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SOCIAL RULE SYSTEM THEORY: Universal Interaction Grammars



Preliminary 1. Background Most human social activity – in all of its extraordinary variety – is organized and regulated by socially produced and reproduced rules and systems of rules (Burns and Flam, 1987; Giddens, 1984; Harré, 1979). 1 Such rules are not transcendental abstractions. They are embodied in groups and collectivities of people – in their language, customs and codes of conduct, norms, and laws and in the social institutions of the modern world, including family, community, market, business enterprises and government agencies. The making, interpretation, and implementation of social rules are universal in human societies, as are their reformulation and transformation. Human agents (individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and other collectivities) produce, carry, and reform these systems of social rules, but this frequently takes place in ways they neither intend nor expect. Social rule systems play a key role on all levels of human interaction (Burns et al, 1985; Burns and Flam, 1987; Burns and Hall, 2012; Giddens, 1984; Goffman, 1974; Harré, 1979; Lotman, 1975; Posner, 1989, among others), producing potential constraints on action possibilities but also generating opportunities for social actors to behave in ways that would otherwise be impossible, for instance, to coordinate with others, to mobilize and to gain systematic access to strategic resources, to command and allocate substantial human and physical resources, and to solve complex social problems by organizing collective actions. In guiding and regulating interaction, the rules give behavior recognizable, characteristic patterns 2 – making the patterns understandable and meaningful for those sharing in the rule knowledge. Shared rules are the major basis for knowledgeable actors to derive, or to generate, similar situational expectations. They also provide a frame of reference and categories, enabling participants to readily communicate about and to analyze social activities and events. In such ways, uncertainty is reduced, predictability is increased. This is so even in complex situations with multiple actors playing different roles and engaging in a variety of interaction patterns. As Harré and Secord (1972:12) pointed out, "It is the self-monitoring following of rules and plans that we believe to be the social scientific analogue of the working of generative causal mechanisms in the processes which produce the non-random patterns studied by natural scientists." 1 Social rule system theory (Burns et al, 1985, Burns and Flam, 1987) was formulated and developed in the 1980s making a modest contribution to the new institutionalism (Powell and DiMaggio,1991). 2 To varying degrees actors collectively produce and reproduce patterns of appropriate or acceptable possibilities. This can be conceptualized and mathematically developed as an ideal point or collection of "approximations". Thus, a community of actors sharing a rule complex recognize a wide variety of varying performances of a given rule as a family of resemblances, or "the same thing." (Burns and Gomolinska, 2000). Both in this sense – and in the sense that social rules are never learned identically and undergo different rates of adaptation and change over time – our concept of rule, and of culture generally, is distributive.
Universal Interaction Grammars
Tom R. Burns with Nora Machado
December 30, 2013
1. Background
Most human social activity – in all of its extraordinary variety – is organized and regulated by
socially produced and reproduced rules and systems of rules (Burns and Flam, 1987; Giddens,
1984; Harré, 1979).1 Such rules are not transcendental abstractions. They are embodied in groups
and collectivities of people – in their language, customs and codes of conduct, norms, and laws
and in the social institutions of the modern world, including family, community, market,
business enterprises and government agencies. The making, interpretation, and implementation
of social rules are universal in human societies, as are their reformulation and transformation.
Human agents (individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and other collectivities)
produce, carry, and reform these systems of social rules, but this frequently takes place in ways
they neither intend nor expect.
Social rule systems play a key role on all levels of human interaction (Burns et al, 1985;
Burns and Flam, 1987; Burns and Hall, 2012; Giddens, 1984; Goffman, 1974; Harré, 1979;
Lotman, 1975; Posner, 1989, among others), producing potential constraints on action
possibilities but also generating opportunities for social actors to behave in ways that would
otherwise be impossible, for instance, to coordinate with others, to mobilize and to gain
systematic access to strategic resources, to command and allocate substantial human and
physical resources, and to solve complex social problems by organizing collective actions.
In guiding and regulating interaction, the rules give behavior recognizable,
characteristic patterns2 – making the patterns understandable and meaningful for those sharing in
the rule knowledge. Shared rules are the major basis for knowledgeable actors to derive, or to
generate, similar situational expectations. They also provide a frame of reference and categories,
enabling participants to readily communicate about and to analyze social activities and events. In
such ways, uncertainty is reduced, predictability is increased.
This is so even in complex situations with multiple actors playing different roles
and engaging in a variety of interaction patterns. As Harré and Secord (1972:12) pointed out, “It
is the self-monitoring following of rules and plans that we believe to be the social scientific
analogue of the working of generative causal mechanisms in the processes which produce the
non-random patterns studied by natural scientists.”
1 Social rule system theory (Burns et al, 1985, Burns and Flam, 1987) was formulated and developed in the 1980s
making a modest contribution to the new institutionalism (Powell and DiMaggio,1991).
2 To varying degrees actors collectively produce and reproduce patterns of appropriate or acceptable possibilities.
This can be conceptualized and mathematically developed as an ideal point or collection of "approximations". Thus,
a community of actors sharing a rule complex recognize a wide variety of varying performances of a given rule as a
family of resemblances, or "the same thing." (Burns and Gomolinska, 2000). Both in this sense and in the sense
that social rules are never learned identically and undergo different rates of adaptation and change over time our
concept of rule, and of culture generally, is distributive.
On the macro-level of culture and institutional arrangements, we speak of rule
system complexes such as the language, cultural codes and forms, shared paradigms, norms and
“rules of the game”.3 On the actor level these translate into roles, particular norms, strategies,
action paradigms, and social grammars (for example, procedures of order, turn-taking and
voting in committees and democratic bodies).4 Social grammars of action are associated with
culturally defined institutional domains and roles, indicating particular ways of thinking, judging,
and acting. For instance, in the case of gift giving or reciprocity in defined social relationships,
actors display their social and cultural competence in knowing when and to whom a gift should
be given or not, how much it should be worth, or, if one should fail to give it or if it lies under
the appropriate value, what excuses, defenses and justifications might be acceptable. Someone
ignorant of these rules, e.g. a child or someone from a totally different culture would obviously
make (excusable) mistakes. Similarly, in the case of "making a promise," rule knowledge
indicates under what circumstances a promise may or may not legitimately be broken – or at
least the sort of breach of a promise that might be considered acceptable.
Social rule systems play then an important role in cognitive processes, in part by
enabling actors to organize and to frame perceptions in a given institutional setting or domain.
On the basis of a more or less common rule system, key, interaction-enabling questions can be
intersubjectively and collectively answered: what is going on in this situation; what kind of
activity is this; who is who in the situation, what specific roles are they playing; what is being
done; why is this being done? The participating actors – as well as knowledgeable observers –
can understand the situation, even simulate and predict what will happen in the interactions on
the basis of the applied rules. In this sense, rule-based paradigms supply interpretative schemes
but also the concrete basis for actors to plan and judge their actions and interactions. The cultural
complex of rule systems contributes to making social life more rather than less orderly and
predictable – it solves problems of “existential uncertainty” within the group or community
bearing and adhering to the culture (Burns and Dietz 1992; Burns and Flam 1987; Giddens,
1984), although the tension between the regulated and unregulated, order and disorder remains.
Finally, social rules are also important in normative and moral communications
about social action and interaction. Participants refer to the rules in giving accounts, in
justifying or criticizing what is being done (or not done), in arguing for what should or should
not be done, and also in their social attribution of who should or should not be blamed for
performance failures, or credited with success. Actors also exploit rules when they give accounts
in order to try to justify certain actions or failures to act, as part of a strategy to gain legitimacy,
or to convince others that particular actions are "right and proper" in the context.
In the social science literature a standard distinction is made between formal and
informal rules. Formal rules are found in sacred books, legal codes, handbooks of rules and
regulations, or in the design of organizations or technologies. Informal rules, in contrast, are
generated and reproduced in ongoing interactions – they appear more spontaneous, although they
may be underwritten by iron conduct codes. The extent to which the formal and informal rule
systems diverge or contradict one another varies. Numerous organizational studies have revealed
that official, formal rules are seldom those that operate in practice (Burns and Flam 1987). More
3 Lotman (1975) and Posner (1989) offer valuable semiotic perspectives with important (not yet analyzed on our
part) parallels.
4 There are not only role grammars but semantics and pragmatics, hence processes of meaning, interpretation, and
adaptation associated with rule application and implementation.
often than not, the informal unwritten rules not only contradict formal rules but take precedence
over them, governing organizational life.
One of the contributions of rule system theory was in conceptualizing universal
interaction grammars (Burns and Flam, 1987). Such grammars are complexes of rules applying
to social action and interaction of individuals, groups, and organizations. These grammars
consist of a finite set of rule types or categories that are identified in section 2.5 A rule regime,
while an abstraction, is carried, applied, adapted and transformed by concrete human agents, who
interact, exchange, struggle, and exercise power within the group, in large part based on the rule
regime which they maintain, adapt, or transform.
2. Universal Interaction Grammars.6
Rule system theory has identified and applied universal rule grammars – in a comparative
perspective – to human interaction and games as well as diverse institutions and institutional
arrangements: bureaucracies, judicial systems, markets, democratic associations, etc.7
The conceptualization of universal interaction grammars enables us to systematically investigate
and analyze group and organizational structures, interaction situations and performances, which
rule regimes socially defined and regulated – and to do this comparatively -- as one would
compare the grammars of different languages. This is done in Burns and Flam (1987) in terms of
defining social relationships and interaction patterns of diverse institutions.8
Rules and rule systems serve three (at least) basic functions/uses in all social life: (1)
coordination/direction of social action and interaction; (2) understanding/simulation of what is
going on or will go on in the future, and (3) referents in giving and asking for accounts,
generating normative discourses, for instance of praise and of critique.
The rules making up rules regimes consists of three qualitatively different kinds:
descriptive or declarative rules describing or defining reality, action or directive/regulative rules,
and evaluative rules defining what is worth-while, good, valuable (or their opposites, “bads”).
Rule system theory provides a model which identifies key specific rule categories which
underlie or, when enacted, generate particular group or organizational properties: the rules
concern a group’s particular participants and their relations and social structure, its times and
places, its values and goals, its activities and procedures and productions, its materials and
technologies used in group activities and productions (see Figure 1). They concern the finite and
universal rule base of group social action and interaction, its material, social structural, and
agential conditions.
5 The determination of the universal rule categories for groups, diverse social organizations, and institutions was
based on: (1) language categories that are reflected in “questions” and definitions/descriptions of socially regulated
interaction situations: who, what, for what, how, where, when (Burns et al, 1985; Burns and Flam (1987); (2)
interaction descriptions and analysis (and contextualized games, C-games) (Burns and Gomolinska, 2000; Burns and
Roszkowska, 2005, 2007, 2008; (3) comparative institutional analysis (Burns and Flam, 1987).
6 The focus here is on relational and organizational grammars. There are other types of social grammars such as
those of language and money (Burns and DeVille).
7 Although the focus of the research is on modern social organizations, the theory is applicable to families, clans,
communities, etc. The theoretical and empirical research clearly demonstrated that there was no scale problem.
8 In the sociological game theory work of Burns and Gomolinska (2000), Burns, Gomolinksa, and Meeker (2001),
and Burns and Roszkowska (2005, 2007, 2008), games and established interaction settings are characterized and
distinguished in terms of their particular grammars grammars which allow one to predict the interaction patterns
and equilibria of interaction settings and games.
Figure 1: Social Organizational Bases and Their Interactions and Productions9
9!An earlier model of group or social system functioning was formulated by Talcott Parsons (195X): the well-known
AGIL model which specified (1) economic and material production or “adaptation” (A), (2) goal-orientation which
entailed group or social system selection of goals and values, (3) integration or group maintenance (I) and cultural
and rule patterns, or “latency” (L). A more abstract model of “self-reproducing automata” was formulated by von
In the model of group and organizational rule regimes, ten (10) categories of rules are identified
(see Tables 1 and 2) concerning group agency conditions, social structure, interaction, material
conditions, and time and space: A. Four categories concern agency relating to: Identity (I),
Group membership (II), Share values, ideals, and goals (III), and Shared knowledge and beliefs
(IV); B. Group social relations and structure (category V); C. Group action and interaction
orders/patterning (VI, VII, VIII); D. Material and resource conditions of group action and
interaction (IX); and E. Rules relating to group times and space conditions for the group to meet
and interact.10
Table 1: Key Types of Rule Categories Specifying Group Conditions, Structures, and
Type I. Identity rules – “Who are we?”
Type II. Membership and Participation Rules – “Who belongs, who doesn’t?”
Type III. Rules concerning shared value orientations and ideals – “What does the group consider
good and bad?”
Type IV. Rules concerning shared beliefs and models – “What do we know and believe about
ourselves, our group behavior, and our environment.”
Type V. Social relational and structural rules. “How do we relate to one another, what is our
social structure?”
Type VI. Procedures and production rules. “What are our characteristic activities, practices,
production programs, ceremonies and rituals?”
Type VII. Rules for dealing with environmental factors and agents. “How do we cope with,
dominate, avoid environment threats and make gains in the environment?”
Type VIII. Rules for changing core group bases, in particular the rule regime itself. “How should
we go about changing group structures and processes”?
Type IX. Technology and resource rules. “What are appropriate technologies and materials we
should use in our activities (and possibly those that are excluded)?”
Type X. Time and Place Rules – “What are our appropriate places and times?”
Neumann (19XX). It had only two or possibly three production functions: manufacturing, copying, and reading and
implement the rule regime (or code book) together with structural features, the “codebook” possibly corresponding
to Parsons’ Latency function. Neither had resources and the natural environment as a factor. Parsons gives more
attention than von Neumann to “change”. Parsons has an explicit “adaptation” function as well as “goal-orientation”
to make shifts . Von Neumann has a system designed to follow a fixed codebook, but then he was concerned with
modeling reproduction.!!!!!
10 Rules and rule regimes need not be explicit buy may be tacit, or partially tacit. At the same time, group members
and outsiders may have misconceptions about the rules and their application. Thus, group members may deceive
themselves and others about what rules they are applying and what they mean in practice, deception may be
institutionalized in the form of ready-made discourses defining or explain a regime as just or efficient or optimal
for example, a market regime when it is not. Members as well as outsiders may see what they have been led to see
and understand.
Below I present in more detail these universal rule types/categories (10) that make up a group or
organizational rule regime. This is a cognitive-normative framework defining among other things
group identity, its purposes, structural architecture, role relations including status and authority
relations, groups divisions, procedures, characteristic activities, and patterns of interaction and
expected outcomes.11 The regime may be understood as consisting of a collective codebook,
cultural tools & social organizational principles. There is a architecture of any rule regime, the
cognitive-normative basis of the formation and functioning any group or organization.
Table 2. Universal rule categories of social group and organizational rule regimes12
I. Group or Common Identity
Who are we? And How are we
Name & naming the group
The group shares a rule(s)
about what the group is to
called, often also share rules
about elaborating names and
being sure to use names
distinguishing it from other
I. Group or Common Identity
Who are we and how are we
identified to ourselves and
possibly to others (some groups
have rules of secrecy so that they
cannot be identified by external
Defining and regulating right and proper group symbols,
dress, shoes, food, drink, etc.
Also specifying the performance of rituals characteristic of
the group either individually or collectively performed
Symbols including hats,
hairstyles, beard styles,
shoes, clothing; foods, also
associated with particular
interaction patterns and
rituals; and possibly the
regime itself. Some groups
do not identify themselves by
their clothing, food, etc. but
their membership in a group
with a particular name.
II. Membership &
participation/involvement rules
Who belongs and doesn’t
Rules concerning inclusion/exclusion also recruitment
and removal/exit. In the universe of possible participants,
only those in a certain subpopulation or category may join
and participate. Up to the 19thand well into the 20th
century in many societies women were not allowed to be
“citizens” with the right to vote or hold public office. They
were not allowed to be ministers and still are not allowed to
be priests in the Catholic Church.
Group norms define roughly the appropriate level of
commitment to or involvement in the group that
Of course, may be
discriminatory based on
religion, class, gender, age,
11 This is not a “laundry list”, hence our emphasis on the structure or architecture rule regimes (Carson et al, 2009).
The specification and analysis of rule complexes making up architectures goes back more than 20 years and was the
basis of a reconceptualization of the theory of games and human interaction, a sociological theory of games (Burns
and Gomolinska, 2000; Burns, Gomolinksa, and Meeker (2001), and Burns and Roszkowska (2005, 2007, 2008,
among other articles).
12 Talcott Parsons (1951) proposed universal “pattern variables” (for instance, univeralism vs particularism, affective
neutrality vs affectivity; achievement versus ascription, collectivity vs self, specificity vs diffuseness). Other
conceptions of universal social organizational dimensions are: hierarchy, degree of institutionalization and degree of
formalization. While all of this is compatible with the rule regime concept, rules, rule complexes, and rule regimes
as well as rule regime formation and transformation are, in our view, more fundamental concepts in the social
membership should have or exhibit in general as well as in
particular activities.13 Those belonging to the group or
organization are expected (should) involve themselves to
an appropriate degree and in expected ways specified by
group rules
III. Shared Value orientations &
ideals and goals.
What does the group consider
good and bad? What does it
stand for?
These rules define relevant values, purposes, and priorities
regarding group activities as well as outcomes and
developments. Appropriate values for the group:
concerning group relations, relative value of in-group and
others, spirituality and the sacred.
Distributive justice rules, for instance, rewards/payments
and penalties for collective and individual performances
with respect to general value as well as role performance.
Value(s) like that of creativity
or of money are expressions
of the group’s ability to
command proper orientations
and obedience. Group values
as socially precious or sacred
objects through time.
IV. Shared belief/model rules
How do we view ourselves and
the world, our cognitive
orientations, distinctions and
models of causality and dealing
with causal forces?
What are our beliefs about our
powers and capabilities vis-à-vis
Shared group beliefs/models of appropriate or relevant
“situations”, definitions of the situation, causality, and
causal attribution.
Framing and conceptualizing types of problems and their
causes and solutions. Problem solving rules and
algorithms (the right means to deal with the problems). For
instance, making distinctions about outside groups, dividing
them into “races”, attributing to them properties and
Shared beliefs/models are
expressions of the group’s
ability to command proper
orientations and obedience
V. Social relational and
structural rules
How do we relate to one
another? What is our internal
Rules of position define roles and appropriate role
occupants and role relationships including control
Rules define authority & leadership rights as well as
property rights (ownership rules) what the group owns or
control and who decides over their allocation.14
Relations of the group and individual members of
possessions (property). What may actors do or not do with
group and individual property in the group context. Group
may appropriate individual’s property. Or individual retains
rights to certain properties. In general, a groups has a
subcomplex of rules relating to what actors may or may not
do, must do, or are forbidden to do with the possessions in
the group context, for instance a particular property may or
may not be permissible in the group context, or it may not
be sold or transferred to outsiders, or it may be transferred
only after a collective decision.15
Roles are not only “internal”.
In some groups, the same
person may play multiple
roles, e.g. internally in
leading the group and
resolving conflicts and
externally in negotiations or
in cooperation or conflict (see
IX below).
13 This applies even in the activities of “fun and games”. Participants may be criticized if they do not engage
appropriately, either “not trying hard enough” or exhibiting “over-enthusiasm” or “inappropriate competitivity.”
14 Concerning actors in their particular positions and the roles they play, those in positions of high status and power
are allowed, even expected to act in particular ways, which are not permitted for subordinate or ordinary actors.
Husbands in many "advanced countries" such as the USA had a right to physically punish their wives so long as "the
rod was no thicker than a thumb." Women could not speak publicly and, in particular, could not preach in most
churches (which still obtains for most of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths).
15 Of particular importance in social life are distributive rules (Burns et al, 2014). Rules about
appropriate/required/forbidden distribution of resources to actors in group situations, for instance rewards/payments
Group norms define appropriate emotions for
relationships, for instance, the degree of respect or
obsequiousness, emotional control vis-à-vis a group
leader, someone or something sacred to the group, toward
group members and outsiders.
VI. Production and procedural
What are our characteristic
practices, production activities,
our ceremonies and rituals?
Rules define what are right and proper activities for the
group and group members to engage in. Members might
be expected to cooperate with one another generally or in
particular areas of activity, to make “sacrifices” for the
group, to demonstrate solidarity through actions for the
group and its members.
Production rules and processes in particular group
situations, including internal governance and enforcement
and sanctioning. Also, there are sub-complexes relating to
structuring incentive arrangements for establishing and
maintaining member involvement-adherence to the group,
its leadership, and rule regime.
Communication rules, rules about scripts and discourses
as well as rules about who may or may not initiate
communication, or particular types of communications such
as directives or evaluations
Procedures/algorithms for deliberating and deciding as a
group, that is collective choices.16 In what ways are
collective judgments and decisions to be made: through an
authoritarian leadership, negotiation, democratic voting,
Rules for defining problems and problem-solution,
resolving conflicts and accomplishing distributive justice.
Not all group activities are
prescribed by the regime
VII. Rules for dealing with
factors and other agents in the
Group orientations and strategies derive from group beliefs
and models about agents and factors in the environment.
(this category is a particular category of group production
Typically, one or more
members deal with external
groups and agents. The
group may recruit a member
to meet and negotiate with an
external authority.
VIII. Rules for changing rules
and group cores
Group values and beliefs enter in regulating change,
innovation, creativity
and penalties for collective and individual performances. (1) with respect to general values and norms, laws and
sanctioning; (2) with respect to role and sub-group performance.
16 Collective Choice Rules and procedures concerning the linking, coordinating, collectivizing of actions of the
different actors: (i) how roles are interlocked (as superordinate-subordinate interaction in Burns and Flam (1987);
also, see Burns et al (1985) on differing models of such relationships; (ii) ways in which collective judgments and
decisions are to be made: negotiation, adjudication, democratic voting, etc.
IX. Technology & resource
What are the characteristic
technologies and materials which
we utilize? And those that are
Rules define necessary and appropriate technologies and
resources for group activities.
That is, there are appropriate/permitted/required/forbidden
techniques and technologies as well as materials. For
instance, the acceptable technologies used by physicians
in dealing with their patients in particular areas of illness.
As indicated elsewhere in the
text, the group either controls
essential technologies and
resources (for instance,
through physical or
ownership control, or must
have access to and obtain
them from external agents)
X. Time and place rules
What are “our” places and times?
Rules define times and places for group activity or
Appropriate times and situations for the group to be
activated and functioning as “the group.” Answers the
question if a particular situation is one appropriate for
group activity.
The group must have access
to (rights, ownership, control)
the places (and times)
appropriate for group
Rules that are part of a group’s rule regime are "known" (some or many possibly tacitly); they
are normally useable/implementable or applicable (provided requisite technologies and
resources are available to the actor(s); and are considered functional or appropriate (or
legitimate, as rules in a regime are), hence the resource base as essential. A group’s regime
provides the cognitive-normative basis of members to coordinate with one another, to collaborate
and exchange in particular ways; to understand what is going on in the group, to simulate groups
interactions and developments, and to refer to in giving and asking for accounts and in making
normative judgments, criticisms as well as eulogies.
The theory does not require that the participants in interaction are in agreement about the
grammars (subcomplexes of the rule regime). Not only are agents in diverse roles expected to
perform according to different grammars, but they may disagree and struggle over the
appropriate grammars, the contents of particular categories of rules, or even details of a
particular rule. As stressed in Burns and Flam (1987) (also see Burns and Hall, 2012), there is at
one time or another a politics (or potential politics) to social rules (see next section), those rules
that are supposed to apply generally as well as the rules associated with particular roles and role
The ten universal rule categories presented here may not be fully specified in all
interaction situations. Typically, the process of "institutionalizing" a group or a complex of
relationships entails a specification of the rules in the different categories. Long established –
institutionalized – relationships usually have rules specified in all the categories. But this is an
empirical question. Also, disruptions may occur as a result of political, economic, technological,
or other social transformations. Rules in particular categories that were taken for granted earlier
may no longer be accepted or applied. Relationships which were hierarchical (with rule
specifications appropriate to such relationships) are transformed into egalitarian relationships. Or
the values and norms considered appropriate for particular relationships (whether in a family,
religious community, work organization, political association) are transformed, shift, or are
prioritized in radically different ways. Shifts in the rules of public policy paradigms governing
17 These spatial or domain rules define: Where? Where not? For example, can one set up a market here? Or a public
debate activity? Or is it reserved for religion. Many spaces are "zoned", defining the types of social and other
activities such as economic activities which are permitted or forbidden. And there may be spaces defined as multi-
functional but where the functional activities are differentiated in time. Time rules indicate when, when not? Or,
when maybe? For instance, is the time appropriate for the group to engage in a religious, market or other type of
social activity.
areas of policy and regulation are investigated and identified in Carson et al (2009); the shifts
concern values and goals, agents considered responsible, expertise, appropriate means, among
other key rule changes.
Note: A rule regime does not necessarily consist of formal, explicit rules. It may be an implicit
regime, which members of a group do not reflect upon (unless or until there is a crisis or
performance failings, a “failed group experience”). The degree of institutionalization of the
regime as well as its completeness are variables.18
3. Rule Processes
There is often a vigorous situational ”politics” to establishing, maintaining, and changing
social rules and complexes of rules. Actors may disagree about, and struggle over, the definition
of the situation, and thus over which rule system(s) that should apply or how the rule system(s)
should be interpreted or adapted in the situation. Actors encounter resistance from others when
they deviate from or seek to modify established rules. This sets the stage for the exercise of
power either to enforce rules or to resist them, or to introduce new ones.
Questions of power are central to our approach, since power struggles are about
organizing and regulating major economic, administrative and political institutions. These
struggles revolve around the formation and reformation of particular rule regimes defining the
general organizing principles and rules, social relationships, role sets, rights and obligations, and
the "rules of the game" in these domains. At stake is not only the power to change or maintain
institutional arrangements, but also social, economic and political opportunities engendered by
such arrangements.
Power struggles are only one source of rule system adjustment, reform and/or
transformation which – as numerous projects carried out over years within the rule system
research framework demonstrate - can happen for a number of different reasons:
(i) Social situations – in their continual flux and flow – persistently challenge human efforts to
regulate and to maintain order. The implementation of rules – and the maintenance of some order
– always calls for cumulative experience, adjustment, adaptation – in this way normative and
institutional innovation is generated. There is a continual interplay – a dialectic, if you will –
between the regulated and the unregulated (Lotman, 1975).
(ii) As indicated in the previous section, informal rules may emerge and override the formal
rules. This happens for a variety of reasons. Rules never regulate actions fully, even in the most
elaborate interaction situations including rituals and dramaturgical settings. For one, formal rules
fail to completely specify action or provide exhaustive directions. They do not cover all relevant
or emergent situations. The situations which call for rule application are particularistic, even
idiosyncratic, whereas formal rules of behavior are more or less abstract and general. But,
secondly, actors may be uncertain or disagree about which formal rules apply or about the ways
in which to apply them, especially in emergent or novel situations. In both cases they engage in
situational analyses and rule modification, or even rule innovation out of which emerge informal
rules - these may or may not be formalized later.
18 The socially formalized or institutionalized properties of a rule regime should not be confused with logical
coherence (or incoherence) of the regime.
(iii) The application and implementation of rule systems or particular rules may be problematic,
for instance, requiring special cognitive and practical skills – a complex process in its own right
(see Burns and Gomolinska 2000). A shared, operative institutional paradigm organizes actors’
cognitive and normative modes of analysis and judgment. This paradigm includes not only
knowledge of the rule system but also interpretative rules and learned capacities for semantic and
pragmatic judgments relating to the application of the system. The operative paradigm mediates
between an abstract and often ideal(ized) rule system, on the one hand, and concrete situations in
which actors implement or realizea rule system and its practices, on the other. While this
paradigm helps to situate or contextualize abstract rules in relevant action situations, it
constitutes yet another, distinct source of rule adjustment, reform or reformulation.
(iv) The concrete world changes, making rule system implementation problematic, even in the
case of systems that previously were highly effective and robust. Consequently, there are
pressures on actors to adjust, adapt, and reform their organizing principles and rules.
(v) Situational conditions may make costly the implementation of particular rules and rule
systems in social activities or block it altogether. By shaping action opportunities and interaction
possibilities, ecological and physical factors limit the range of potential rules that can be
institutionalized and implemented in practice. The actors involved may be compelled – or
strongly motivated – to modify, radically transform, even replace rules or rule system(s) in order
to increase effectiveness, achieve major gains, or avoid substantial losses.
(vi) If an action at deviance with cultural rules or standard interpretations is perceived by other
actors as advantageous, it may be copied. Its ability to spread, providing a new cultural variant,
depends on three factors: (a) its perceived desirability or effectiveness; (b) the ability of those
with interests in the content of the rule system to sanction the use of the new rule (and to
overcome the opposition of others); (c) the openness to acquisition, retention, and transmission
of a rule at variance with core key social rules of the cultural system.
All this implies that at the same time that social rule systems strongly influence
actions and interactions, they are formed, reformed and transformed by the actors involved. The
complexity of social life requires some imagination in applying rules to a specific action and
interaction context. Highly formalized, systematic rules have to be interpreted and put into
practice using situation information and knowledge. Human agency is manifest in this dialectical
process. Particular actors, with their specific competencies and endowments, make situational
analyses and engage their imagination, while developing interpretations and strategies which
lead them to modify old and create new rules in response to the immediate pushes and pulls of
the situation.
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This chapter addresses the question of deep institutional change in the Roman provinces—how informal social norms and conventions that affect economic performance changed (or not) under the influence of Roman rule. It argues that systems theory, approaching provincial societies as complex adaptive systems, provides us with a new approach to study the problem of raised economic performance in changing institutional environments, such as the Roman provinces. The Roman empire lacked the resources to impose new formal institutions and needed local elites to enforce them. Deep institutional changes resulted gradually from structural changes including monetisation and commoditisation but also social status signalling, connectivity, and landscape modification. These structural changes affected the situational contexts in which social roles were played out and new social rules developed.
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Paradigms in Public Policy: Theory and Practice of Paradigm Shifts in the EU, 2009 Peter Lang Publishers: Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2009. 444 pp., ISBN 978-3-631-57905-3 pb. Drawing upon and developing public policy paradigm theory, the book reports on investigations of public paradigm shifts in the EU (also, some instances of “temporary” failures. Policy action is driven, shaped and regulated by the ways in which cognitive frames and interests shape and define issues and analyses – with the involvement of par¬ticular authorities, experts, problem-definitions and solutions. To understand these processes is particularly important in the realm of democratic policymaking, where agents driven by divergent interests and alternative principles struggle to preserve or reform policy, law, and institutions. This book analyzes continuity and change in EU policy and provides a systematic understanding of the interactions between ideas, organized actors, and institutions in political, administrative and related social processes. The EU policy studies make up a rich empirical territory, ranging from food security and chemicals to energy, climate change, and gender. The book also includes several classic public policy paradigm works of Peter Hall, Jane Jenson, William D. Coleman, Yves Surel. Peter Lang Publishers Berlin/Frankfurt/Oxford/New York 2009 Preface Understanding continuity and change in society constitutes one of the fundamental challenges to social scientists, policymakers, and everyday citizens. Such an understanding is particularly important in the realm of democratic policymaking, where agents driven by divergent principles and alternative goals struggle to preserve or reform policy, law, and institutions. The works collected in this volume offer an approach to systematic and deeper understanding of stability and change in public policy. One of the key elements in this collected work is that its investigations and theoretical analyses contribute to the understanding of how “ideas matter” in policy and institutional change. Policy action is driven, shaped and regulated by the ways in which cognitive perspectives frame problem situations and analyses – and also call for and legitimize the involvement of particular authorities, experts, problem – definitions and solutions. Over the past twenty years a constellation of concepts, principles, and models has emerged which entail a promising new approach to capturing the interactions between ideas, organized actors, and institutions in political, administrative and related social processes. This work investigates and theorizes public policy paradigms, within which policy ideas are embedded and on the basis of which policies are framed, articulated, and implemented. To our knowledge, this book is the first comprehensive theoretical and empirical treatment of public policy paradigms. It considers theoretically the architecture of paradigms, their role in framing and organizing action, and the ways in which paradigm transformations are brought about. The theory construction draws upon three major developments in the social sciences: institutional theory, cognitive sociology, and social movements theory. This book presents key early works that introduced and applied the concept of public policy paradigm, then seeks also to extend those efforts by specifying and analyzing processes of paradigm formation and development based on the “sociology” and “politics” of paradigms (innovation, competition, alliance formation, proselytizing, power and control processes, etc.). The paradigm concept itself is of course most often associated with Thomas Kuhn’s work. Kuhn’s paradigm was inherently political in nature, making it suitable for the examination of conceptual models that apply to the political sphere, as in this book. The broader conception of what may be referred to as “the socio-politics of paradigms” is therefore particularly applicable to public policy processes such as those investigated in this book. The general goal of this book is to develop and apply public policy paradigm theory in investigations and analyses of policy dynamics and developments. The theory might be characterized as “cultural-institutional”, in that it emphasizes the importance of socially transmitted cognitive-normative models, institutional rule-based structures that organize human activity, and ways in which organized actors mobilize and struggle to realize their ideals as well as to pursue more mundane interests. This approach is illustrated through a selection of a few classic studies relating back to the earliest applications of the paradigm concept to issues of public policy: Jane Jenson in 1989, Peter Hall in 1992, and William Coleman et al. in 1996. We include these together with Yves Surel’s systematic comparative overview of paradigm theory and other cognitive approaches to policymaking. We are very fortunate to be able to reproduce all of these key articles here and also provide additional case studies and analyses from our own EU research on policymaking. These cases cover policy territory ranging from food security and chemicals to energy, climate change, and gender. The individual case studies identify the mechanisms linking ideas and cognitive frameworks to institutional arrangements and to policy outcomes and developments. The cases focus on the actors who formulate or bear ideas trying to exercise influence over policymaking; they also identify and analyze the conditions under which actors manage to exercise their influence – or fail to do so. Policy paradigms serve, among other things, as a conceptual structure within which public issues and problems can be framed and provide a type of modern totem around which supporters of the paradigm may collect and coordinate. But paradigms also constrain and bias policies that policymakers are likely to consider and select. In sum, we see the emergence of a systematic theory and body of empirical knowledge of what are referred to as public policy paradigms. The theory combines cognitive-normative models, institutional analysis, and strategic interactions in which organized actors seek both to realize their ideals and pursue their interests. An important goal of this book has been to set out the foundations of the theory and provide a range of applications. The book also identifies several of the methodological principles and rules of method that characterize public policy paradigm research. Finally, in a more general sense, the book illustrates the usefulness and potentialities of public policy paradigm research program(s). Marcus Carson, Tom R. Burns, and Dolores Calvo Stockholm, Stanford/Uppsala, and Gothenburg Summer, 2009 Contents Preface 5 Contents 7 Abbreviations 9 Part One: Introduction Chapter 1. Introduction 11 Chapter 2. Yves Surel: The Role of Cognitive and Normative Frames in Policymaking 29 Part Two: Selected Classic Studies of Public Policy Paradigm Shifts Chapter 3. Jane Jenson: Paradigms and Political Discourse: Protective Legislation in France and the United States before 1914 45 Chapter 4. Peter A. Hall: Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State. The Case of Economic Policymaking in Britain 67 Chapter 5. William D. Coleman, Grace D. Skogstad, and Michael M. Atkinson: Paradigm Shifts and Policy Networks: Cumulative Change in Agriculture 93 Part Three: EU Policy Paradigms, Their Applications, and Shifts Chapter 6. EU Institutions and Policymaking: A Brief Overview 117 Chapter 7. Theoretical Framework and Methods for Conducting the EU Research on Paradigms and Paradigm Transformations 141 Chapter 8. Marcus Carson: Mad Cows, Pollutted Poultry, and the Transformation of EU Food Policy 171 Chapter 9. Marcus Carson: From Freely Traded to Product-non-grata: Banning Asbestos in the European Union 201 Chapter 10. Tom R. Burns, Dolores Calvo, and Marcus Carson: The “REACH” Saga: A Revolution in Regulating Chemicals 225 Chapter 11. Svein S. Andersen: The Emergence of an EU Energy Policy Paradigm 261 Chapter 12. Tom R. Burns: The Irony of the EU Climate Policy: A Crooked Path to a Paradigm Shift 285 Chapter 13. Dolores Calvo, Tom R. Burns and Marcus Carson: Toward a New Social Order? Mainstreaming Gender Equality in EU Policymaking 311 Chapter 14. Paradigm Shift and Regime Change: Case Comparisons and Analysis 359 Part Four: Extensions and Conclusions Chapter 15. Elaborating Public Policy Paradigm Theory 377 Chapter 16. Conclusions 409 Bibliography 413 Index 441 CHAPTER 1 Introduction The policy paradigm concept has emerged over the past decade and a half as a useful tool for analyzing and comprehending the interactions between ideas, institutions, and organized actors engaged in political and administrative processes. It has proven to be a particularly interesting and useful approach with which to investigate and theorize about public policy paradigms within which policy ideas are located and the basis upon which policies are formulated. The paradigm concept is of course most often associated with Thomas Kuhn’s work. Much of Kuhn’s analysis using his paradigm concept was inherently political in nature, making it potentially suitable for the investigation of conceptual models that apply to the political sphere, as demonstrated in this book. The broader conception of what might be referred to as a “socio-cognitive” model of politics of paradigms is therefore particularly applicable to public policy processes. We see the need for a more comprehensive theoretical framework making use of the concept of public policy paradigm, which has already proven quite useful in investigating and explaining such matters as: • complex ideas as political objects and political forces; • effect of such ideas on the real world, that is in the formulation of public policies and programs with real consequences; • the components of public policy paradigms, their characteristic dimensions, their complexity. This consideration may be extended to deconstruct or decode deep assumptions or ideological underpinnings, for instance concerning the role of public authority, principles of institutional arrangements, and the nature of certain types or groups of human beings (or humanity in general). • the key mechanisms of paradigm formation and development; • the conditions of paradigm politics and paradigm shifts. Paradigm politics may be analytically distinguished from other forms of politics, for instance, politics as usual, the politics of (re)distribution, where, for instance, an established paradigm defining fairness or justice is not at issue. • the institutionalization (and de-institutionalization) of a public policy paradigm. 1. Theoretical and Methodological Points of Departure The work presented in this book lies at in the intersection of three expansive bodies of literature: the literature on policymaking and policy processes, socio-cognitive analyses, and the “new” institutionalism. These are briefly discussed in this and section 2. 1.1 Theories of Public Policy and Policymaking Processes The voluminous literature on public policy dates back more than fifty years. The multitude of strategies and approaches can be roughly categorized based on whether they place their emphasis on the influence of a) structural characteristics of society or policymaking institutions (Lasswell 1951; Easton 1965; Kitschelt 1986; Steinmo & Thelen et al. 1992); b) on the role of cognitive factors such ideas, norms, ideology, culture and attention in policy change (Gamson 1992; Hall 1993; Kingdon 1995; van Dijk 1998; Bacchi 1999; Baumgartner and Jones 2002; Jones and Baumgartner 2005); c) or on the characteristics and configurations of actors (typically collective) in preserving or challenging existing policies or pressing for new ones (Lasswell 1951; Olson 1971; Dalton and Kuechler 1990; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993; Knoke, Pappi et al. 1996; Sabatier 1999). These categories do not provide clean distinctions, especially given that the increasing tendency over time has been to straddle categories, typically with one providing a dependent, the other an independent variable. For example, while the cases presented in Steinmo et al. (1992) emphasize the structural factors that generate powerful path dependencies, they also examine the role of competing ideas or changing power relationships that contribute to divergence from established patterns. Hall’s 1989 anthology is approached from a similar historical institutionalist perspective, but with a shift of emphasis to analyzing the role of Keynesian ideas in driving institutional changes in economic policy. Sabatier’s advocacy coalition framework can be characterized as a theory of coalition politics, yet it focuses on shared elements of sometimes divergent belief systems as the glue that binds groups of actors that coalesce to press for particular policy remedies. In contrast, Haas’s (1992) epistemic communities constitute a very different type of actor configuration, bound more by shared core values than particular policy goals. The clear tendency in the scholarly work noted above is a realization that the categories are interconnected by feedback loops that make them simultaneously dependent and independent variables. This generates serious problems for theoretical or methodological frameworks that approach characteristics such as policymaking institutions, societal cleavages and alliances, interests, or belief systems as more or less fixed. And while we would identify the contents of this book as emphasizing and elaborating the role of ideas in policymaking processes, our more general ambition is to specify important linkages between the three broad categories of ideas/culture, institutions, and actors and show how they interrelate. We will return to these shortly. First, however, we briefly take up two broad research traditions in which our efforts are rooted. Neo-institutional theories recognize that these compromises are not merely the result of packages of bargains made by state actors pursuing their economic self-interest. Rather, they are the result of bargains and compromises made by changing configurations of influential actors who are guided by their own cognitive models of how the world is constructed, and from within which they pursue their perceived ideal and material interests. This research is therefore guided by the view that rationality is context bound, operating within the parameters of these cognitive models (Nee 1998). This theoretical orientation broadly challenges perspectives in which the role of rationality dominates in the policy process (Andersen 2001). Indeed, Majone has gone so far as to argue that “policymaking can hardly be considered a rational enterprise” (Majone 1992). Although the role of rationality in policy making may be circumscribed, rationally constructed explanations are important in the process of giving accounts for decisions made. 1.2 The Importance of Policy Ideas and Cognitive Models As scholars, we may see the world not only through our individual perspectives, but through the collective scientific frameworks with which we take in, evaluate, sort, and in other ways manage the information available to us (Sabatier 1999; cf. Kuhn 1962). This is no less true for actors engaged in activities such as political debate and policy processes. In each case, such models are social constructed and transmitted and may have real material consequences. Efforts to map out the architecture of socio-cognitive models are plentiful in the public policy and social movements literature, some of which is addressed to the question of how particular ideas become policy or formal rules, and how claims are framed and anchored to make them relevant to the intended audience. The common theme among these diverse approaches is the attempt to systematically relate policy ideas to one another, to interested actors, and to change processes. This broad body of work characterizes conceptual systems in terms of culture (Geertz 1973; Johnston 1995; Lane and Ersson, 2002), ideology (Tilton, 1990:248-280; Thompson, 1990; Cormack, 1992; Denzau and North, 1993; van Dijk, 1995), belief systems (Gelb, 1989; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993; Sabatier, 1999b), policy paradigms (Burns and Carson, 2005, 2002; Carson, 2001, 2004; Andersen, 1999; Coleman et al., 1997; Hall, 1993; Hall, 1992), frames or master frames (Snow et al., 1986; Snow and Benford, 1992; Benford and Snow, 2000; Fligstein, 2001a; Hobson, 2003b), and discourses (Dryzek, 1996a; Hobson et al., 2002; Jakobsson, 2002). These concepts address themselves to many of the same general phenomena, although with varying emphases and at different levels. As a consequence of the proliferation of concepts that has taken place, often largely in isolation from one another, there are important areas in which these diverse concepts overlap and tend to shade into one another in general use. However, as both Oliver and Johnston (2000) and Surel (2000) note, these various conceptual categories differ in scope, function, and focus. Because they do different kinds of work, they are not interchangeable. Pamela Oliver and Hank Johnston (2000) provide a telling example of this general phenomenon in their critical analysis of developments in framing theory, a particularly important theoretical and research agenda in the social movements research of the past two decades. Both recognized social movement scholars themselves, Oliver and Johnston highlight the ways in which the concepts of frame or master frame have often come to be used in place of ideology. They argue “the power of frame theory is lost if ‘frame’ is made to do the work of other concepts” and moreover, that “frame concepts are most powerful precisely if they are sharply distinguished from ideology (Oliver and Johnston 2000:37-38). The core distinction is that a “frame” is a “schemata of interpretation” (Goffman 1972) that enables actors to make sense of an occurrence or event by placing it in context. For Oliver and Johnston, that context is captured in the concept of ideology. The “framing” activities that social movements or other actors engage in refer to the frequently conscious processes by which a claim or phenomenon is contextualized and anchored in a particular system of ideas or beliefs. Framing theory benefits from pairing with ideology or a similar concept that provides the necessary tools for analyzing the interrelated system of assumptions, values, norms, and beliefs within which issues are framed. They acknowledge, however, that ideology also comes with certain complications. We shall return to ideology in a moment, but given the plethora of overlapping concepts, we share Oliver and Johnston’s sense of need for a bit of organizing and specification of concepts to improve clarity. Our primary goal is to locate the policy paradigm concept among the numerous complementary and somewhat overlapping concepts. The sketch we offer here has limited ambitions, therefore, and should not be taken as an effort to produce any kind of full-fledged typology. “Culture” is likely the most all-encompassing concept of those we list. As Johnston and Klandermans (1995:4) note, cultural “codes, frames, institutions, and values have evolved over long periods of time and, for the most part, function as the broadest and most fundamental context for social action”. Yet they also acknowledge culture as “broad and often imprecise…difficult to operationalize”. Margaret Archer (1996) has observed that culture and structure are often juxtaposed as opposites, and more or less mutually exclusive. Taking issue what that characterization, she makes the case that culture contains its own characteristic structure and logic which can be specified in terms of its many sub-elements. The phenomenon characterized by concepts such as ideology, paradigms, and frames constitute some of those sub-elements of culture. Overall, we understand culture in Blumer’s (1969) sense of the term to mean the characteristic ways in which members of a society or social group tend to conceptualize, attribute meaning, and interact in relation to the various spheres of social activity. In Blumer’s usage, culture need not be internally consistent or coherent; it is rather the sum total of characteristics that he identifies. In contrast to culture, “ideology” is conceptualized by most social theorists as a system of beliefs (Thompson, 1990; Eyerman and Jamison 1991; van Dijk 1998). As such, it possesses structure as well as a need for some measure of internal consistency and coherence. Ideology as it is generally employed entails some set of causal explanations derived from a collection or complex of basic underlying assumptions (which may remain hidden or taken for granted). The question of whether these assumptions and explanations represent some kind of Marxian “false consciousness” or are an accurate depiction of real conditions is one of the significant points of debate around the concept of ideology (Thompson, 1990). An important byproduct of the long and rich history of ideology is that the concept has accumulated a good deal of baggage, including competing conceptions and pejorative uses that create significant problems. This history and diversity has been summarized quite well elsewhere (see for example, Thomson, 1990; van Dijk, 1998) and we shall not dwell on it here. However, two of the issues are particularly relevant. First, the level of generality at which ideology is often used contributes to its being perceived as only loosely coupled to empirical reality. Adams (1989), for example, argues “there is no division between theory and understanding: the two are conflated so that the theory is the understanding […] these theories are self-validating. Such a view of ideology describes a belief system that is largely impervious to empirical reality. A somewhat more sympathetic view would argue that ideology must be tempered with reality if it is to be in any way implemented. This is the general direction advocated by scholars such as Thompson, van Dijk, and Oliver and Johnston. We are sympathetic to these goals, but it does leave three important questions on the table. First, can the long and complex history of ideology as a concept be meaningfully settled so that it does not remain a distraction and a deterrent for its use? Second, given the impossibility of answering the first question, is taming ideology by making it a middle-range theoretical and analytical concept the best way to address the gap identified by Oliver and Johnston (2000) and others. Third, would successfully taming ideology and bringing it down to earth deprive us of a useful meta-level concept? These are not merely rhetorical questions. Because it is understood by many as a type of belief system that lacks any day-to-day rootedness in reality, we see ideology as well suited to describing a very general level of belief system. Other concepts are available to fill the middle level space in which policy-related ideas and belief systems must be much more closely bound to actual social conditions – especially those defined as problems. It is here we see concepts such as belief systems and policy paradigm to be especially important. A systematic examination of specific formulations of these two concepts is taken up by Yves Surel in the next chapter, so rather than dwell on it here we note that like Surel, we understand Hall’s adaptation of paradigm concept to be quite similar to belief system as described by Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith. However, belief system is also a more general concept. The overriding reasons for preferring the concept of policy paradigm can be summarized in terms of 1) its operation at the analytical level at which policymaking takes place (see chapters of Coleman and Hall); 2) the specific conceptual elements and problem-solving notions it entails, and which are linked to or become embodied in institutional arrangements (Burns and Carson, 2004; Carson, 2001; Andersen, 1999); and 3) its emphasis on contradiction and incommensurability as generating conditions conducive to change (Hall, 1993). This includes the emergence of anomalies that an institutionalized paradigm has difficulty explaining and coping with – and that may in fact be a byproduct of the successes and failures of policies guided by that paradigm (Burns and Carson, 2002). In addition to being used to characterize oral and written communication and symbolic action, the term “discourse” is sometimes used to describe a conceptual model that we would refer to as a policy paradigm, ideology, or belief system. The multiple traditions that make use of the concept of discourse or discourse analysis (Chilton, 2005), suggest, as did Oliver and Johnston earlier, that it is best not to overextend the conceptual tools that are available. We therefore employ the concept of discourse to describe the various kinds of communication that constitute a paradigm, express the details of its institutionalized form, and which may be used to challenge an established paradigm. As already noted, all or part of a policy paradigm may constitute a “frame”, but they are not the same thing. Framing is carried out by referencing a particular paradigmatic element or the paradigm as a whole. 2. Investigating Public Policy Paradigms 2.1 Defining Policy Paradigm Policy paradigm is a powerful cognitive-normative concept that permits the analysis of distinctly different, sometimes incommensurable ways of conceptualizing the issues, problems, interests, goals, and remedies involved in policymaking. It can be characterized as containing a generally coherent complex of assumptions and principles, simplifying metaphors, and interpretive and explanatory discourses. It represents a shared conceptual framework through which adherents envision “how things should be” and “how the world works”, and with which they define the kinds of issues that should be considered social problems. This conceptual framework helps impose order on a chaotic environment in which actors engaged in making or influencing public policy are frequently required to make decisions with limited expertise, inadequate or contradictory information, and often on a comparatively short time frame. Within this context, the policy paradigm conditions choices and frames potential opportunities by shaping the conceptual parameters – the boundaries of what is thinkable, possible, or acceptable, and it endows certain courses of action with meaning. It defines the kinds of actions and institutional structures considered to be good or bad, the boundaries between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and the sense of what does or does not constitute a problem. A policy paradigm enables actors to interpret events and their causes, invests certain actors with credibility and authority, suggests what the various rights and responsibilities of actors should be, and guides action (Burns and Carson, 2002; Hall, 1993). A given paradigm is therefore realized in three types of processes: cognition and meaning, expression and action, and in its institutionalization. The central theoretical concept of our work, public policy paradigm, is essentially a shared model of reality that guides policymakers’ problem-solving activities. The various interested groups and individuals in society may share this model, or may challenge it. The policy paradigm concept has been employed in several settings to analyze the effects of systematic conceptual changes on public policy (Jenson 1989; Hall 1992; Hall 1993; Coleman 1998; Carson 2001; Burns and Carson 2002; Carson 2004; Burns and Carson 2005; Carson 2008). Jane Jenson (1989) for example, employs “societal paradigm” as a conceptual model for analyzing changes in the ideas guiding labor market and social in pre-World War I France and the United States. Peter Hall (1993; 1992), outlines a concept of policy paradigm shift generated by policy anomalies and failures leading to a broader, partisan policy debate. Coleman et al. (1997) describe an alternative path to paradigm change that is more negotiated and corporatist in nature. Andersen (1999), Carson (2001, 2004), and Burns (2008) employ it to understand unanticipated policy developments in European Union policy. The policy paradigm concept fits within a wider theoretical framework emphasizing the role of social institutions in conditioning policymaking processes and other forms of social interaction. With only a few exceptions, however, relatively little has been done to elaborate the paradigm concept beyond Hall’s adaptation. Several factors argue that such elaboration is likely to produce additional insights regarding the process of policy change in general, as well as developments specific to the European Union. An important theoretical goal of this anthology, therefore, is to further elaborate the concept of policy paradigm, its internal logical architecture, and its relationships with institutions, actors, and their discourses. Our particular development of the paradigm concept builds on Jenson (1989), Hall (1993), Coleman, (1998), Andersen (1999), Surel (2000), Campbell (2002), Burns and Carson (2002, 2005), and Carson (2001, 2004, 2008), who have conceptualized the paradigm as a socio-cognitive model employed in solving public issues or problems. Andersen (1999:2) characterizes policy paradigms as a category of “cultural frame”, a concept also employed by Fligstein (2001a). Surel (see Chapter 2 in this book) considers both Hall’s policy paradigm and Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith’s (1993) belief system in similar terms, as a specific type of “cognitive and normative frame” applied to policymaking, and within which individual issues or policy questions can be contextualized and “framed”. These usages are consistent with the definition of paradigm used in this work. Significant changes in policy – such as the rise and fall of Keynesian economic policies, the emergence of strong environmental policies, or the unfolding of programs aimed at improving equality between women and men – often unfold over periods of time that extend to a decade or more (Pierson, 2001; Sabatier, 1999c, 1999b; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993). Even in situations of urgent crisis, the seeds of that crisis often can be traced back to earlier developments, including the results of actions or inaction guided by earlier policies. In contrast to many sociological approaches, historical institutionalism (Steinmo, et al., 1992; Hall, 1989) employs the historical timeline to provide analytical structure, identifying “historical preconditions”, tracing changes in values, normative beliefs, and policy models over time as they are formalized and institutionalized. This constitutes the socio-historical and cognitive environment within which institutions are created and function; events and developments are embedded in this broader context. This approach shares some of the character of the historian’s particularistic reading of social change, while embracing the capacity of a sociological analysis to understand overall patterns of social interaction and change. This strategy informs important efforts within the welfare state literature, for example, to trace the conditions that have contributed to the evolution of welfare state arrangements (Korpi, 1994; Esping-Andersen, 1992; Steinmo, 1989; Baldwin, 1990). A strength of this approach is that it generates a great deal of rich detail. An important weakness is that its explanations sometimes tend toward functionalism or simple path dependency, explaining historical preconditions with earlier preconditions; change that represents divergence from that path is more difficult to explain (Thelen and Steinmo, 1992:14-15). Although this tendency is common, it is not universal, however, as illustrated by Peter Hall’s (1989) efforts to tackle it directly. Hall and his collaborators present a compelling picture of the emergence and development of Keynesian ideas in guiding economic policy in the US and Europe, and how they were institutionalized in unique ways in specific institutional environments. The historical institutionalism demonstrates that while discrete preferences are shaped by institutional context, broader goals and what constitutes self-interest are as well (Thelen and Steinmo, 1992). It also illustrates especially well the powerful tendencies toward path dependencies and stability (Immergut, 1992). Taking important cues from sociology, Hall’s approach (1993, 1992, 1989) significantly expands this picture, giving systematic expression to the role of a coherent complex of policy ideas by tracing their adoption and institutionalization in formal policy over a period spanning two decades. 2.2 Core Tenets Ideas Matter – It should already be clear that our basic starting point is a core assumption that “ideas matter”. This is no longer a controversial assertion, as evidenced by the expanding academic emphasis on the power of ideas in politics and policy during the past two decades. Denzau and North (1993:1) argue, for example: “it is simply not possible to make sense out of the diverse performance of economies and polities both historically and contemporaneously if individuals really knew their self interest and acted accordingly. Instead, people act in part upon the basis of myths, dogmas, ideologies, and ‘half-baked’ theories”. More recently, Campbell (2002) argues that still more effort needs to be devoted to understanding “how ideas, that is, theories, conceptual models, norms, world views, frames, principled beliefs, and the like, rather than self-interest, affect policy making”. The ideas we are most concerned with here are interconnected and interdependent – particularly in the form of structured complexes of ideas that constitute the conceptual models through which actors perceive and understand the world. The conceptualizations of an issue or the kinds of issues that are to be handled in a policy area are therefore considered fundamentally important. At the same time, the feedback effects of new or existing policies may have a profound effect on the conceptual models. Conceptual models structure and constrain where and how policy alternatives are developed, what kinds of rules and actions are seen as appropriate and legitimate, and which kinds of actors are considered to be the appropriate and legitimate authorities for dealing with the issue. The work presented in this anthology therefore emphasizes the role of ideas and ideals in the processes by which actors seek to initiate new policies and restructure policymaking institutions or defend those already established. An acknowledgement that perceptions of interests are inherently subjective and model dependent has important consequences for assumptions about policy decisions and the notion that preferences are guided by rationality and the self-interest of powerful actors. Clear cut policy preferences based on self-interest may be difficult to straightforwardly determine. It is well-understood that policy preferences and the perception of self-interest are likely to be guided by perceived opportunities for material gains, by cognitive models that define what is “right and appropriate”, and by the nature and quality of relationships with other actors. These separate kinds of considerations often collide and conflict with one another because they can be difficult to measure, weigh against one another, and evaluate in comparable terms. There is also great variation in the way in which “interests” or “self-interest” are defined . They are frequently used in largely economic terms to mean material interest (see, for example, Moravcsik, 1998). This stands in contrast to motivations guided by “a logic of appropriateness” (March and Olsen, 1989), which are driven by more altruistic-like values and norms. In short, rationality is dependent on the cognitive model being used, “bounded rationality” limits the ability to weigh alternatives, and the information available for making decisions is often either insufficient or incorrect (Denzau and North 1993). In general, the analytical strategy is to trace the process of fundamental policy change as it evolves from ideas and through action to become institutionalized. The basic elements of this change process include: a) the emergence of new phenomena that are defined as problems or the redefinition of existing phenomena as pressing problems, then impelled by new claims and demands for structural change made by organized interests and policy entrepreneurs, b) the replacement of an established complex of policy ideas with a new one that is not comparable in the same terms, and c) the institutionalization of the new set of ideas in the form of new norms, policy competencies, revised or new organizational structures and goals, and new types or groups of actors defined as having a legitimate role to play. This brings us to our next core assumption. Institutions Matter Also – A second core tenet, which also has become a cliché within academic discourse, is that “institutions matter”. At the heart of the “new” institutionalism (Burns and Flam, 1987; Powell and DiMaggio, 1991; Thelen and Steinmo, 1992; Brinton and Nee, 1998; Hollingsworth et al., 2002) lies a common recognition and understanding that both “socio-cognitive” and “structural” factors provide the context, the impetus, and the tools for political struggle and other forms of social interaction, although there are diverse strategies for applying this shared core (Hall and Taylor, 1996). The core tenets enumerated here are part and parcel of the new institutionalism – particularly the sociological institutionalism that provides much of the theoretical grounding for this work The “new” institutionalism, and the sociological neo-institutionalism in particular, seeks to integrate the reciprocal influences of socio-cognitive phenomena and structural forces on human interaction and agency. Socio-cognitive factors are generally grouped under concepts such as “ideas” “norms” and “frames”, as well as complexes of these individual elements under concepts such as “paradigms”, ideology and “mental models”, and even “culture”. This provides the broad cognitive context for the public policy paradigm, which is the concept used to map the relationships between public policy and changing complexes of ideas. Structuring is conceptualized in terms of institutions, which can be characterized as complexes of rules and procedures that shape human interactions in a given sphere of activity (Burns and Flam, 1987). Agency, typically collective, is seen as embodied in a broad range of actors. This encompasses organizations at multiple levels, including states, transnational and supranational organizations, NGOs, corporations, policy networks, etc. It also includes individual actors – typically in specialized roles such as “policy entrepreneurs” or “skilled individuals” (Fligstein, 2001b). Also considered part of the neo-institutional family is historical institutionalism, which emphasizes the importance of historical context and the ways in which it influences the development of public policy over time. The sociological neo-institutionalism includes a variety of approaches that emphasize cognitive and ideational factors (Burns and Carson, 2002; Campbell, 2002; Fligstein, 2001b; Hobson, 2000a; Ahrne, 1994; Arditi, 1994; DiMaggio and Powell, 1991). These often draw implicitly or explicitly on Berger and Luckmann’s (1969) classic work, which among other things emphasizes the socio-cognitive processes by which practices become institutionalized (Scott, 1987:493). “Institutionalization involves the processes by which social processes, obligations, or actualities come to take on a rule-like status in social thought or action” (Meyer and Rowan, 1977:341). This suggests an important link between socio-cognitive models and institutions, which Scott (1987:497-498) summarizes in his insight that “institutionalized belief systems constitute a distinctive class of elements that can account for the existence and/or the elaboration of organizational structure”. Attention to these “classes of elements” permits the construction and analysis of the belief systems to which he refers. Ideas do not float freely and conceptualizations are often contested. Some conceptual models of issues and policy sectors are better established than others, and they may be supported and reinforced by established rules-of-the-game (both formal and informal) that guide how and by whom such questions are to be dealt with, and how rules are to be made or altered. Institutions are conceptualized here as systems of rules that govern social interaction and may be normative (shared understandings) or formalized (i.e. laws, procedures, etc.) (North, 1991; Burns and Flam, 1987). Institutionalized systems of rules condition power relationships (Burns and Flam, 1987). They also generate inertia, or path dependencies, based on how similar issues have been handled in the past, especially the recent past, and based on the power relationships defined in those rules and the underlying assumptions embedded in them (Thelen and Steinmo, 1992). There may be substantial inconsistencies, incompatibilities, or incommensurability, between what is considered the most compelling way of thinking about a set of policy issues or problems, and the way in which existing institutionalized rules dictate that it should be dealt with. This can result in obstacles to effective problem solving, undermined legitimacy, and political tensions that destabilize the existing social order (Burns and Carson, 2002). Two established strategies for integrating cultural/cognitive factors within the new institutionalism entail relating them to social organization or the institutionalized structures of discrete spheres of societal activity that they inspire (Ahrne, 1994; Powell and DiMaggio, 1991; Burns and Flam, 1987), or to the historical timeline (Pierson, 1998; Thelen and Steinmo, 1992; Hall, 1989). Each of these is relevant to the case studies taken up in this research. For example, there has long been an awareness of “organizational culture” as a distinct phenomenon embedded in “organizational structure” (Perrow, 1979). The European Commission, for example, is a “multi-organization” (Cram, 1994), with the various Directorates General (DGs) guided by distinctly different organizational missions and cultures. The sociological and historical institutionalisms use in varying degrees existing institutional/organizational structure and time frames to impose order on the flow of ideas. At the institutional level where the Treaties help define EU competence in the various policy sectors, there are different logics reflected in the procedures, voting rules, capacity to act, etc. These have developed over time, so that it is possible to trace the evolution of paradigmatic ideas as new ones become institutionalized (Pierson, 1998), replacing earlier guiding logics. Actors, Networks, and Alliances – A third tenet in our approach is that “actors, networks, and alliances matter”. Where constellations of individual and organized actors emerge in competition with one another, they may take a variety of different forms. They are characterized in the literature as policy networks (Coleman et al., 1997; Knoke et al., 1998), policy advocacy coalitions (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993), epistemic communities (Haas, 1992), social movements (McCarthy and Zald, 1967), peak organizations, and the variety of terms describes the different logics that define them. Organized actors may choose to engage or not to engage on a particular set of policy proposals based on a number of different rationales. Such rationales may be relational (helping allies or seeking to block opponents), interest-based (such as engaging as an opportunity to gain public attention or to protect financial or power interests), values or ideals-based (engaging in pursuit of ideal interests), or more typically, some combination of these. For example, choices to engage may be conditioned by the quality and nature of relationships with other organized or individual actors (Bordieu, 1996). For example, an organization may lend its support as a favor to an ally or repay a debt – or in an effort to punish an organization seen as unfriendly. It is considered natural that organizations that share common overall goals and values would join forces to support specific policy proposals. However, it is also quite common for groups sharing common goals to take different sides in particular policy struggles. An interesting current example is the way in which environmental organizations were divided in their support of the climate change legislation in the US House of Representatives (known as the Waxman-Markey Bill). That split was based on very different ideas about how to achieve shared goals. A contrasting picture is found in the kind of “strange bedfellows” coalitions that form to support specific proposals, yet are composed of organizations whose long-term goals are values are in at odds with one another. Such an example can be found in Hajer’s (1995) analysis of ecological modernization, in which business and environmental groups came together in spite of their pursuit of very different long-term agendas. A third variation on this theme is the case in which an organized actor lends support not because of support for a particular policy proposal, but because a secondary or side effect of the proposal serves other goals in which the organization is interested. This is also a common phenomena and often part of weaving together alliances that are sufficiently powerful to prevail on a given policy proposal. In the EU context, there are frequently overlaps between actors pursuing substantive policy goals and those who wish to move authority to the European level – or block such developments. The important point with these differing examples is that the diverse array of types of alliances is possible based a combination of relational factors, material interests, and shared conceptual models, and the ways in which particular elements are held to be more central and important than others and thereby prioritized. 2.3 Key Features of Public Policy Paradigm Theory The public policy paradigm is a shared conceptual model used for political problem solving. However, it is more encompassing than a simple problem solving model, since it is the model used to construct the very problems it is used to address (see Bacchi, 1999; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993). It does so, starting from core assumptions, by defining priority among competing policy principles and goals. Within that context, the paradigm delineates the suitable means for achieving goals, and identifies what kinds of expertise should be considered legitimate and relevant, and who should be considered competent authorities responsible for decision making and for implementing corrective measures. The actors who advance the model are themselves are likely to be defined in it, giving it a self-referential aspect. When institutionalized, a policy paradigm shapes the production and distribution of societal resources, forms guidelines for how benefits and related costs are distributed, structures power relationships, and defines “logics of appropriateness”. Overall, this book presents three key results about public policy paradigms: (I) The functions/uses of public policy paradigms in interpreting social reality, identifying problems and solutions, and guiding judgment and policymaking and its implementation; (II) The structure of policy paradigms. “Paradigm” may be investigated in terms of its particular properties as well as in terms of its function – and the relationship between its internal structure and its functions. A public policy paradigm defines problems or types of problems and their sources which are to be publicly addressed, and identifies the available strategies and resources to deal with these problems (or categories of problems). It defines also actors (and their roles in what take place), for instance, those who should have public authority in relation to the application and development of public policy and, in particular, this policy paradigm. Included in this are also “other agents” (“the other”) including scapegoats (Jews, immigrants, Muslims, etc.) or conditions of fate/“destiny”. Furthermore, a paradigm usually identifies agents capable (knowledgeable, authoritative experts) of dealing with the problems (“experts”, “good fairies”, magicians). Note that experts, for instance, do not usually control material resources or have great economic or political power (but, nevertheless, may play influential roles). (III) The socio-political process of transforming or constructing and establishing a paradigm (related to the social construction of “problems” to be solved, designs, strategies, decisions). Here, of course, one is alerted to the mechanisms (rational, non-rational, or irrational, or even self-destructive) that drive paradigm developments. The work presented here identifies five basic social mechanisms of public policy paradigm shifts: (i) Change in perspective of a dominant agent. For instance, an authoritarian leader or dictator changes her perspective, adopts a new paradigm, and puts it into operation. (ii) A power shift brings a new agent with another paradigm to leadership (those involved may include outside actors or possibly an alliance of some insiders and outsiders). Replacing an earlier elite to institutionalize the new paradigm may occur through force, as in a coup d’etat or a violent revolution, through democratic process, such as elections or nominations, or through societal negotiation. Demographic mechanisms are also important bringing about generational/cohort shifts. (iii) Negotiation among multiple agents producing a new order – with compromises – is a common mechanism. One can distinguish between cooperative “negotiation” (because of convergent of interests (“solidarity of interests”) or because of solidarity of sentiments (“solidarity coordination”), on the one hand, or competitive or antagonistic “negotiation”, on the other hand. (iv) Diffusion and mimicry of a New Institutional Paradigm (mimetic function) (for example, Campbell refers to the diffusion of world environmental culture through NGOs and UN agencies). (2002:25). Autonomous agents are inter-connnected in communication networks which spread “new practices” and “ideas”. (v) Unintended agentic development of a new institutional paradigm The actors who introduce and develop the changes leading to a new paradigm often do not intend to do so, but instead drift into what turns into an unexpected and unintended paradigm shift. A new technology or technique, new institutional positions or member competencies and commitments which, to all appearances, only lead to relatively minor changes in the institutional procedures and rules may in the long run actually cause problems which cannot be effectively analyzed and dealt with within the framework of the established paradigm – and give rise to consideration of radically new approaches and principles. The policy paradigm concept offers a number of advantages. Its components can be identified, and as we show, there is a logical structure to a public policy paradigm. At the same time, the theory allows for – and seeks out – gaps and contradictions, both within a paradigm and between a paradigm and the institution(s) in which it is embedded. A policy paradigm also is recognized as incomplete – which may result in unanticipated problems. These offer “cracks” in which claims can be made successfully. Other advantages of the paradigm concept lie in its relation to other important concepts related to ideas and cognitive processes. For example, a paradigm is the basis of framing processes and the production of frames. It is free of the intellectual and political baggage often associated with ideology. It explains path dependencies and change processes in the complex relationships between actors, institutional arrangements, culturally-rooted understandings. Finally, the policy paradigm speaks to different kinds of collectivities. Policy advocacy coalitions (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1993) may be composed of groups that advocate radically different paradigms, but which coalesce around agreement on a specific paradigmatic element shared in common: a shared problem definition, a preferred set of remedies, trust in a particular type of expertise. In contrast and epistemic community is formed by those who develop and adhere to a public policy paradigm. That is, “paradigm-epistemic communities” consist of networks of professionals and experts with an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge, who share a set of normative beliefs, causal models, notions of empirical validity, and a common policy enterprise (Campbell, 2002:30; Haas, 1992). 3. Overview of the Book We have divided this book into four parts. Part I consists of this chapter and that of Yves Surel in the following chapter; Part II, a section with previously published articles that may be considered early classics in the application of the policy paradigm concept; Part III contains our own case studies of paradigm shifts in specific policy sectors in European Union policy and Part IV offers analysis and some concluding reflections. In the next chapter Yves Sorel gives an insightful analysis and overview of three important cognitive-normative approaches in policymaking research. This defines the larger context of the work presented in this book. Part Two of the book provides a selection of a few studies of public policy paradigm shifts, which have become classic exemplars. Jane Jenson is one of the first, if not the first, to apply the paradigm concept to public policy. In Chapter 3, Jenson’s 1989 article considers historical shifts in France and the USA before 1914, focusing on the introduction of legislation “protecting” the conditions under which women participated in certain occupations as well as providing infant and maternal protection. In Chapter 4, Peter Hall analyzes the shift in England from Keynesian economic policy to monetarism with a 1993 article that quite rightly received widespread attention. Coleman (1998) and Coleman et al. (1997) responded to Hall, challenging the generality of his model of abrupt shifts. Coleman argued rather that shifts in paradigms could be negotiated in a more or less gradual way and accomplished substantial change through a piecemeal transition. Part Three presents a selection of cases from our EU comparative policy research (1997-2008), in which we investigated a number of paradigm shifts in diverse sectors. We found the EU was a crucible of public policy initiatives and major policy shifts. The case studies included here concern food (Chapter 8), chemicals including the special case of asbestos (Chapters 9 and 10), climate change (Chapter 12), and gender (Chapter 13). Svein Andersen, in adddition to his own EU research program has also collaborated with us on our EU research program, and contributes a chapter here (Chapter 11) on the EU policy paradigm shift relating to natural gas in Europe. Chapter 14 concludes Part Three, identifying the different patterns of shifts and developments in the case studies. The chapter also draws conclusions about what the results show concerning EU policymaking and the integration process. Part Four concludes the book. We synthesize PPP theory based on the research of others as well as our own. It is argued that a PP paradigm is an idealized rule regime with a particular structure (diverse components or complexes); it takes ideal (or purely conceptual forms) as well as operative or practical forms. Also, the chapter identifies the processes whereby regime shifts take place.