority ethnic youth or disabled youth. Third, they find variety in the changing relationship between regulation and redistribution in policy efforts with regard to these groups. Fourth and finally, they see mixed evidence on the impact of such efforts in improving the employment prospects of members of the groups. The chapter concludes with a critical discussion of current proposals for such advances and an outline of some alternative approaches to making progress in this area.