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The process related to public policy making touches the core function of democratic politics, namely the elaboration and discussion of solutions to societal problems. This article provides an overview of the different stages of policy making. In doing so, we seek to offer a theoretical entrée to the analysis of policy making as well as to highlight the determinants of ‘real’ policy choices. To this end, we combine the illustration of the policy cycle framework with an analysis of some country-specific factors. Further, we discuss the effects of international factors on the design of domestic policies and present empirical findings for the relative importance of both national and international factors.
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Chair of Comparative Public Policy and Administration
Department of Politics and Management
University of Konstanz
Policy Making
Christoph Knill and Jale Tosun
Chair of Comparative Public Policy and Administration
Department of Politics and Management
University of Konstanz
Working Paper 01/2008
Policy Making
Christoph Knill and Jale Tosun
Also published as:
Christoph Knill/Jale Tosun: Policy Making. In: Daniele Caramani (ed.), Comparative Politics.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 495-519.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Knill
Chair of Comparative Public Policy
and Administration
Box D 91
D-78457 Konstanz
Phone ++49 7531 88 5597
Fax ++ 49 7531 88 2381
University of Konstanz
Department of Politics and Management
Chair of Comparative Public Policy and Administration
Konstanzer Online-Publikations-System (KOPS)
Policy making
Christoph Knill
Jale Tosun
Chair of Comparative Public Policy and Administration,
Department of Politics and Management,
University of Konstanz
Abstract: The process related to public policy making touches the core function of
democratic politics, namely the elaboration and discussion of solutions to societal
problems. This article provides an overview of the different stages of policy making. In
doing so, we seek to offer a theoretical entrée to the analysis of policy making as well as
to highlight the determinants of ‘real’ policy choices. To this end, we combine the
illustration of the policy cycle framework with an analysis of some country-specific factors.
Further, we discuss the effects of international factors on the design of domestic policies
and present empirical findings for the relative importance of both national and
international factors.
Public policies follow a particular purpose: they are designed to achieve defined
goals and present solutions to societal problems. More precisely, policies are
government statements of what it intends to do or not to do, including law, regulation,
ruling, decision, or order (Birkland 2001: 132). Public policy, on the other hand, is a
more specific term, which refers to a long series of actions carried out to solve
societal problems (Newton and van Deth 2005: 263). Hence, (public) policies can be
conceived of as the main output of political systems. But how are these policies
actually made? Does policy making differ across policy fields or countries?
The classic policy analysis literature approaches these questions by using policy
typologies as ‘analytical shortcuts’ for the underlying processes. The most influential
approach to this has been the typology developed by Lowi (1964), who distinguishes
between (1) distributive policies (i.e. measures concerning the distribution of new
resources), (2) redistributive policies (that is, measures that modify the distribution of
existing resources), and (3) regulatory policies (i.e. measures that specify conditions
and constraints for individual or collective behaviour, for instance, standards for car
exhaust emissions or requirements applicants have to fulfil for obtaining an
authorization to trade goods or offer specific services on the national or international
Another widely used concept is Wilson’s (1973, 1989, 1995) typology in which costs
and benefits related to a policy are either widely distributed or narrowly concentrated.
Accordingly, each of the four possible combinations yields different implications for
policy making. When both costs and benefits of a certain policy are widely
distributed, a government may encounter no or only minor opposition, indicating
majoritarian politics as the likely outcome. When both costs and benefits of a certain
policy are concentrated, a government may be confronted with opposition of rivalling
interest groups, which signals interest-group politics; i.e., political processes are
dominated by the lobbying activities and strategic interaction of the involved interest
groups. If costs are concentrated and benefits diffused, a government may encounter
opposition from dominant interest groups. In this case, entrepreneurial politics are the
probable outcome. This implies that policy change requires the presence of ‘political
entrepreneurs’ who are willing to develop and put through political proposals despite
strong societal resistance. When costs are diffuse and benefits concentrated, a
government is likely to face a relevant interest group favourable to its endeavour,
which makes clientelistic politics the likely outcome.
There exist, in fact, many other ways for classifying public policies, which also make
implicit assumptions about the corresponding policy making process (cf. Anderson
2003: 5–13). Another related concept is the analysis of policy instruments, which
links instrument choice – i.e. the selection among voluntary, compulsory, or mixed
instruments – to the likelihood of resistance to a particular policy (cf. Howlett/Ramesh
2003: 195).
Box 20.1 Types of policies
(A) Lowi’s typology (1964)
Type of policy Definition Examples
Regulatory policies
Policies specifying conditions and
constraints for individual or
collective behaviour
Environmental protection;
migration policy; consumer
Distributive policies Policies distributing new resources Agriculture; social issues; public
works; subsidies; taxes
Redistributive policies Policies modifying the distribution
of existing resources
Land reform; progressive
taxation; welfare policy in more
general terms
(B) Wilson’s typology (1973, 1989, 1995)
Concentrated Diffuse
Concentrated Interest Group Politics
(‘zero sum game’) Entrepreneurial Politics
Diffuse Client Politics (‘iron triangles’) Majoritarian Politics
Opposition or consent to policy by the addressees of the same policy is of course an
essential question of general interest. Nonetheless, there is more analytical leverage
to the analysis of public policies by focusing more explicitly on the political processes
since this perspective enables us to gain a fuller understanding of their causes and
consequences. This politics perspective involves scrutinizing the roles of the
executive and legislative branches of government, whose relationship is at the heart
of policy making. But it also implies theories of decision making and the exploration
of public policy structures for understanding how besides political forces, social and
economic interests shape the content of policies. Thus, studying policy making in
terms of comparative politics can enhance our scientific understanding as it gives us
powerful tools for scrutinizing both the determinants and impacts of policy decisions.
It grants us the possibility to analyse the effects of new developments, such as
globalization or ‘internationalization’, on policy arrangements. Further, this theoretical
approach to policy making may be used for solving real-world policy problems, and
hence improving the overall quality of public policies.
Key points
Public policies are the outputs of the political system; they come along in
different forms, including laws, regulations, or rules.
The policy analysis literature relies on policy typologies and distinction
between policy instruments as ‘analytical shortcuts’ for the underlying policy
making process.
By studying the policy-making process from a comparative politics
perspective, we gain a fuller understanding of the causes and consequences
of policy decisions.
Conceptual models of policy making
What would an ideal policy look like? What is the best policy design that can be
achieved? Both questions are crucial to policy making. The first one refers to the
functionality of a policy to be made, i.e. which design a particular policy should have
in order to meet an ex ante defined goal. The second one touches upon the
constraints that appear when policies are actually made, which are principally given
by politics, i.e. the process by which the actors involved make decisions. Therefore, it
is essential for our purpose to examine how politics shapes public policies.
There are a number of conceptual models that help to clarify our understanding of
the relationship between politics and public policies. The major models that can be
found in the literature are (1) the institutional model, (2) the rational model, (3) the
incremental model, (4) the group model, (5) the elite model, and (6) the process
model. These models are not competitive but rather complementary as they focus on
different aspects of political life, and hence help us to understand separate
characteristics of public policies (Dye 2005: 12).
The main implication of these models is that they make different assumption about
the importance of the actors involved – institutions, politicians, bureaucrats, interest
groups, and the public – and their rationality. If we conceive of policy makers as
entirely rational actors that search for maximizing solutions to policy problems, our
analytical focus would rather be on the quality of available information, decision
procedures, etc. If we, however, model policymakers a imperfectly rational actors, the
research interest should rather shift to the role to other aspects, such as mechanisms
of finding compromises. We now shortly explain these models – expect the process
model, which we address in the next section – for providing an initial theoretical
access to policy making.
Institutional model
For a long time, the central interest of political science was on how institutional
arrangements influence the content of public policies. The institutional model
conceives of policies as institutional outputs. The focus of analysis is primarily on the
balance between executives and legislatives, which show notable variation across
political systems. In this context, the United Kingdom is generally perceived to have a
dominant executive, whereas Denmark, Switzerland are generally regarded as
balanced systems (Newton and van Deth 2005: 106). From the institutional
perspective, public policies are formulated and implemented exclusively by these
institutions. Hence, policy making should be a rather smooth and largely technical
process, which merely involves executives and legislatives. All the intra-institutional
processes, however, remain a ‘black box’.
Rational model
First developed in the field of economic analysis, the rational model of decision
making formulates guidance on how to secure ‘optimal’ policy decisions, which
means that a decision is rational if no other alternative is better according to the
decision makers preferences (Shepsle and Bonchek 1997: 25). To select a rational
policy, a policymaker should
1) define a set of societal problems that are independent from other problems,
2) formulate goals that guide the decision- makers,
3) examine all feasible alternatives,
4) investigate all alternatives in terms of their outcomes, and the costs and
5) compare all alternatives with the other alternatives, and
6) make the best choice among the alternatives so that optimal outcome can be
achieved (cf. Anderson 2003: 121).
The rational model is also associated with a particular mode of learning, namely
Bayesian learning. According to this perspective, governments update their beliefs on
the consequences of policies with all available information about policy outcomes in
the past and elsewhere and choose the policy that is expected to yield the best
results (Meseguer Yebra 2003, 2006: 39). Rational policy making involves a number
of demanding assumptions, e.g. policy makers are expected to have perfect
information, which provoked strong criticism (cf. Simon 1955). Nonetheless it remains
important for analytical purposes as it helps to contrast ideal policy decisions with
actual ones.
By assuming that all political actors behave rationally, i.e. reduce costs and maximize
benefits, the rational model also provides the starting point for public choice
approaches to policy making. Public choice theory examines the logic and foundation
of actions of individuals and groups that are involved in the policy making process. In
this regard, the main objects of analysis are voting behaviour and party competition,
coalition and government formation, the involvement of interest groups and
bureaucracy in policy making (cf. e.g. Buchanan and Tullock 1962; Dunleavy 1991;
Laver and Hunt 1992; Mueller 2003).
Moreover, game theory, which is also related to the rational model, serves for
analysing decisions in situations in which two or more rational players interact, and
where the outcome depends on the choices made by each (cf. Munck 2001). The
most widely used games for analysing strategic situations are the ‘prisoner’s
dilemma’ and the ‘chicken game’. In both games, the mutual solution is unstable
since both players individually tend to stray from it (cf. Axelrod 1984; Rapoport and
Chammah 1996).
Incremental model
Incrementalism emerged as a response to the rational model. Rather than an ideal, it
purports to be a realistic description of how policy makers arrive at their decisions
(Lindblom 1959, 1979; Wildavsky 1964). This is related to its foundation on ‘bounded
rationality’, i.e. an alternative concept to rational choice that takes into account the
limitations of both knowledge and cognitive capacity of decision makers. Incremental
decisions involve limited changes to existing policies (cf. Anderson 2003: 123).
Similar to rational learning, there is also a concept of bounded learning. In that case,
governments likewise engage in information gathering activity but do not scan all
available experience and instead use analytical shortcuts and cognitive heuristics to
process the information (cf. Meseguer Yebra 2003, 2006; Weyland 2004). An
example of such heuristics is the adoption of policies from countries that are
considered as being particularly successful or the emulation of policies that have
already been adopted by a large number of other states.
The Achilles heel of the incremental model is that it does not explain how decision
makers arrive at these incremental adjustments. In response to this central
shortcoming, Jones and Baumgartner (2005) propose a model of choice that
combines incrementalism and punctuated equilibrium theory, which states that
political processes are generally characterized by stability and incrementalism, but
occasionally produce large-scale departures from the past. In fact, this explanatory
model performs well for explaining the development of the US budget.
Group model
Group theory hypothesizes that policies are the result of an equilibrium reached in
group struggle, which is determined by the relative strength of each interest group
(Truman 1951; Latham 1956). Groups can be distinguished concerning several
aspects, such as income, membership size, membership density and recruitment,
organizational aspects, whether they are united, e.g. by ‘umbrella institutions’,
divided, whether they use sanctioning mechanisms, and aspects of leadership
(Newton and van Deth 2005: 170). Accordingly, changes in the relative strength of
the single interest groups involved may trigger policy changes. Group theory
presupposes that policymakers are constantly responding to group pressures, which
motivates politicians to form majority coalitions for which they have the competence
to define what groups are to be included (Dye 2005: 21).
More importantly, the potential effect of groups for policy making depends on
particular structures. Generally, in (neo) corporatist systems, for instance, economic
interests are strongly integrated in policy making (cf. Schmitter/Lehmbruch 1979).
The pluralist model regards politics as marketplace with more or less perfect
competition, where individuals, political parties, and interest groups compete for
influence over policy domains. It assumes equal access to the policy-making arena,
fragmentation of the marketplace, a competitive process for the determining policies,
and the neutrality of government (cf. Thomas 1993).
Elite model
Related to group theory is the view that policy making is determined by the
preferences of governing elites (cf. Mills 1956). The elite model is narrower in a
sense as it claims that the electorate is generally poorly informed about public
policies and that the elites shape the public opinion on policy questions. It mainly
highlights the potential source of bias in policy making in terms of the adoption of
policy alternatives that rather correspond to the preferences of the elite than the
general public. This view, however, contradicts the popular median voter theorem,
which conveys that – under the condition that simple majority rule is used – opinion
held by the median voter will become the policy decision (Black 1948; Downs 1957).
Key points
The literature of political science offers a number of conceptual models of
policy making, which enhance our understanding of policies and politics.
The models can be separated in terms of their model of policy makers as
either as either fully or partially rational actors.
Further, the models differ concerning their focus on the relevance of political
institutions and societal groups.
Analysing policy making as a process: the policy cycle
What are the main characteristics of policy making? Basically, three features can be
identified. Firstly, policy making occurs in presence of multiple constraints, e.g.
shortage of time and resources, public opinion, and of course the constitution.
Secondly, policy making involves the existence of various policy processes.
Governments are no unitary actors but consist of different departments that overlap
and compete with each other. Thirdly, these policy processes form an infinite cycle of
decisions and policies. Current policy decisions are not independent of decisions
taken before, and policies under discussion today may have ‘knock-on effects’
leading to further policies tomorrow (Newton and van Deth 2005: 265–66).
Given this nature of policy making, it is convenient to conceive of policy making as a
process model, which is also often labelled policy cycle. It models the policy process
as a series of political activities, consisting of (1) agenda setting, (2) policy
formulation, (3) policy adoption, (4) implementation, and (5) evaluation. Each policy
cycle begins with the identification of a societal problem and its placement on the
policy agenda. Subsequently, policy proposals are formulated, from which one will be
adopted. In the next stage, the adopted policy is taken to action. Finally, the impacts
of the policy are evaluated. This last stage leads straight back to the first, indicating
that the policy cycle is continuous and unending. This sequential model of the policy
cycle represents a simplification. In the real world different political actors and
institutions may be involved in different processes at the same time. Yet the policy
cycle provides a useful heuristic for breaking policy making into different units for
being able to illustrate how policies are actually made.
Figure 20.1 The policy cycle
Agenda setting
The first stage in policy making refers to the identification of a public problem, which
requires the state to intervene. In fact, there a many problems, but only a small
number will be given official attention by legislators and executives. Those public
problems that are chosen by the decisions makers constitute the policy agenda. In
this context, Cobb and Elder (1972: 85–86) distinguish between the systemic agenda
and the institutional agenda. The systemic agenda refers to all societal problems that
demand public attention, hence forming the ‘discussion agenda’. The institutional
agenda, by contrast, contains a set of problems that are up for the serious
consideration of decision makers. Thus, the institutional agenda is the ‘action
agenda’, which is more specific and concrete than the systemic agenda. Setting the
agenda is an important source of power as is it is policy consequential, i.e. legislative
institutions grant an advantage to the first movers as compared to the second movers
(Shepsle and Weingast 1987).
The factors determining whether an issue reaches the agenda may be cultural,
political, social, economic or ideological. In this respect, Schattschneider (1960)
argued that disadvantaged groups need to expand the ‘scope of conflict’ if they want
to gain access to the agenda. A notable advance was contributed by Bachrach and
Baratz (1962), who studied decision making with particular emphasis on what was
excluded from the agenda, i.e. ‘non-decisions’.
However, none of these univariate models generated testable hypotheses, which
triggered the development of multivariate models (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 131).
These approaches include, for instance, the funnel of causality model (cf. King 1973),
which integrates several variables into a unified framework. A major theoretical
achievement is based on the three policy initiation models formulated by Cobb et al.
1. The outside-initiative model refers to a situation where citizens groups gain
broad public support and get an issue onto the formal agenda.
2. The mobilization model describes a situation, in which initiatives of
government need to be placed on the public agenda for successful
3. In the inside initiation model, influential groups with access to decision makers
present policy proposals, which are broadly supported by particular interest
groups but only marginally by the public.
According to Kingdon (1995: 19), agenda setting can be regarded as ‘[…] three
process streams flowing through the system – streams of problems, policies, and
politics. They are largely independent of one another, and each develops according
to its own dynamics and rules. But at some critical junctures the three streams are
joined, and the greatest policy changes grow out of that coupling of problems,
policies, and solutions’.
The result of the convergence of the three streams is the opening of a ‘policy
window’, which gives advocates of a certain issue to put it on the policy agenda.
Similar to the garbage can model (cf. Cohen et al. 1972), Kingdon’s conception of
agenda setting emphasizes the relevance of chance, and therefore qualifies the
notion about the rationality of agenda setting.
Baumgartner and Jones (1991, 1993, 1994) modified Kingdon’s model by extending
it to the notion of ‘policy monopolies’, in which particular subsystems control the
interpretation of a problem. These subsystems comprise both governmental and
societal actors. The members of specific subsystems seek to change policy images
in order to weaken the stability of existing policy arrangements. In doing so, the
subsystem members can either publicize a problem and encourage the public to
demand its resolution upon government (‘Downsian strategy’), or they can modify the
institutional arrangements within which the subsystem operates (‘Schattschneider
strategy’) (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 139).
In most cases, the policy agenda is set by four types of actors: (1) public officials, (2)
the bureaucracy, (3) the mass media, and (4) the interest groups (Gerston 2004: 52).
Elected public officials, e.g. the president, the parliament, the ministries and courts,
are the most obvious agenda builders since their position enables them not only to
make policies, but also to place certain issues on the agenda. However, actual
agenda-setting is related to the larger political game in terms of power and the
intensity of ideological conflict both within and between the (coalition) government
and parliament. In this context, it must be highlighted that there is a high degree of
variation of rules and practices of agenda building in Western European parliaments
(Döring 1995: 224; 2001).
In the literature there is a virtual consensus that bureaucracies have an impact on
policy making at both the planning and implementation stage (cf. Hammond 1986).
However, recent studies have shown that bureaucrats also have the ability to affect
the organization of the political agenda. In this context, Schnapp (2000)
demonstrates that bureaucracies can stand in as effective agenda setters under
clearly identified circumstances, i.e. if no political actors put forward a proposal on a
certain problem, and therefore chances exist for the bureaucracy to increase its utility
by advancing a policy proposal, and if the minister is willing to sponsor the
bureaucratic proposal into the political process of decision making.
Agenda setting is also frequently associated with the role of mass media (cf.
McCombs and Shaw 1972; McCombs 2004). However, not all media topics are
placed on the policy agenda, which highlights that a public discussion of a more or
less relevant societal problem must not necessarily become a political problem.
This leads us to the fourth source of agenda setting power, the interest groups.
Agenda setting theory generally requires advocates to expand interest in a particular
issue or policy (Cobb and Elder 1983: 105–08). That interest groups place issues on
the public agenda seems to be indisputable, yet the question emerges whether to
what extent their interests are compatible with public needs. Most importantly, the
success of various interest groups depends on those in positions of power.
Over the years, research on agenda setting has become increasingly sophisticated.
More recent works cover a wide range of new research questions. In this regard,
various scholars ask how representation affects agenda setting (cf. Jones and
Baumgartner 2004; Penner et al. 2006). Another aspect is about the role of political
parties for agenda setting (John 2006; Walgrave et al. 2006; Green-Pedersen 2007).
A further fashionable perspective on agenda setting scrutinizes the effects of experts
and the scientific community (Pralle 2006; Timmermans and van Scholten 2006).
Policy formulation
The second stage in the policy cycle – policy formulation – involves the definition,
discussion, acceptation or rejection of feasible courses of action for coping with
policy problems. Generally, policy formulation is strongly related to policy adoption –
the subsequent stage here – and in fact a clear-cut distinction between them is often
impossible. However, we decided to present them separately since they still refer to
different stages. Policy formulation deals with the elaboration of alternatives of action,
whereas policy adoption refers to the formal adoption to take on a policy.
Hence, policy formulation implies the definition of policy objectives and the selection
of the most appropriate policy instruments as well as their settings (Hall 1993). It
takes place within the broader context of technical and political constraints of state
action. The political constraints can be either substantive or procedural. Substantive
constraints refer to the nature of the problem, while procedural constraints are about
procedures involved in adopting a policy adoption. These procedural constraints are
related to both institutional and tactical constraints (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 147–
Policy formulation generally involves a number of actors.
Box 20.2 Formulating policy
‘Policy formulation occurs in government bureaucracies; interest group offices;
legislative committee rooms, meetings of special commissions; and policy-planning
organizations otherwise known as “think tanks”. The details of policy proposals are
usually formulated by staff members rather than their bosses, but staffs are guided
by what they know their leaders want ’ Thomas R. Dye (2005: 42).
But basically policy formulation brings the relationship between executives and
legislatures into the forefront. There are in fact good reasons to believe that there is a
dominance of executives over legislatures and parties. Executives can rely on more
resources than parties and their representatives in the legislature. Especially with
regard to deepening European integration, it is expected that the weight of
executives in relation to parliaments increases (cf. Fabbrini and Donà 2003). Though
conversely, the dominance of the executive in national political systems paved for the
success of European integration.
With their comparative analysis of legislative activity in Belgium, France, Germany,
and the United Kingdom between 1986 and 2003, Bräuninger and Debus (2007) yet
show that the legislature is also highly involved in policy formulation. These findings
suggest that the influence of the opposition and of parliaments in particular is at least
not as insignificant as often argued.
Table 20.1 Legislative bills by initiator and country
Country Government Government
Government and
Opposition Parties Total
Note: Figures are numbers of bills introduced by government or (groups of) MPs of lower chamber of
parliament. Share of bills by initiator in parentheses; share of successful bills in brackets.
Source: Bräuninger and Debus (2007).
Earlier studies (cf. Dogan 1975) emphasized the role of ministerial bureaucracy and
top civil servants in policy formulation. However, policy formulation can rather be
conceived as a more or less informal process of negotiation between ministerial
departments and interest groups (Jann and Wegrich 2006). Interest groups play a
major role in policy formulation as they often work with executive and legislative
officials to develop a policy draft. Interest groups may play a big part in formulating
legislation about complex and technical issues, and when government institutions
lack time and staff to cope with such matters (Anderson 2003: 105–07). This is, for
instance, the case with the European Commission, which has developed sets of
informal and formal rules that emphasise the key role that consultation with interest
groups plays in European policy making (cf. Mazey and Richardson 2001). This
illustrates the relevance of bargaining among different actors for policy formulation.
Another aspect of policy formulation refers to the impact of policy advice and
scientific knowledge (Martin and Richards 1995). In this regard, it is an interesting
research question how this division of tasks between policymakers and advisory
organs affects policy outcomes, which might be modelled in game theoretical terms.
In this context, the role of ‘think tanks’ also started to call considerable attention.
Their functioning is related to ideas about policy networks, epistemic communities
and policy learning (Marin and Mayntz 1991; Haas 1992; Meseguer Yebra 2003,
2006). For being able to influence policies, think tanks can only rely on the
generation of ideas to policy problems. Thus, in contrast to interest groups that also
offer resources, think tank merely operate by using communication (Stone 2005)
Policy adoption
In contrast to preliminary stages of decision-making, the final adoption of a particular
policy alternative is determined by government institutions. The adoption of a policy
option is determined by a number of factors. Of these, two sets of factors are of
major relevance. First of all, the set of feasible policies can be reduced by the
necessity to build majorities for the approval of a policy option, which implies
considerations about values, party affiliation, constituency interests, public opinion,
deference, and decision rules (Anderson 2003: 126).
Party loyalty is an important decision-making criterion for most members of
parliament (Bowler et al. 1999; Benedetto and Hix 2007 for qualifications). Therefore,
party affiliation is an important indicator for the likelihood of a member of parliament
to approve a policy draft. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that commonly there is
a considerable variation in the cohesion of parties within national parliaments (e.g.
Janda 1980). According to a comparative study by Bräuninger and Debus (2007),
there is a small but significant share of law proposals initiated by bipartisan or even
opposition parties that is adopted by a parliamentary majority (cf. figure 20.2). This
finding somewhat contradicts the branch of research that argues that the government
is the sole and decisive actor in policy making (see, for example, Döring 1995, 2001;
Döring and Hallerberg 2004).
Another important decision criterion is given by the expected costs and benefits of a
policy proposal for the constituency. In this context, Weingast et al. (1981) show in
the case of distributive politics, a strong reliance on a re-election constituency may
imply larger projects and programs than are economically efficient. Generally, a
member of parliament is expected to adopt a policy option, if the benefits for the
constituency prevail. Further, considerations about the public opinion also affect
policy choices as well as decision rules, values and perception of deference.
Generally, however, policy adoption should be dominated by bargaining and
compromise, and, therefore, the most plausible decision-making theory appears to
be incrementalism rather than rational models (Hayes 2001).
The second set of factors refers to the allocation of competencies between the actors
involved in policy making. Cross-national research concludes that the type of state
organization, whether federal or unitary, affects the success, speed and nature of
governmental policy-making.
In analyzing this aspect of the policy-making process, Tsebelis’s (1995, 2000, 2002)
concept of ‘veto players’ is particularly useful. In presidential systems, ‘divided
government’ can impede decision-making as there are generally insufficient
incentives for political parties to cooperate and build policy-making coalitions. But
also other states are prone to his kind of constraint. Germany’s bicameral legislature
limits governmental policy-making to the consent of a set of veto players (Tsebelis
and Money 1997). In this context, Bräuninger and König (1999) show that German
governmental potential for policy change is determined by the formal rules of
bicameralism as well as policy domain-specific distribution of legislators’ party-
orientated policy positions.
Implementation represents the conversion of new laws and programs into practice.
Without proper implementation, policy has neither substance nor significance. Thus,
policy success depends on how well bureaucratic structures implement government
decisions. At the first glance, implementation appears as an automatic continuation
of the policy-making process. Nevertheless, there often exists a substantial gap
between the passage of new legislation and their application, which reveals that the
relationship between decision making and implementation is tenuous at best (cf.
Pressman and Wildavsky 1973; Hill and Hupe 2005).
Consequently, it is the explicit objective of implementation research to open the
‘black box’ between policy formation and policy outcomes. To this end, various
theoretical approaches were elaborated to the study of implementation, which Pülzl
and Treib (2006) divide into three categories (cf. also Hill and Hupe 2005: 41–84):
(1) Top-down models (Pressman and Wildavsky 1973; Bardach 1977;
Mazmanian and Sabatier 1983) primarily emphasize the ability of policy
makers to produce unequivocal policy objectives and control the
implementation process;
(2) Bottom-up models (Lipsky 1971, 1980) regard local bureaucrats as the central
actors in policy delivery and view implementation as negotiation processes
within networks;
(3) Hybrid models (Mayntz 1977; Windhoff-Héritier 1980) integrate elements of
both previously mentioned models and other theoretical models.
For successful implementation, there must be an entity with sufficient resources,
which is able to translate the policy objectives into an operational framework and that
is accountable for its actions (Gerston 2004: 98). Often bureaucracies emerge as
principal actors during implementation. In his study of the US bureaucracy, Meier
(2000) finds implementation depends on the policy type, i.e. whether it is regulatory,
distributive or redistributive in nature (cf. Lowi 1972). Hence, when implementing
regulatory policies, most agencies are responsive to the communities over which
they preside, while distributive policies are implemented with some bureaucratic
discretion, with congressional subcommittees and organized interest groups
exercising continuous oversight. In the area of redistributive policy, however, little
discretion is left to bureaucracy since Congress puts a lot of effort when designing
these policies. In conclusion, the very design of a policy seems to be of relevance for
implementation success.
Related to the policy types is the choice of policy instruments used in legislation.
According to Mayntz (1979) different policy instruments are vulnerable to specific
kinds of implementation problems. This finding stimulated a notable body of literature
on the effects of policy instruments for reducing the ‘implementation deficit’ of
European Union policies (Knill 2006).
But it is not only the policy design and the instrument choice that determines the
likelihood of proper implementation. In federal systems, for instance, implementation
efforts may move between the levels of government as well as within levels of
government (Gerston 2004: 103). If implementation is a matter of horizontal
implementation, in which a national legal act must be applied solely by an agency in
the executive branch, the number of actors remains low and implementation can be
attained smoothly. But if vertical implementation is concerned, implying that various
segment of the national government must interact with different levels at the sub-
national level, the undertaking may become challenging.
The relevance of bureaucracy during the implementation phase reveals a
contradictory picture of great interest. On the one hand, bureaucracies are essential
for making policies work. On the other hand, senior bureaucrats are often more
experienced and better trained than their political masters (Newton and van Deth
2005: 118), which paves the way for ‘bureaucratic drift’. This term describes the
phenomenon that bureaucratic policy will drift towards the liking of bureaucracy and
away from what was originally intended by legislation. The threat of a bureaucratic
drift is mainly given in cases of coalition governments as the bureaucratic might drift
easily to the ideal position of one of the coalition partner without being suspected
(Hammond and Knott 1996). Sometimes, this discrepancy between intended and
actual results is also referred to as ‘agency problems’, originating from the principal-
agent theory (Grossman and Hart 1983).
In this context, Schnapp (2001) reveals that the possibility of a bureaucratic drift is
likely in countries with coalition government that have a high number of coalition
parties, namely Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and Japan. By contrast, this seems
unlikely for Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Greece and the United Kingdom since
their governments are composed of one party only. Aware of this, a number of
instruments were introduced to control bureaucrats: politicians can appoint their own
political advisors, bureaucrats are trained in a public service ethos, scrutiny and
auditing schemes were introduced as well as ‘open government’ and ombudsmen
(Newton/van Deth 2005: 130).
After a policy is passed by the legislature and implemented by the bureaucracy, it
becomes a subject of evaluation. The main question at this stage is whether the
output of the decision making process – a given public policy – has attained the
intended goals. Evaluation is often a formal component of policy making and is
generally carried out by experts who have some knowledge about the processes and
objectives pertaining to the issue undergoing review (Gerston 2004: 124).
Evaluation can be carried out in different ways. In this context, Munger (2000: 20)
differentiates between (1) purely formal evaluations (monitoring routine tasks), (2)
client satisfaction evaluation (performance of primary functions), (3) outcome
evaluation (satisfaction of a list of measurable intended outcomes), (4) cost-benefit
evaluation (comparison of costs and impacts of a policy), and (5) evaluation of long-
term consequences (impact on the core societal problem, rather than symptoms
alone). In more general terms, policies should be evaluated for their efficiency (using
the least resources to the maximum effect) and effectiveness (achievement of the
intended goals).
Policy evaluation provides a feedback loop, which enables decision makers to draw
lessons from each particular policy in operation. This feedback loop identifies new
problems and sets in motion the policy making process once again, creating an
endless policy cycle. This turns policy evaluation into a powerful tool of the policy
making process: it possesses the potential to reframe an issue once thought to be
resolved by policy makers, but as we will see in the next paragraph, it can also lead
to the termination of public policies. In this respect, policy evaluations can pave the
way for policy learning and evidence-based policy making (Sanderson 2002).
The systematic evaluation of a policy – or more specifically of a program – comprises
five areas, namely (1) the need for a particular problem, (2) the program’s design, (3)
its implementation, (4) its impact or outcomes, and (5) its efficiency (Rossi et al.
2004: 18). These domains are mainly dealt with in scientific evaluation, which must
be distinguished between administrative evaluations conducted or initiated by the
public administration and political evaluation carried out by diverse actors in the
political arena, including the public and the media (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 210–
16). Most government agencies make some effort to evaluate their own policies and
programs. The most common type of evaluation is based on hearing and reports.
Another common approach is to evaluation is given by the analysis of citizen’s
complaints. Occasionally teams of high-ranking administrators or consultant visit
sites and collect impressionistic data about how policies are carried out, or
government agencies themselves gather data on policy output measures. And in
some policy fields, governmental entities evaluate the performance of certain policies
by comparing them with professional standards. However, most policy evaluations
are unsystematic and do not satisfy minimal requirement formulated by scientific
evaluation research, e.g. before and after comparison (Dye 2005: 335–39). The need
for systematic policy evaluation is expected to grow since contemporary concern
over the allocation of scarce recourses makes it essential to evaluate the
effectiveness of policy interventions.
In practice, policy evaluation presents numerous challenges to the evaluators.
Citizens and governments alike tend to interpret the actual effects of a policy in a way
that it serves their own intentions. Often governments avoid the precise definition of
policy objectives because otherwise politicians would risk taking the blame for
obvious failure (Jann and Wegrich 2006). Further, public policy decisions cannot be
limited to intended effects only. In fact, they are often characterized by a number of
unintended effects (Newton and van Deth 2005: 272f.). However, evaluators can be
confronted with more general problems: ‘Program circumstances and activities may
change during the course of an evaluation, an appropriate balance must be found
between scientific and pragmatic considerations in the evaluation design, and the
wide diversity of perspectives and approaches in the evaluation field provide little firm
guidance about how best to proceed with an evaluation’ (Rossi et al. 2004: 29).
The results of the evaluation procedure can also lead to the termination of a certain
policy. In theoretical terms, policy termination should be likely when a policy problem
has been solved, or if evaluation studies reveal the dysfunctionality of a policy.
Nonetheless, the empirical findings show that once a policy is institutionalized within
a government, it is hard to terminate it (Bardach 1976; Jann and Wegrich 2006). This
immortality of public policies stems from various sources. The most rampant view –
which is analogous to Wilson’s (1973, 1980) policy typology – is that the continuation
of inefficient programs is that their benefits are concentrated in a small, well-
organized constituency, while their greater costs are dispersed over a numbers over
a large, unorganized group. Moreover, legislative and bureaucratic interests may
impede termination. This is also related to the concept of incrementalism, which
implies that attention on proposed changes rather focuses on parts of existing
policies and not on its entirety (Dye 2005: 344–44.). Further reasons are cognitive
aversion, institutional longevity, dynamic conservatism, anti-termination coalitions,
legal obstacles and high costs of initiation (Biller 1976; deLeon 1978). Thus,
termination should become more likely if there a government experiences some kind
of shock, justifying drastic measures, such as economic crises (Geva-May 2004).
Studies of policy termination are therefore frequently concerned with the question
why policies and programs continue to exist (Jann and Wegrich 2006). The
systematic explanation for the persistence of policies in light of their obvious
inefficiency is a further challenge and could substantially complement the revised
policy termination approach – in particular by means of systematically integrating
non-termination phenomena in the face of the sub-optimal provision of services (cf.
Bauer 2006). Overall, the analysis policy termination needs further theoretical and
empirical substantiation.
Key points
In analytical terms, it is helpful to view policy making as a series of political
activities encompassing agenda setting, policy formulation, policy adoption,
implementation, and evaluation.
The number of actors involved decreases when we move from agenda setting
to implementation.
Evaluation is a rather formal component of policy making and often carried out
by experts.
The concept of policy termination yields some interesting implications,
however, this aspect is both theoretically and empirically still underdeveloped.
The importance of institutions, framing and policy styles
While we scrutinized rather generally the different stages of policy making in the first
section, we now refine our analytical focus and examine how certain structures in
different countries can impact policy decisions. This perspective adopts a
comparative perspective on the analysis of the policy-making process. In doing so,
we concentrate on the institutions, cognitive and normative determinants, and
national policy styles (cf. Jamison and Baark 1999).
The role of institutions
In a broader sense, we can interpret policy making as a strategy for resolving societal
problems by using institutions. At the same time, however, it is also a process for
modifying those same institutions in order meet these goals. Generally, policy
institutions serve to reduce complexities inherent to the policy making process
(Simon 1957; March and Olson 1984; Luhman 1985). They shape the behaviour of
actors and the use of policy instruments (Weaver and Rockman 1993). From a
rationalist perspective, institutions can structure the interaction and avoid the sub-
optimal solutions as they are for instance given by the prisoner’s dilemma. From a
sociological point to view, institution can support cooperation through the provision of
moral or cognitive template (Hall and Taylor 1996).
Hence, the relationship between public policy and institutions is a close one since
policy does not become a public policy until it is adopted, implemented and enforced
by government institutions. Institutions lend legitimacy, universality and coercion to
policies (Dye 2005: 12). The core institutions in democracies and semi-democracies
– elections, executives and legislatives – are important for framing the entire policy
making apparatus. ‘These core institutions provide the method by which rulers and
those being ruled accept some understood rules of the game and then seek to
employ these rules to make policy’ (Considine 2005: 105).
As policy interventions in democratic systems originate in electoral systems, it is the
most essential formal institution when scrutinizing policy making. Electoral
competition is largely party competition, which turns political parties into important
actors. Their main function is about structuring and articulating the public opinion.
Most frequently, political parties are described by a left-right dichotomy, implying that
they have diametrically opposed policy preferences. In fact various studies – based
on expert judgments as well as content analysis of party manifestos – found a level
of consistency with this dichotomy (cf. Laver and Hunt 1992; Budge and Klingemann
2001; Laver et al. 2003; Debus 2007).
Strongly related to this is the relevance of the voting systems, of which we can
distinguish between three main types:
plurality-majority systems, in which the elected candidates get more votes
than any other (example: United Kingdom);
proportional representation, in which seats are allocates according to a
formula that seeks to ensure proportionality (example: Germany);
semi-proportional systems that combine plurality-majority with proportional
representation aspects (example: Japan).
Each system has strengths and weaknesses. While the proportional system ensures
the representation of all societal groups, including small parties, plurality-majority
systems are usually associated with stable and effective governments. These
aspects have strong repercussions on the quality of policy making.
The relationship between legislative and executive is also of crucial importance for
policy making. In parliamentary models, the executive is a group of ministers elected
from the very parliament, while in pure presidential systems, the two branches of
government are separate. In this context, Lijphart (1999) claims that despite strong
variations among countries, democratic systems tend to fall into two categories:
majoritarian and consensus democracies. The majoritarian system – which is
generally associated with the United Kingdom, and hence is also known as the
‘Westminster Model’ – concentrates power and fuses executive and legislative
powers in the classic parliamentary manner (examples: Colombia, Costa Rica,
France, Greece, New Zealand (before 1996), and the United Kingdom). By contrast,
the consensus model focuses on sharing power by separating and balancing
executive and legislative power (examples: Austria, Germany, India, Japan, the
Netherlands, and Switzerland). Remarkably, consensus democracies score higher in
terms of democratic quality as well as the state’s generosity in social welfare,
environmental policy, criminal justice, and foreign aid (Lijphart 1999: ch. 16).
Role of cognitive and normative frames
The concepts on normative and cognitive frames are crucial for explaining how
actors understand and interpret policy making situations. Cognitive frames refer to
the schemes through which actors view and interpret the world (Campbell 1998:
382). Normative frames are about values and attitudes that shape the actors’ view of
the world (cf. Fischer 2003). Both cognitive and normative frames can enable but
also constrain policy action.
Thus, for gaining a more comprehensive understanding of policy adoption, we need
to supplement our analytical framework – which is mostly the rational choice model –
by the consideration of normative and cognitive determinants. Although rational
motivation may explain the adoption of new policies, cognitive and normative factors
may be essential for understanding better the decision making at each stage of the
policy making process (Miller and Banaszak-Holl 2005: 214). The characteristics of
cognitive and normative frames can be linked to the sociological institutionalism, in
which legitimacy-seeking actors are confronted with institutional pressures to
conform a set of cultural rules, norms and expectations (Miller and Banaszak-Holl
2005: 195).
In this context, Surel (2000) discusses three concepts, i.e. those on policy paradigms
(Hall 1993), advocacy coalitions (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993; Sabatier 1998),
and référentiel (Jobert and Muller 1987). According to Hall (1993), there are certain
policy paradigms present in the real world that imply distinct policy goals. These
goals – that are intertwined with the paradigm – then define the choice and
specification of instruments. The advocacy coalition framework, by contrast, assumes
a similar construct to affect the entire society, which is the ‘deep core’. Subordinated
to it is the ‘policy core’, which refers to the belief systems within a subsystem of
public policy. From this perspective, ‘secondary aspects’ are the instrumental
decisions that are necessary to implement the policy core. The référentiel equals a
paradigm as it comprises values and norms.
Cognitive and normative frames produce a sense of specific identity. However,
certain actors have a privileged role in public policy making as they generate and
diffuse cognitive frames. Since elites and other privileged actors frame policy ideas to
convince each other as well as the public, they are important for the adoption policies
(Campbell 1998: 380). This category of actors is labelled as ‘mediators’ (Jobert and
Muller 1987) or ‘policy-brokers’ (Sabatier 1998). Further, cognitive and normative
frames help to reduce tension and conflict by making out “the terrain for social
exchanges and disagreements, rather than simply supporting an unlikely consensus”
(Surel 2000: 502). Dobbin (1994), for instance, shows that the differences in how
decision makers promoted railway development in the late nineteenth century can be
explained by variations in cognitive frameworks. An instructive approach is presented
by Campbell (1998), who models the role of ideas for policy making against the
background of cognitive and normative framing. In this way, he shows that ideas can
both enable and constrain policy making. At the cognitive level, ideas can either help
policy makers to define a clear course of action, or they can impede policy making if
they are used cognitive constraints. As concerns the role of ideas at the normative
level, they possess the ability to legitimize policy solutions to the public, but
simultaneously, ideas can potentially constrain the normative range of legitimate
National policy styles
The concept of policy styles – or also regulatory styles – refers to the routines and
choices of actors involved in policy making and implementation (Richardson et al.
1982: 12). In a certain extent, this concept takes up the discussion about institutional
characteristics (cf. Lijphart 1999) as well as Dyson’s (1980) elaboration on ‘strong’
and ‘weak’ states.1 Further, it is related to the ideas of ‘policy communities’ and
‘administrative culture’ (Hill 2005: 69; van Thiel 2006: 118). Thus, it is the main idea
of this section to elucidate that for the analysis of policy making nations matter (Feick
and Jann 1988).
Richardson et al. (1982) distinguish policy styles along two dimensions. The first
dimension is about how policy-makers respond to the issues on the policy agenda.
Do decision makers anticipate societal problems (technocratic approach), or so they
merely react to them (diplomatic approach)? The first notion presupposes that the
government is perfectly informed and able to foresee and forestall policy problems
before they become critical. By contrast, the second notion about the government’s
approach is build around the concept of imperfect information and hence seems to
be more realistic. The second dimension is about the relative autonomy of the state
vis-à-vis other actors involved in policy making and implementation. Here, the
question is whether decision makers seek to ensure consensus among the parties
involved, or whether they simply impose their decisions on the executing actors
(Richardson et al. 1982: 12f.).
These core elements of their analytical framework can also be found in other
conceptualizations. Van Waarden’s (1995) typology of regulatory styles, for instance,
comprises six sub-dimensions that refer to the ‘what’, ‘how’, and ‘who’ questions of
policy making:
(1) Liberal-pluralist versus étatist versus corporatist style: The first style prefers
‘market’ solutions to policy problems, while etatism implies a preference for
‘state solutions’. Corporatism, by contrast, favours ‘associational’ solutions to
policy problems.
(2) Active versus reactive styles: Active styles are higher in their degree of
intensity, radicalism as well as innovation as compared to reactive ones.
(3) Comprehensive versus fragmented or incremental styles: Comprehensive
policies are integrated into larger plans, while the latter are not.
(4) Adversarial versus consensual paternalistic styles: The first type strongly
relies on coercion and imposition, while the latter is based on consultation.
(5) Legalistic versus pragmatic styles: Legalistic styles are characterized by
formalism, detailed regulation, and rigid rule application. The pragmatic style,
on the other hand, is informal and flexible in both policy formulation and
(6) Formal versus informal network relations between state agencies and
organizations of state agencies.
In comparison, the typology proposed by Knill (1998) is more parsimonious. National
regulatory styles are basically defined by the mode of state intervention and
administrative interest intermediation. With respect to state intervention, he further
distinguishes between (1) hierarchical versus self-regulation, (2) substantive versus
procedural regulation, as well as (3) uniform and detailed requirements versus open
regulation allowing for administrative flexibility and discretion. In a similar way, he
sub-divides administrative interest intermediation in (1) formal versus informal,
legalistic versus pragmatic, and (2) open versus closed relationships between
administrative and societal actors.
Policy styles provide an analytically useful concept for determining the design of
policies, e.g. the choice of instruments (Howlett 1991; Arentsen 2003) as well as the
mode of implementation (Freeman 1985). Yet, assessing the extent of impact of
national policy styles augers for systematic comparative analysis (Freeman 1985).
Different policy styles can exist within countries, at different government levels as
well as in different policy fields (Richardson et al. 1982; Howlett and Ramesh 2003).
Richardson’s (1982) volume itself, however, could not deliver empirical evidence for
existence of national policy styles. In fact, the single case studies showed remarkable
degree for intra-national variations in policy styles. Conversely, when evaluating the
success and failure of four policy areas (Steel, Health Care, Finance, HIV and the
Blood Supply) in six European countries, namely France, Germany, the Netherlands,
the UK, Spain and Sweden, Bovens et al. (2001) find some evidence that different
national policy styles affect how policies are formulated. Most importantly, policy
styles in some countries tend to be more stable and clearly defined than are those of
others, even though very much also seems to depend on the policy sector.2
Figure 20.2 Richardson’s (1982) typology of policy styles
Anticipatory Reactive
Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Sweden
United Kingdom France*
* Concerning financial regulations, the French style is anticipatory.
Source: Based on Bovens et al. (2001: 64547).
The concepts of national policy styles are linked to legal, political and administrative
institutions and cultures. And given this strong rootedness, national regulatory styles
are generally expected to be resistant to change, even with increasing economic and
political internationalization (van Waarden 1995). These persistent differences in
national regulatory styles can have important effects, especially with respect to
European integration. This aspect explains why the study of national regulatory styles
has been expanded to the study of Europeanization research (see, for example,
Mazey and Richardson 1996; Knill 2001; Jordan and Liefferink 2004).
In sum, we can conclude that the notion of national policy styles is not unproblematic.
Similarly to the concept of policy cycles, we should rather refer to it as a heuristic tool
for identifying common policy making patterns, but not as explanatory factors.
Key points
Policy making can be thought of as a strategy for resolving societal problems
by using institutions; simultaneously policy making is also a process for
modifying those same institutions for attaining these goals.
Cognitive and normative fulfils important functions during the policy making
Similar to the policy cycle, the concept of policy styles also serves as a useful
heuristic tool for identifying common policy making patterns among countries;
nonetheless, it must also regarded as another ‘analytical shortcut’.
The role of international factors for domestic policy making
In this section, we dismiss the assumption that policy making is merely influence by
domestic factors and concentrate on the impact of international factors on domestic
policy making. The notion that countries do not constitute independent observations
has been known for a long time in comparative politics, and became discussed as
‘Galton’s problem’ (Naroull 1961; Braun and Gilardi 2006; Jahn 2006).
In consequence, scholars are increasingly paying attention to how actors, institutions
and economic forces that extend beyond state border can shape domestic politics
and hence public policies (Bernstein and Cashore 2000: 67). This recognition has led
researchers to scrutinize more carefully the link between domestic policy processes
and the international arena (Risse-Kappen 1995). Such scholarship is, however, still
at an early stage and the challenge before political scientists is to develop theoretical
conceptions of how internationalization affects domestic public policies and policy
making (Howlett and Ramesh 2003: 55).
Despite these limitations in terms of theoretical literature, we can approach the policy
effects of internationalization ‘through the backdoor’ by turning to the concepts of
policy diffusion and policy transfer, and to the analysis of cross-national policy
convergence as related concepts.
Theories of policy diffusion, policy transfer, and cross-national policy convergence
Diffusion is generally defined as the socially mediated spread of policies across and
within political systems, including communication and influence processes which
operate both on and within populations of adopters (Rogers 1995: 13). Diffusion
studies typically start out from the description of adoption patterns for certain policy
innovations over time. In a subsequent step, they analyse the factors that account for
the empirically observed spreading process. According to this context of diffusion, no
distinction of different forms of ‘spread mediation’ is made.
In terms of the domestic policy-making process, diffusion mainly affects the stages of
agenda-setting, and to a lesser degree policy formulation. However, the mere placing
of these issues on the policy agenda does not imply that they will be adopted.
Therefore, some authors emphasized that the likelihood of policy adoption increases
if the policy proposal originates from a country that is culturally similar to the
receiving country (Strang and Meyer 1993; Strang and Soule 1998). Other scholars
stress the relevance of administrative traditions and capacities (Kern et al. 2000).
Lenschow et al. (2005) argue that the extent to which a policy innovation is
accommodated by a given country can be explained by three aspects: institutional,
cultural and socio-economic factors. In their analytical framework, institutional factors
– defined as organizational structures, formal and informal rules, and policy-making
procedures – are expected to facilitate or constrain policies (Thelen and
Steinmo1992). Culture is included for understanding how policy discourses are
developed, interpreted and eventually integrated into the domestic policy-making
context, whereas socio-economic structure and development points to the general
capacity of state for policy actions.
However, we have to keep in mind that once a diffusing policy idea – either with or
without modifications – has been placed on the agenda or became a policy proposal,
its further development is then mainly influenced by domestic politics. Hence,
domestic factors, such as considerations about values, party affiliation, constituency
interests, public opinion, and decision rules come into play again.
Policy transfer can best be described as “processes by which knowledge about
policies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas in one political system
(past or present) is used in the development of policies, administrative arrangements,
institutions and ideas in another political system” (Dolowitz and Marsh 2000: 5; cf.
also Rose 1991; Dolowitz and Marsh 1996; Radaelli 2000). Policy transfer is not
restricted to merely imitating policies of other countries, but can include profound
changes in the content of the exchanged policies (Rose 1991; Kern et al. 2000). In
fact, there are basically four degrees of transfer (Rose 1993; Dolowitz and Marsh
1996: 351, 2000: 13):
(1) Copying (direct and complete transfer);
(2) Emulation (transfer of the ideas behind the program);
(3) Combinations (mixture of different policies);
(4) Inspiration (final policy does not draw upon the original).
The focus of transfer studies is on the analysis of the specific processes and factors
that influence the way and degree to which one country learns form other countries
with regard to policy making in a certain area. Here again domestic factors come into
playing. In terms of decision-making it is important which actors engage in policy
transfer, which negotiation power they possess, and therefore whether they can build
a supportive coalition for adopting a policy developed elsewhere. Another crucial
aspect for the success of a policy import might be its regulatory legitimacy (Majone
1996: ch. 13). It is indeed reasonable to hypothesize some countries have more
problem to regard policy external policy proposals as legitimate than others.
Policy diffusion and policy transfer share a number of assumptions, e.g. that
governments do not learn about policy practices randomly, but rather through
common affiliations, negotiations and institutional membership (Simmons and Elkins
2004). Both transfer and diffusion processes hence require that actors are informed
about the policy choices of others (Strang and Meyer 1993: 488). Given these
conceptual overlaps, diffusion is often equated with policy transfer (Kern 2000; Tews
Notwithstanding these conceptual overlaps, however, analytical differences between
diffusion and transfer should not be overlooked. Diffusion studies typically start out
from a rather general perspective. While analyses of policy transfer investigate the
underlying causes and contents of singular processes of bilateral policy exchange,
the dependent variable in diffusion research refers to general patterns characterizing
the spread of innovations within or across political systems. The diffusion literature
focuses more on the spatial, structural and socioeconomic reasons for particular
adoption patterns rather than on the reasons for individual adoptions as such
(Bennett 1991: 221; Jordana/Levi-Faur 2005). Diffusion studies often reveal a rather
robust adoption pattern, with the cumulative adoption of a policy innovation over time
following an S-shaped curve (cf. Gray 1973; Berry and Berry 1990).
Both transfer and diffusion represent processes that might result in policy
convergence, which can be defined as "any increase in the similarity between one or
more characteristics of a certain policy (e.g. policy objectives, policy instruments,
policy settings) across a given set of political jurisdictions (supranational institutions,
states, regions, local authorities) over a given period of time” (Knill 2005: 768). It has
close proximity to the concept of isomorphism which has been developed in
organization sociology. Isomorphism is defined as a process of homogenization that
“forces one unit in a population to resemble other units that face the same set of
environmental conditions” (DiMaggio and Powell 1991: 66). The central question
underlying studies on isomorphism refers to the mechanisms through which
organizations become more similar over time. There is thus a broad overlap between
studies on policy convergence and isomorphism, with the major difference between
the two concepts being on their empirical focus. The literature on isomorphism
concentrates on increasing similarity of organizational and institutional structures and
cultures. Studies on policy convergence, transfer or diffusion, by contrast, focus on
changes in national policy characteristics.
But transfer and diffusion must not necessarily lead to converging policy outputs.
This would imply that policy ideas were equally transposed into domestic policy
proposals, and subsequently adopted through the same or similar political processes.
Admittedly, this is an unrealistic scenario. Van Waarden (1995: 334), for instance,
points out that policy diffusion does not automatically lead to convergence as foreign
models usually need to be modified to correspond to national institutional structures
and regulatory styles. Thus, how can we explain similar policies across different
countries otherwise? Apparently, there are different sources of international influence
with a varying degree of constraints on domestic policy making and public policies.
International sources that affect domestic policy making
Internationalization (Hirst and Thompson 1996) does not only affect policy sectors
that are generally associated with externalities, e.g. environmental policy, but also
policy fields with no immediate international connection, such as social policy. Yet,
internationalization is a highly complex phenomenon with varying effects on different
policy sectors and states. For disentangling the mechanisms behind
internationalization, we rely on the concepts introduced by Holzinger and Knill (2005),
who distinguish between (1) imposition, (2) international harmonization, (3) regulatory
competition, and (4) transnational communication.
Imposition – sometimes also labelled ‘coercive isomorphism’ (DiMaggio and Powell
1991), or ‘penetration’ (Bennett 1991) – occurs whenever an external political actor
forces a government to adopt a certain policy. This presupposes asymmetry of
power, and often policy adoption is accompanied by an exchange of economic
resources. Policies can either be unilaterally imposed on a country by another, or
imposition can occur as conditionality of an international institution (Dolowitz and
Marsh 2000: 9). Unilateral imposition happens rarely and only in extreme situations,
such as wars. Conditionality, on the other hand, can be observed more frequently. An
example for conditionality is the necessity of applicant countries for membership in
the European Union to adopt the entire acquis communautaire, i.e. the total body of
European law accumulated thus far. Imposition implies that the country forced to
adopt a certain model has not much choice in modifying the policy. As a
consequence, imposition can generally be expected to lead to complete similarity of
the policies of the submitting country and the policies of the imposing country or
institution. In such cases, domestic politics are mainly bypassed.
International harmonization refers to a situation in which member states voluntarily
engage in international cooperation, and hence corresponds to ‘negotiated transfer’
(Dolowitz and Marsh 2000: 15). This mechanism implies that countries comply with
uniform legal obligations defined in international or supranational law. International
harmonization presupposes the existence of interdependencies or externalities which
push governments to resolve common problems through cooperation within
international institutions, thus sacrificing some independence for the good of the
community (Drezner 2001: 60; Hoberg 2001: 127). Once established, institutional
arrangements will constrain and shape the domestic policy choices, even as they are
constantly challenged and reformed by their member states. As a result, international
institutions are not only the object of state choice, but at the same time consequential
for subsequent governmental activities (Martin/Simmons 1998: 743).
Box 20.3 International harmonization and domestic politics
‘The importance of domestic politics is largely limited along this path to the stage
of rule creation/ratification and to the decision of whether to comply or not in
specific circumstances. In the two-level game of international negotiations,
governments balance, and sometimes play off, the interests of their negotiating
partners and domestic constituencies. Domestic policy-making structures are also
important when states require domestic ratification of international agreements or
implementing legislation.
However, once rules are in place, assuming states view them as legitimate, they
create a “pull toward compliance” regardless of domestic political factors.
Contravening the rule could result in costly disputes in international adjudication
bodies or domestic courts or sanctions of various sorts. It could also erode the
legitimacy of other related rules that a state may want others to obey or, in
utilitarian terms, erode general reciprocity that creates a broad incentive to obey
international rules in the long run. The rule also becomes a resource on which
transnational and/or coalitions of domestic actors can draw when governments do
not comply. For example, they can publicize non-compliance, pressure
governments to live up to their commitments or press governments to launch
disputes against other countries which do not fulfil their obligations’ Steven
Bernstein and Benjamin Cashore (2000: 79-80).
The mechanism of regulatory competition is closely related with the notion of
internationalization as economic globalization. Regulatory competition is expected to
homogenize the policy outputs of countries when these are mutually faced with
competitive pressures. Thus, this mechanism presupposes economic integration
among countries. The competitive pressure arises from (potential) threats of
economic actors to shift their activities elsewhere, inducing governments to lower
their regulatory standards. This way, regulatory competition among governments
may lead to a race to the bottom in policies (Drezner 2001: 5759; Hoberg 2001:
127; Simmons and Elkins 2004).
Theoretical work, however, suggests that there are a number of conditions that may
drive policy in both directions (Vogel 1995; Scharpf 1997; Kern et al. 2000; Holzinger
2002, 2003), including, for example, the type of policy concerned (e.g. product or
process standards), or the presence of other interests than business in national
Often a distinction is made between product and production process standards
(Scharpf 1997; Holzinger 2003; Murphy 2006). In the case of production standards,
we find a widely shared expectation that states will gravitate towards the policies of
the most laissez-faire country (Drezner 2001). If the regulation of production
processes implies an increase in the costs of production, potentially endangering the
international competitiveness of an industry, regulatory competition will generally
exert downward pressures on economic regulations (Scharpf 1997: 524). It is
assumed that governments are ready to lower environmental standards in the face of
lobbying and exit threats exerted by the respective industry (cf. Hahn 1990).
Expectations are yet less homogeneous for product standards. While industries in
both low-regulating and high-regulating countries have a common interest in
harmonization of product standards to avoid market segmentation, the level of
harmonization can hardly be predicted without the examination of additional factors.
Most important in this context is the extent to which high-regulating countries are able
to factually enforce stricter standards. If it is possible to erect exceptional trade
barriers, as for example for health or environmental reasons under EU and WTO
rules, stricter policies can be expected (Vogel 1995; Scharpf 1997). Otherwise
competitive pressure may induce governments to lower their standards (Holzinger
2003: 196).
So far, most empirical findings for different policy sectors, such as environmental and
social policy, do not support the race to the bottom scenario but rather give hints for
the occurrence of a race to the top, i.e. upward ratcheting of regulatory standards.
International economic factors alone yet do not determine the direction of policy
responses. Various domestic factors, e.g. the nature of policy making institutions,
mediate internationalization (Bernstein and Cashore 2000: 73). In this respect, Risse-
Kappen (1995) stressed the mediating function of domestic policy networks.
Transnational communication consists of a number of mechanisms, which are purely
based on communication among countries, namely lesson-drawing, transnational
problem-solving, emulation and the transnational promotion of policy models.
Lesson-drawing refers to constellations of policy transfer in which governments
rationally utilize available experience elsewhere in order to solve domestic problems
(Rose 1991). This concept is closely related to rational decision-making and
Bayesian learning (Meseguer Yebra 2003, 2006).
Transnational problem-solving is also based on rational learning. It is driven by the
joint development of common problem perceptions and solutions to similar domestic
problems as well as their subsequent adoption at the domestic level. In doing so,
transnational elite networks or epistemic communities, international institutions, and
common educational and normative backgrounds play an important role in forging
and promulgating transnational problem-solving (cf. DiMaggio and Powell 1991;
Haas 1992; Elkins and Simmons 2004).
Emulation, on the other hand, is motivated by the mere desire for conformity with
other countries rather than the search for effective solutions to given problems.
States might sometimes copy mimetically the policies of other states simply to
legitimate conclusions already reached (DiMaggio and Powell 1991; Bennett 1991).
Finally, policy adoption can be driven by the active role of international institutions,
e.g. EU, the OECD or the World Bank, that are promoting the spread of distinctive
policy approaches they consider particularly promising (Keck and Sikkink 1998). The
adoption of internationally promoted policy models can be a tool for policymakers to
reduce uncertainty by simply doing what other governments have done (Tews et al.
2003: 594).
Similar to all the other mechanisms, the effects of transnational communication
strongly depend on mediation by domestic politics (Radaelli 2005). Thus, as
concerns the national effect of these mechanisms of internationalization, we must
conclude that the political context matters (Steinmo et al. 1992). As already argued
for policy diffusion, it can be expected that if the cultural, institutional, or socio-
economic similarity between communicating countries and international institutions is
high, the adoption of the corresponding policy proposals should become more likely.
Another strategy for enhancing the likelihood of policy adoption is given by the
infiltration of the domestic policy making process, e.g. by penetrating domestic policy
networks (Bernstein and Cashore 2000: 83). However, general statements are hardly
Empirical illustration
In this final section we seek to show that internationalization and its related
mechanisms actually occur in the real world. As this has increasingly been
recognized by scholars, there is a considerable body of empirical literature, which we
cannot discuss in extent (but see Heichel et al. 2005 for a systematic overview).
Therefore, we rather limit ourselves to some selected empirical examples for
underlying the analytical concepts presented beforehand.
1. Policy diffusion.—Guler et al. (2002) show that the adoption of ISO 9000 quality
certifications can be explained by diffusion theory and isomorphism. Their results
support their hypothesis that states as well as foreign multinationals are involved in
coercive isomorphism. Additionally, there is also evidence for the importance of
mimetic isomorphism, which leads to policy imitation.
The diffusion of regulatory agencies has also attracted notable attention. Gilardi et al.
(2006) examine the diffusion of economic and social regulatory agencies across
Europe and Latin America. An interesting implication of their research is that the
main explanatory factor depends on the type of regulatory agency. As concerns the
spread of economic agencies, the theory of regulatory competition fits well. By
contrast, the diffusion pattern of agencies operating in the field of social policy can
best be explained by the essential role of transnational networks of professionals.
Thus, transnational communication appears as the central causal mechanism in the
latter case.
Oberthür and Tänzler (2002) concentrate on the role of international institutions in
processes of diffusion by examining their effects on the spread of three climate policy
instruments, namely climate protection plans and strategies, emissions trading
schemes, and carbon dioxide energy taxes. International institutions generate
pressure and provide incentives for the adoption of policy innovations. Hence policy
promotion at the international stage does matter. This finding is substantiated by
Tews et al. (2003), who analyze the diffusion of eco-labels, energy or carbon taxes,
national environmental policy plans or strategies for sustainable development, and
free-access-to-information. Moreover, the authors present empirical support for the
upward-driving effects of regulatory competition for product standards.
As concerns the diffusion of pension privatization, Brooks (2005) suggests that policy
decisions in states are strongly interdependent on policy actions undertaken by peer
nations, i.e. countries that are structurally comparable and that participate in the
same economic and political organizations. This finding can be interpreted in two
ways. First, since peer nations usually trade extensively, this result can point to the
relevance of competitiveness considerations for policy adoption. Thus, her results
would show the relevance of the regulatory competition. Or, secondly, adoption can
also be triggered by cultural similarity. These findings match with the outcomes of a
study by Simmons and Elkins (2004) on the spread of models foreign economic
policy making. The authors show that economic competition as well as the policies of
a country’s socio-cultural peers determine the adoption of liberal economic models.
2. Policy transfer.—Dolowitz (1997) uses the policy transfer framework for explaining
the main changes in the British employment policy during the 1980s, which
culminated in the enactment of the Social Security Act in 1989. The government’s
motivations for policy transfer were (1) growing public concern over high level of
unemployment, hence problem pressure, (2) electoral uncertainty and related to it the
threat of electoral defeat, (3) competition pressure, and (4) perceived dysfunctionality
of the existing system. In response to these challenges, the British government
transferred core elements of the American and Swedish welfare-to-work systems.
Jones and Newburn (2002) clarify the impact of the United States on recent
developments of British crime control policy. To this end, they conduct document
analysis and find evidence that in this case policy transfer actually took place. Also
dealing with the United Kingdom, Pierson (2003) scrutinizes the policy transfer
between the British and the Australian Labour Party in terms of welfare-to-work
systems and student funding during the 1990s. His review of empirical evidence
reveals that the main driving force behind policy transfer was the desire to solve
policy problems, and hence the main mechanism turned out to be learning. The
relevance of policy-oriented learning is also emphasized by Hulme (2005), who
clarifies the use of the policy transfer approach for the analysis of social policy.
Lavenex (2002) shows how Central and Eastern European candidate countries have
transferred refugee policy from the European Union, despite practical difficulties in
their implementation and important differences with regard to past and present
experiences with refugee. While domestic factors explain variation with regard to the
timing of the countries’ implementation of asylum laws and the general asylum
practice, the mainly triggering factors for this reform can be in conditionality.
3. Policy convergence.—Holzinger et al. (2008) analyze the development of 40
environmental measures across 24 countries between 1970 and 2000 by
concentrating on international economic and institutional interlinkages between
nation states. Whereas economic interlinkages are associated with regulatory
competition, institutional interlinkages refer to both international harmonization and
transnational communication within institutions, which stimulates learning processes
among member countries. Their results show that in general similarity grows
considerably from 1970 to 2000. These developments can be explained in particular
by the effects of international harmonization and transnational communication.
International harmonization contributes most to the explanation of convergence. In
this context, the explanatory power of the EU variables is much less pronounced than
accession to international institutions, which is a rather surprising result. The effects
of transnational communication on environmental policy convergence are of almost
the same size as those of international harmonization. Communicative interaction
within international organizations obviously has very strong effects on the
convergence of environmental policies. Hence compared to the institutional
variables, there is little support for effects of regulatory competition on cross-national
policy convergence. The explanatory power of the other variables controlled for in the
analysis is limited. In fact, only income and cultural similarity seem to matter, but their
effect strongly depends on the model specification.
Key points
As internationalisation is a complex phenomenon, it is useful to approach its
underlying mechanism via the concepts of policy diffusion, policy transfer, and
cross-national policy convergence.
There are four main mechanisms: imposition, harmonization, regulatory
competition, and transnational communication.
There is considerable empirical evidence that internationalization affects
domestic policy making, especially the effect of international harmonization
and transnational communication.
For candidate countries for EU membership, conditionality is an essential
driving force for adopting external policies.
Policy making is extremely complex. Therefore, the analysis of policy making usually
focuses on single stages of the complete policy making process. But this
simplification is not a genuine cure. In fact, policy processes with the single stages
remain complex. Problem definition and agenda setting ensure important strategic
advantages, turning this stage into a highly competitive one. Many actors – formal
and informal ones – participate in the selection of suitable items from an undefined
universe of societal problems. Power fragmentation also affects policy formulation
and adoption, which are characterized by negotiation and the search for compromise.
If the political system is a rather cooperative one, decision making in the political
process remains unchallenging. Otherwise, there can be harmful delays in decision-
making. The number of actors involved decreases at the implementation stage.
However, legislators always feel discomfort with regard to the dominating role of
bureaucracy at this stage. In the subsequent evaluation stage, the floor is opened to
experts and their appraisal of whether a policy performs well or poorly.
We must also keep in mind that there are structures present in the political sphere
that help to reduce the complexity of policy making. Political institutions, for instance,
fulfil such a function. In a similar manner, framing mechanism, such as cognitive or
normative schemes, serve to structuring politics. Finally, the development of routines
and particular styles of making public policies help to establish a stable negotiation
framework and hence ensure the continuity of policy making.
However, policy making cannot be conceived in domestic terms only. It is not
exclusively a response to policy problems or the outcome of domestic bargaining
processes. As we discussed, policy making is also affected by internationalization,
implying a variety of stimuli and corresponding reaction patterns. In more general
terms, internationalization can either enable or constrain policy making. How these
effects are translated into policy outcomes, however, mainly depends on domestic
policy making processes. In light of the analytical challenges outlined in this article,
research on policy making will remain stimulating for scholars of comparative politics.
1. How can we think of policy making in terms of theory?
2. In which ways are policy typologies related to the policy making process?
3. What are its main stages of the policy cycle, and how does this concept enhance our
understanding of policy making?
4. Which actors – societal and political ones – participate, or even dominate, in the single stages?
5. What is the role of political institutions in policy making?
6. How we define normative and cognitive frames?
7. What are national policy styles, and how do they better for the policy output?
8. Which theoretical concepts cope with the effects of internationalization on domestic policy
9. What are the mechanisms behind these concepts? And how do they interact with domestic policy
10. Does internationalization matter empirically?
Guide to further reading
Arce, Moisés (2005). Market Refom in Society: Post-Crisis Politics and Economic Change in
Authoritarian Peru. University Park: The Pennsylvania State Press.
This is an excellently written in-depth analysis of neoliberal policy reform in Peru, which combines
theory and process tracing in a remarkable way. It is really worth reading – and not only for those
interested in Peruvian politics.
Baumgartner, Frank R. and Bryan D. Jones (1993). Agendas and Instability in American Politics.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This is an important book that provides several new ways of looking at politics and policymaking.
Bryce, Herrington J. (2005). Players in the Public Policy Process: Nonprofits as Social Capital Agents.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
This book develops a convincing framework for scrutinizing the increasing role of nonprofits in
Compston, Hugh (ed.) (2004). Handbook of Public Policy in Europe: Britain, France and Germany.
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Gives a comprehensive overview on the content of public policy in Britain, France and Germany
across a wide range of policy fields.
Fischer, Frank, Gerald J. Miller and Mara S. Sidney (eds.) (2006). Handbook of Public Policy Analysis:
Theory, Politics, and Methods. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
A valuable volume that successfully fulfils to explore methodologically the policy making process
methodologically under theoretical considerations.
Gilmour, Robert S. and Halley, Alexis A. (eds.) (1994). Who Makes Public Policy: The Struggle for
Control Between Congress and the Executive? Chatham: Chatham House.
Consists of a number of case studies on a variety of policy issues, providing insightful illustrations of
policy making in the United States.
Lijphart, Arend (1999). Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six
Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.
This is simply a ‘must read’ book.
Munger, Michael C. (2000). Analyzing Policy: Choices, Conflicts, and Practices. New York/London:
W.W. Norton & Company.
This is an accessible and comprehensive introduction to the principles of public-policy analysis from
an economics perspective.
Sabatier, Paul A. (ed.) (2001). Theories of the Policy Process. Boulder: Westview Press.
A remarkable anthology that gives a great overview of theoretical approaches to the study of policy
Weiner, David and Aidan R. Vining (2004). Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice. Upper Saddle
Rive: Prentice Hall.
A superb textbook with a very instructive section on ‘doing’ policy analysis.
Web links The Policy Agendas Project. Media, Movements and Politics research group.
Environmental Policy Convergence in Europe. Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy. British Government Social Research Unit. ‘Your Voice in Europe’
Key terms
Public policies A long series of actions carried out to solve societal problems. They are the main
output of political systems.
Agenda setting Processes through which attention is directed towards a particular public problem.
Policy formulation The definition, discussion, acceptation or rejection of feasible courses of action for
coping with policy problems.
Policy adoption The formal adoption to take on a policy.
Implementation The conversion of new laws and programs into practice.
Evaluation Asks whether the output of a given public policy has attained the intended goals.
Decision making The rational process through which the ‘optimal’ policy decision is taken.
Policy learning A ‘change in thinking’ about a specific policy issue.
Institutions Serve to reduce complexities inherent to the policy making process. They shape the
behaviour of actors and the use of policy instruments.
Internationalization Describes the processes of policy diffusion, policy transfer and cross-national
policy convergence.
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... Considering that policies under discussion now are dependent on decisions made before and also lead to future policies [42][43][44], this paper employs the "policy cycle" created by Howlett and Ramesh (2003) to analyze China's CCUS policies. The cycle includes five steps: agenda-setting referring to the identification of a public problem, which requires the government to intervene; policy formulation, where the policy objectives and potential policy instruments are defined, discussed, accepted or rejected; policy adoption or decision-making, which confirms the most appropriate policies; policy implementation, representing the conversion of new laws and programs into practice; and monitoring and evaluation, whereby industry and policy experts monitor the routine tasks, measure whether the outcomes have attained the intended goals, and evaluate the long-term consequences, leading to amendment or redesign [43,[45][46][47]. ...
... Considering that policies under discussion now are dependent on decisions made before and also lead to future policies [42][43][44], this paper employs the "policy cycle" created by Howlett and Ramesh (2003) to analyze China's CCUS policies. The cycle includes five steps: agenda-setting referring to the identification of a public problem, which requires the government to intervene; policy formulation, where the policy objectives and potential policy instruments are defined, discussed, accepted or rejected; policy adoption or decision-making, which confirms the most appropriate policies; policy implementation, representing the conversion of new laws and programs into practice; and monitoring and evaluation, whereby industry and policy experts monitor the routine tasks, measure whether the outcomes have attained the intended goals, and evaluate the long-term consequences, leading to amendment or redesign [43,[45][46][47]. Generally, policy formulation and policy adoption are strongly related and it is impossible to find a clear-cut distinction between them [43]. ...
... The cycle includes five steps: agenda-setting referring to the identification of a public problem, which requires the government to intervene; policy formulation, where the policy objectives and potential policy instruments are defined, discussed, accepted or rejected; policy adoption or decision-making, which confirms the most appropriate policies; policy implementation, representing the conversion of new laws and programs into practice; and monitoring and evaluation, whereby industry and policy experts monitor the routine tasks, measure whether the outcomes have attained the intended goals, and evaluate the long-term consequences, leading to amendment or redesign [43,[45][46][47]. Generally, policy formulation and policy adoption are strongly related and it is impossible to find a clear-cut distinction between them [43]. ...
Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS), has been deemed an essential component for climate change mitigation and is conducive to enabling a low-carbon and sustainable future. Since the 12th Five-year Plan, China has included this technology as part of its future national carbon mitigation strategies. China's policy framework in relation to CCUS has had a strong influencing role in the technology's progress to date. This paper employs the “policy cycle” to analyze China's existing CCUS regulatory framework at the national and provincial level, evaluate its performance and clarify its shortcomings in light of the comparisons of policy movements undertaken in other countries. The results indicate that China's CCUS policy is insufficient for further development of the technology and many issues remain to be solved. This includes the lack of an enforceable legal framework, insufficient information for the operationalization of projects, weak market stimulus, and a lack of financial subsidies. These factors may be the reason we have seen low participation rates of Chinese companies in CCUS and little public understanding of what the technology offers. To overcome these challenges, suggestions are provided for improving China's CCUS legal and policy framework.
... Políticas públicas são efetuadas a partir de ações decididas em um governo e, por isso, pressupõem uma escolha do governante de fazer ou não fazer algo pela temática em pauta, que se constitui como a agenda política. KNILL;TOSUN, 2011 Mesmo que as evidências tenham mostrado que as políticas pautadas pela "guerra às drogas" não foram capazes de reduzir índices de consumo e de combate ao sistema de produção e oferta de drogas, essa ainda é uma escolha de boa parte dos governantes no Brasil (BUCHER, 1992;. E aqui as drogas "em si" como um problema público é de natureza política e não científica. ...
... Políticas públicas são efetuadas a partir de ações decididas em um governo e, por isso, pressupõem uma escolha do governante de fazer ou não fazer algo pela temática em pauta, que se constitui como a agenda política. KNILL;TOSUN, 2011 Mesmo que as evidências tenham mostrado que as políticas pautadas pela "guerra às drogas" não foram capazes de reduzir índices de consumo e de combate ao sistema de produção e oferta de drogas, essa ainda é uma escolha de boa parte dos governantes no Brasil (BUCHER, 1992;. E aqui as drogas "em si" como um problema público é de natureza política e não científica. ...
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A presente Tese de Doutorado tem o objetivo de estudar as contribuições e os limites das evidências em prevenção ao uso problemático de álcool e outras drogas no contexto de políticas públicas de saúde e educação. Para tanto, analisou, mediante um estudo qualitativo baseado na Teoria Fundamentada Construtivista, a fase de implantação piloto no ano de 2013 do programa escolar de prevenção ao uso de álcool e outras drogas - Unplugged, coordenada pelo Ministério da Saúde do Brasil, com o objetivo de contribuir com a sustentabilidade da iniciativa na sua etapa de disseminação; analisou, por meio de um estudo observacional do tipo longitudinal, descritivo e retrospectivo, os resultados do monitoramento da implantação do programa Unplugged, que passa a ser chamado #Tamojunto em 2014, a partir do instrumento “Formulário de monitoramento – Professor” (2014 a 2016), com o objetivo de avaliar, ao longo do tempo, aspectos relativos à fidelidade, qualidade, adaptabilidade e responsividade da implantação; avaliou também a capacidade de responder aos objetivos de monitoramento de processo no contexto de intervenções complexas utilizando o instrumento de monitoramento do programa #Tamojunto - “Formulário de monitoramento – Professor” (2014 a 2016); e mediante uma revisão bibliográfica do tipo narrativo, investigou sobre a ciência da prevenção baseada em evidência e sua relação com políticas públicas, em especial sobre os desafios da disseminação de inovações no campo da prevenção, no contexto brasileiro. Verificou-se a probabilidade de aspectos do fluxo de implantação e de adequação do programa #Tamojunto estarem afetando os efeitos potenciais do programa. Revelou-se que para uma sustentabilidade e disseminação como política pública do programa #Tamojunto se faz necessário investir em uma mudança paradigmática da abordagem de drogas pelos profissionais implementadores, impactar na maior adesão a metodologias interativas, adequar o tempo da hora-aula e de planejamento, ampliar o compromisso da gestão escolar e da saúde, e fomentar a ampliação da intersetorialidade entre saúde e educação para uma aproximação com as diretrizes de promoção da saúde. O método de análise de dados desenvolvido na pesquisa demonstrou potencial analítico para contribuir com necessidades de ajustes no monitoramento de processo. Conclui-se que aspectos de adaptação de programas que estão localizados nas etapas iniciais da inovação, nas políticas públicas, devem estender-se por todas as fases, com a finalidade de abranger a diversidade cultural, como é o caso brasileiro, apontando para novas agendas de pesquisa e práticas em prevenção e promoção da saúde que venham a fortalecer as políticas públicas de drogas numa perspectiva de reafirmação da reforma sanitária, com um compromisso permanente com a superação das desigualdades sociais. As evidências na ciência precisam ampliar o pragmatismo da visão convencional das causalidades e abranger a complexidade de situações estruturais, que responde mais adequadamente às especificidades das políticas públicas, especialmente àquelas que impactam nos ciclos de isolamento e desfavorecimento social.
... As we do not want to be prescriptive, our framework is designed to be compatible with a variety of popular tools for analyzing policymaking as a process, such as the policy cycle, the advocacy coalition framework, multiple streams, and so on (Araral, Fritzen, Howlett, Ramesh, & Wu, 2012;Knill & Tosun, 2008;Weible & Sabatier, 2018). For example, within the policy cycle, the stages of agenda setting, policy formulation, and policy adoption would be comprised in what we define as inputs; implementation would be part of the outputs; outcomes would form the basis for evaluation, which allows the process to start again. ...
This article introduces the special issue by presenting a framework for the study of regulatory politics using the analytical tools and approaches of comparative political economy. Having traced the evolution of studies on regulation, it argues that scholars should pay more attention to the systemic features affecting regulation and to the relationship between regulatory policies and their outcomes. The article presents the foundations of an analytical framework based on the "regulatory policy process," a comprehensive approach that links inputs, outputs, and outcomes. The review of the contributions to this special issue shows that regulatory regimes can be better understood by placing them within the broader political economy of a state or region. A renewed focus on regulatory outcomes can help foresee what one should expect from the impact of a certain regulatory regime on a political-economic system.
... in Green and Sustainable ChemistryFive stages of the policy cycle. Source: adapted from the study by Knill and Tosun[78]. ...
With the aim of employing more environmentally benign chemical products and processes, a wide and global transition towards a green and sustainable chemistry is required to solve sustainability issues from the production, use and end-of-life of chemicals. We argue that for the effective development of a green and sustainable chemical industry, the integration of common visions towards sustainability (e.g., smaller, flexible chemical plants using renewable feedstock including waste, intensive dialogue and cooperation with stakeholders, prevalence of product-service services) along with the implementation of tailored policies built on the precautionary principle for supporting the emerging industries (e.g., tax exception, public procurement, etc) and withdrawing support for the traditional ones (e.g., redirecting R&D funding, carbon trading, etc.) are indispensable.
... Indeed, harnessing a topic modelling approach also comes with limitations. It is clear that policy documents alone do not exhaustively cover the policy challenges surrounding decarbonisation, but rather they provide a focalised account of the descriptive phases in the policy cycle (Knill & Tosun, 2008). It is also important to acknowledge that the topic model technique does not intend to fully utilize all the rich information available in political texts but rather to reveal latent structure in a corpus. ...
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The Energy Union, a major energy sector reform project launched by the European Commission in 2015, has substantial clean energy and climate aims. However, scholarly caution has been raised about their feasibility, especially with regards to accommodating climate objectives with other closely related yet often competing policy goals. We therefore investigate the policy priorities of the Energy Union by performing a topic modelling analysis of over 5,000 policy documents. A big data analysis confirms that decarbonisation and energy efficiency dimensions are major building blocks in the Energy Union's agenda. Furthermore, there are signals of policy convergence in terms of climate security and climate affordability policies. However, our analysis also suggests that the Commission is not actively prescribing trajectories for renewable energy development or paying close attention to declining incumbent energy generation technologies. Overall, we find that the Energy Union is not a 'floating signifier' but rather has a clear and incrementally evolving decarbonisation agenda. Whether it further develops into an active driver of decarbonisation will largely be determined by the implementation phase of the project.
... Up until now, the concept of policy style has rarely been used as a heuristic tool to understand policy analysis in local government. Rather, it is commonly applied to the national level for comparing policy communities within as well as between political systems in terms of commonalities in their policymaking patterns (Richardson et al, 1982;Parsons, 1995;Knill and Tosun, 2008). The concept provides a simple and effective framework for comparison. ...
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The paper proposes a possible way of spatially representing sustainability in Italy. For this purpose, the ecological footprint approach was used as a methodological framework to assess the level of sustainability of the 8092 Italian municipalities. For each municipality, the exploitation of ecosystem services, assessed by the ecological footprint indicator, and the corresponding availability of biological capacity, associated to an indicator, have been calculated and compared, thus generating a map representing the relative sustainability of Italian municipalities. The results show a very scattered distribution of ecological balance, wherein unsustainable conditions characterize more than 60% of the territory and almost 95% of the Italian population. Despite the limitations of the methodology and some assumptions regarding the ecological footprint assessment at the municipality level, the study represents an attempt to produce an innovating tool that, based on an operational definition of sustainability, can represent natural resource exploitation at the local level, and provide useful information to address coherent and targeted environmental policies of sustainability.
The paper addresses an issue largely discussed in the field of Forecasting and in many future-oriented scientific and professional disciplines, but less frequently considered in the Foresight literature, particularly in the technology foresight field- i.e. the extent to which biases of human experts influence the foresight process. The paper reviews the literature on cognitive biases and identifies the main areas of technology foresight in which biases are most likely to materialize. It offers a number of examples in which these biases may indeed create distortions. It also reviews the potential impact of several recently introduced methods, in the field of technology foresight and in related areas, to mitigate the distortions and calls for future research in this new field of investigation.
This book responds to calls for quality healthcare service management practices or processes from developing economy perspectives. Focusing primarily on African and other developing economy contexts, this book covers eight thematic areas: strategy in healthcare; marketing imperatives in healthcare management; product and pricing management in healthcare; distribution and marketing communications in healthcare; managing people in healthcare; physical evidence and service quality management in healthcare; process management in healthcare; and technology in healthcare.
Conference Paper
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There is wide agreement that prioritising on-road public transport services is beneficial, but considerable uncertainty about how best to implement priority measures in practice. As yet it is unclear why some transit priority schemes receive political, institutional and public support while others are blocked, cancelled or compromised, often for non-technical reasons. This paper explores how public policy analysis concepts can be adapted to describe and potentially improve transit priority implementation. Previous evaluation approaches have focused on the traffic, mobility and economic impacts of transit priority measures. What has been missing is a consideration of how politics, institutional arrangements and other nonrational factors influence priority implementation. This paper describes the major forms of policy analysis (rationalism, institutionalism, incrementalism, political approaches and the ‘garbage can’ model) and uses each to develop new conceptual models of priority implementation. Institutional and top-down models emphasise the government’s control over the road and transit system. They suggest that better policies and centralisation of decision-making might improve priority implementation. In contrast, bottom-up implementation theories and what is termed the ‘garbage can’ model emphasise the influence of street-level actors and project team members. These suggest that understanding the drivers of individuals’ opinions, strategies and decision-making is necessary to improve implementation and outcomes.Incrementalism based models, on the other hand, suggest using a series of small changes to gradually increase the level of transit priority over time instead of a large, and potentially controversial, single step. This paper provides an initial move beyond the prevailing ‘techno-rationalist’ approaches to transit priority implementation. It concludes with a description of opportunities for future research to test these new models and to explore the political, institutional and other factors influencing transit priority implementation.
Full-text available
The Public Policy Process is essential reading for anyone trying to understand the process by which public policy is made. Explaining clearly the importance of the relationship between theoretical and practical aspects of policy-making, the book gives a thorough overview of the people and organisations involved in the process. Fully revised and updated for a 7th edition, The Public Policy Process provides: Clear exploration, using many illustrations, of how policy is made and implemented. A new chapter on comparative theory and methods. New material on studying advocacy coalitions, policy changes, governance, and evaluation. More European and international examples. This edition appears at a time when its concern to emphasise the complex implications of modern ‘governance’, and the way in which the ultimate outcome of a new policy initiative will depend on policy formulation and implementation processes, is particularly relevant to the UK government’s efforts to leave the European Union.
Unfortunately, I do not have an electronic file for Setting the Agenda. Best wishes for your research, Max McCombs