Sabatier, Paul, ed. 2007. Theories of the Policy Process . Westview

Sabatier, Paul A. Theories of the Policy Process. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Chapter 1: The Need for Better Theories by Paul Sabatier
I. Simplifying a Complex world with theories and frameworks
The policy process is enormously complex:
1) involving 100s of actors
2) sometimes spanning decades
3) involving dozens of different programs in any specific policy domain (i.e., pollution) over
multiple levels of government (local, state, federal)
4) involving policy debates that are often quite technical
5) involving deeply held values and interests
A policy analyst must find a way to simplify the process if there is ever a hope to understand it.
How is this done? Through a set of presuppositions (that later can be described as conceptual
frameworks or theories).
These set of presuppositions help in 1) figuring out what to look for and 2) how to classify or
categorize the information
For example, institutional rational choice tells us to look at institutions, individual actors and
how they strategically maneuver institutional rules to pursue self-interested goals.
How do we develop these presuppositions?
1) common sense: via experience we can set up assumptions and expectations
2) science: developing a set of propositions and relationships via a public method of deata
collection and analysis and clearly defining the concepts and logically connecting them.
The scientific method is considered superior because it is more open and provides a method that
produces propositions that are “clear enough to be proven wrong” (note key term: empirically
falsifiable) and is designed to be self-consciously, error seeking, and thus self-correcting.
Conceptual Framework: a set of variables and description of how they are related used to
account for a phenomena.
Theory: A theory provides a “denser” and more logically coherent set of relationships.
Model: A representation of a specific situation. It is usually much more narrower in scope than a
theory but more precise in its assuptions.
What is a good theory: 1) scientific (open, clear, well-defined, give rise to falsifiable
hypotheses); 2) should be subject to recent use and empirical testing; 3) be a positive theory
(explain something), not just normative (judging something); 4) should address a broad range of
factors considered important to political scientists.
II. Theoretical Frameworks of the Policy Process
The book discusses 7 conceptual frameworks:
1. The Stages Heuristic: divides the policy process into stages (agenda setting, policy formation,
legitimation, implementation, evaluation, etc.). Popular in the 1970s and early 80s, but is now
considered to lack a causal theoretical bases and overly simplistic and even inaccurate.
2. Institutional Rational Choice: how institutional rules alter the behavior of rational and strategic
actors pursuing self-interested goals. Arguably the most developed and most widely used in the
3. The Multiple-Streams Framework: Views the policy process as composed of three streams of
actors and processes: a problem stream (consisting of problems and their proponents); a policy
stream (containing a variety of policy solutions and their proponents); and a politics stream
(consisting of public officials and elections). These streams often operate independently except
during “windows of opportunities” when some or all of the streams may intersect (and cause
substantial policy change).
4. Punctuated-Equilibrium: policy process tends to feature long periods of incremental change
punctuated by brief periods of major policy change. The latter come about when opponents
manage to fashion a new “policy image or images” and exploit the multiple policy venues of the
U.S. (courts, legislatures, executives at the local ,state and federal level.
5. The Advocacy Coalition Framework: focuses on the interaction of advocacy coalitions (each
consisting of actors from a variety of institutions who share a set of policy beliefs). Policy
change is a product of the competition and interaction between these coalitions.
6. Policy Diffusion Framework: developed to explain variation in the adoption of specific policy
innovations, such as the lottery, across political jurisdictions.
7. The Funnel of Causality and other Frameworks in Large-N Comparative Studies: Describes a
set of studies that use a variety of variables (institutional, socioeconomic, public opinion) to
explain variation in policy outcomes across a large number of states.
III. Omitted Frameworks
1. Arenas of Power: Developed by Lowi (1964, 1972), describes 3 or 4 policy types (regulatory;
distributive; redistributive) and describes the different political dynamics and actors that each
type has. Recently there has been little interest in this framework.
2. Cultural Theory: policy outcomes influenced by four different general ideologies
(individualism; hierarchicalism; egalitarianism; fatalism. Critical concepts remain ambiguous.
3. Constructivist Framework: focuses on the “social construction” of policy problems, policy
belief systems, and frames of references. Tends to be more popular in Europe than in U.S. True
aspects of our reality are socially constructed but they are also connected to real phenomenon
(socioeconomic conditions, political institutions and rules, etc.).
4. Policy Domain Framework: a rather complex set of concepts for guiding network analysis. It
argues that within a given policy domain/subsystem, organizations with an interest in a given
policy area develop patterns of resource exchange and seek to influence policy events.
Chapter 2: Institutional Rational Choice: An Assessment of the Institutional
Analysis and Development Framework by Elinor Ostrom
The author suggests that institutional rational choice is too big for one person to summarize,
especially in just a small chapter in an edited book. So instead, Ostrom focuses on institutional
analysis and development (IAD) framework. This is a framework that began to be developed in
the 1980s to help integrate a broad range of work undertaken by political scientist, economists,
sociologists, lawyers, anthropologists, geographers, social psychologists and others interested in
how institutions affect the incentives confronting individuals and their resultant behavior.
Ostrom discusses 6:
1. The term institutions refers to a broad type of entities
2. institutions are invisible
3. because there are many types of institutions, one needs input from a wide range of
disciplines (economics, political science, sociology, psychology, etc).
4. Multiple disciplines means multiple languages/terms/concepts
5. rules (institutions) are created at multiple levels (global, federal, state, local,
neighborhood, family) and so an analysis must be multi-level
6. combinations of rules are configural rather than additive.
a. Multiple definitions
There are multiple definitions so one of the first tasks a framework must do is pick one.
"Rules, norms, and strategies adopted by individual operating within or across organizations."
"Referring to the shared concepts used by humans in repetitive situations organized by rules,
norms and strategies."
b. Invisibility of Institutions
Because institutions are fundamentally shared concepts, they exist in the minds of the
participants and sometimes are shared as implicit knowledge rather than in an explicit and
written form.
Examples: Property-rights systems that farmers have constructed over time.
c. Multiple Disciplines—Multiple Languages
Scholars within different fields (history, political science, law, etc.) learn separate languages.
One reason for developing IAD was to develop a common set of linguistic elements that can be
used to analyze a wide diversity of problems.
d. Multiple Levels of Analysis
The nested structure of rules within rules, within further rules is a particularly difficulty
analytical problem to solve for those interested in the study of institutions. Those who study
institutions at the macro level may examine the constitutional structure. These affect collective
choice decisions the micro level. Example voter turnout in Belgium and the United States, why
is Belgium much higher? Constitutional factors, local political structures, individual
socialization (individualism vs. communitarianism).
e. Configural relationships
Rules are not independent or additive. When rules are adopted they my interact with other rules
in complex ways. Examples: Campaign finance with Constitutional protections of freedom of
speech, Affirmative action with norms of fairness and equality, welfare in a capitalistic, free
market system. A quorum rule requiring a high proportion of membership and a simple majority
rule may be more restrictive than the pairing of a 2/3 majority combined with a quorum rule
specifying a low proportion of membership attendance.
Research should be conducted at three levels: frameworks; theories, and models. The
development and use of a framework helps identify the elements and relationships that need to
be considered for institutional analysis (i.e. a general list of variables)
Theories enable the analyst to specify which elements of the framework are particularly relevant
to certain kinds of questions.
A model makes precise assumptions about a smaller set of parameters and variables.
Ostrom wants one common framework that will help organize a large and diverse discipline in
analyzing institutions. Within that framework there will be a family of theories and within those
theories models can be tailored to particular problems at hand.
For policymakers and scholars interested in issues related to how different governance systems
enable individuals to solve problems democratically, the IAD framework helps to organize
diagnostic, analytical, and prescriptive capabilities. It also aids in the accumulation of
knowledge from empirical studies and in the assessment of past efforts at reforms.
One part of the framework is the identification of an action arena and the resulting patters of
interactions and outcomes and the evaluation of these outcomes.
The first step in analyzing a problem is to identify a conceptual unit—called an action arena—
that can be utilized to analyze, predict, and explain behavior within institutional arrangements.
An action situation can be characterized by seven clusters of variables:
1) participants; 2) positions; 3) outcomes; 4) action-outcome linkages, 5) the control that
participants exercise; 6) information; 7) the cost and benefits assigned to outcomes
All of these variables define the structure of the action area. Analysis proceeds toward the
prediction of the likely behavior of individuals in such a structure.
a. An action situation – overharvesting from a common-pool resource
Where to start?:
1. the participants: who and how many individuals withdraw resources from this resources
2. Positions: members of an irrigation association, chair of a committee, enforcement
3. Set of allowable actions: what harvesting technologies exist and/or allowed
4. Potential outcomes: what geographic region and what events in that region are affected
by participants in these positions? What chain of events links actions to outcomes
5. the level of control over choice: do appropriators take the above actions on their own
initiative, or do they confer with others (permits required, etc.).
6. the information available: how much information do uses have about the condition of the
resources, about other actors costs and benefits, and about the costs of cumulative joint
7. Cost and benefits of actions and outcomes: how costly are various actions to each type of
actor, what kinds of benefits can be achieved as a result of various group outcomes.
b. The Actor: Theories and Models of the Individual
The IAD approach adopts the homo economicus assumptions of human behavior.
1. people have well-ordered preferences
2. complete information
3. maximize the net value of expected returns to themselves
Sid note – it also assumes
1. Human behavior is purposive (Utility Maximizing)
2. People’s behavior is shaped by incentives and constraints (rational)
3. People are intelligent and creative (strategic)
These assumptions can be tweaked: i.e. fallible learners, people make mistakes but certain
institutional incentives may encourage them to learn from their mistakes.
The most fully developed, explicit theories of individual choice compatible with the IAD
framework are game theory and neoclassical economic theory.
These theories, and the assumptions they hold, may not always be practical in certain settings.
Therefore less strict assumptions may be adopted such as the assumption of bounded rationality-that persons are intendedly rational but only limitedly so—for the assumptions of perfect
information and utility maximization (frequent example in judges in criminal justice).
c. Predicting Outcomes within an Action Area
Not easy. In some cases modeling behavior have made very accurate predictions (common-pool
resource use – race to consume), but changing rules, adaptations, and learning often complicate
d. Evaluating outcomes
Economic Efficiency (cost/benefit ratio)
Fiscal Equivalence (those who benefit from a service should bear the cost)
Redistributional Equity (it may be important to redistribute resources to the needy)
Accountability (in a democratic polity accountability is critical)
Conformance to General Morality (reduce cheating, bribes, ethical behavior being
6. Adaptability (ability to adapt to unique or changing circumstances)
Underlying the way analysts conceptualize action arenas are implicit assumptions about the rules
individuals use to order their relationships, about attribute of states of the world and their
transformations, and about the attributes of the community
a. Rules
- where rules originate
- what is required, prohibited, or permitted
- how rules are changed
- types of rules, working rule, social habit, written rules, informal/formal
- stability or fluctuation of a rule/
- share mean of a rule or multiple definitions of a rule
b. Rule Configuration
What are the rules in use that help structure an action situation?
1. Entry and Exit rules (residency, race, age, gender, etc.)
Position rules (how to move from member to a higher position)
Scope rules (rule that expand or limit the domain of an action)
Authority rules (what actions can authorities take)
Aggregation rules (Do certain actions require prior permission from, or agreement of,
6. Information rules (what information must be held secret, what must be public)
7. Payoff rules (how big can sanctions be, how is conformance to rules monitored, who is
responsible for sanctioning nonconformers, how systematic/reliable are sanctions
imposed, are there positive rewards)
c. Attributes of States of the World: Physical and Material Conditions
What actions are physically possible?
What are the physical attributes of the world?:
size of the legislature
how one can address the legislature (one at a time)
when and where elections are held
d. Excludability and the Free-Rider Problem
Is it difficult or impossible to exclude an individual from a good (clean air, fire protection, etc.)
This is critical in understanding actor behavior and policy/solution options.
e. Subtractability of the flow
rivalrous or nonrivalrous consumption. Does my use interfere with your use. Traffic congestion,
over fishing, vs. national defense. This is important because it determines how we can distribute,
regulate or even charge for certain services.
Nonexcludable and rivalrous goods like a common pool resource like Cod require carefully
crafted, detailed and fair rules to regulated and protect the good.
Providing adequate roads, which are excludable and nonrivalrous, but with congestion is less
complicated and requires less complicated mechanisms.
f. Attributes of the Community
Homogeneity or heterogeneity of the preferences of those living in the community.
The term culture is often applied to this bundle of variables.
Language, customs, trust, word of honor, etc.
Understanding that most of social reality is composed of multiple arenas linked sequentially or
Three levels of rules that cumulatively affect actions taken and outcomes obtained in any setting.
1. Operational rules directly affect day-to-day decisions made by the participants in any
2. Collective-choice rules affect operational activities and results through their effects in
determining who is eligible and the specific rules to be used in changing operational
3. Constitutional-choice rules affect operational activities and their effects in determining
who is elegible and the rules to be used in crafting the set of collective-choice rules that
in turn affect the set of operational rules
Wide variety of uses:
Used to study policy service delivery in metropolitan areas
Common-pool resources
Irrigation systems
International Forestry Resources
Theories of the Policy Process. Westview Press, 1999.
[No longer a chapter in New Edition] The Stages Approach to the Policy Process, What has
it done? Where is it going? Peter deLeon
In his 1951 paper “The Policy Orientation”, Harold Laswell detailed the first formal usage of the
policy sciences concept. Here, Laswell operationalized ideas about improving governance by
improving the quality of information provided government. He focused his attention on policy
process, i.e. the functional stages any given government policy goes through during its policy
life. His approach was process oriented.
Laswell emphasized what he termed “knowledge of the policy process”. He created a conceptual
map or image of the major phases of collective acts, and proposed 7 stages of what he would
later call the decision process; intelligence, promotion, prescription, invocation, application,
termination, and appraisal.
This idea of a delineated-sequential process framework was much admired and advocated by
numerous authors and academics. His policy process model directed an entire generation of
research by policy scholars. Nevertheless, his approach of performing analyses of individual
stages had a downside in that it oriented scholars toward looking at just one stage at a time
thereby neglecting the entire process.
Policy researchers came to view the process in one of three ways. First, they were viewed as a
sharply differentiated set of activities. Second, as disjointed episodic processes rather than a
more ongoing continuous one, or three, as a policy phenomenon that appeared to transpire in a
short period of time, more like the typical policy maker’s fast paced working schedule than the
real life span of a given policy.
In the 1980’s academics such as Nakamura, Sabatier, and Jenkins-Smith proposed that the
Laswell’s heuristic had serious limitations in that it neglected the role of ideas, particularly ideas
involving the relatively technical aspects of policy debates. Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith listed six
1) The stages model is not really a causal model and does not lend itself to prediction.
2) It does not provide a clear basis for empirical hypotheses testing.
3) It suffers from descriptive inaccuracy.
4) It suffers from a built-in legalistic top-down focus.
5) It emphasizes the policy cycle as the temporal unit of analysis.
6) It fails to provide a good vehicle for integrating learning throughout the process.
Counter arguments supporting Laswell suggested that Sabatier’s and Jenkins-Smith’s six
criticisms were overly narrow and overlooked the presence of what Laswell called a central
theory that integrated policy events, and that the purpose of the seven steps was not prediction.
Laswell had never suggested a theoretic model.
Peter deLeon suggests that the stages process still has value in policy research. He argues that
we must recognize that it is not a model in the formal sense of the word. It has strengths as a
means for categorizing policy actions as they vary from stage to stage. The policy process
framework can be useful in moving the policy sciences toward a set of policy oriented theories.
Chapter 3
Multiple Streams
Lens/approach (terms used interchangeably according to
 Explains how policies are made
o Specifically in its ability to explain policy formation such as
agenda setting or decision making
 According to Multiple Streams (MS) lens, it offers three answers to
the three following questions
o How is the attention of the policy makers rationed?
o How are the issued formed?
o How and where is the search for solutions and problems
Level and Unit of Analysis
 The MS lens is considered to be at the systemic level
 The unit of analysis of MS is the incorporation of the entire system
 MS focuses on the process of converting inputs into outputs, and
subsequently pays great attention to the complexity of possible
outputs rather than viewing it as a linear approach
 As previously mentioned, MS explains policy formation. But also
only under conditions of ambiguity
 Definition
o State of having may ways of thinking about the same
circumstances or phenomena
 As a result, it may create an environment of vagueness,
confusion, or stress
 Ambiguity differs from uncertainty
o The inability to accurately predict an event
Temporal sorting
 Why MS is useful?
o Theories that are grounded in rational behavior tend to not
apply in these cases due to
 Problems and preferences aren’t fully known
 They are vague and constantly shifting
 Often difficult to determine if it is relevant or irrelevant
 Additionally paradoxical
 State agency told to strengthen oversight
however budget is halved
o Therefore time is a commodity that decision makers utilize
and this framework of MS emphasizes the management of
time rather than specific tasks
Kingdon’s 3 Streams
 Problems
 Policies
 Politics
o These streams are independent of one another, and in certain
situations the streams are coupled with policy entrepreneurs
o Moreover, sometimes the streams do converge and the
development of policy formation is greatly enhanced
 1 Stream: Problems
o Given various conditions that exist, policy makers further
define those conditions as problems by the following criteria
 Indicators such as statistics are used to determine the
importance of that condition
 i.e. # of highway deaths over x amount of years
 infant mortality rates
 dramatic events or crises may prompt more scrutiny to
the condition
 feeding of current programs in place may warrant
additional attention to the condition
 not all conditions become problems
 some conditions are views as problems due to the
individual’s perception and how they choose to
interpret the condition. Their evaluation may
categorize it as a problem or leave it as a
 2 Stream: Policies
o Policies are ideas generated by various groups (think tanks,
bureaucrats, congressional staff, academia)
o There are a large number of ideas in the policy arena however
only a small percentage are considered due to technical
feasibility and value acceptability
 3 Stream: Politics
o consists of:
 national mood
 overall sentiment of a country at any given time
which may or may not change
 pressure group campaigns
 the consensus of the interest group is indicative of
the political arena
 administrative or legislative turnover
 new administrative staff is likely to create an
environment of change
o national mood and administrative change are most important
in having an effect on agendas
o An important aspect in Kingdon’s argument
o During critical moments in time, there are opportunities when
a stream may converge with another. At this time, which is
defined as a “policy window” there opportunities for
advocates to push their pet solutions
o It is during these times that great policy change is made
o If the opportunities pass and the policy maker refuses to
invest the time, money, or energy, then they must usually
wait until another policy window presents itself
Differences between Kingdon and Zahariadis
 Z uses MS to explain full policy formation whereas Kingodn applied
it to a pre-decision process
 Z’s interpretation of MS may be used at the comparative study of
 May shift the unit of analysis due to interpretation
o Kingdon – entire national government
o Z may be framed in privatization
Specific issues and concerns
 Are streams independent?
o Some argue that no they are not
 Changes in one stream may trigger change in another;
therefore, the concept of coupling is less “fortutitous
and more purposive and strategic”
o Independent streams allow researchers to uncover rather
than assume rationality
 What is the precise role of the policy window in coupling?
o Kingdon defines 2 areas in which policy windows open
 Problems streams
 i.e. airplane crash
 Politics stream
 Outcome of an election
o When these two streams converge, there is a greater
possibility for policy change
 Do solutions always follow an incremental evolution in the policy
o Critics see MS as ahistorical and does not place enough
emphasis on previous solutions to current situations
Future Research
 MS needs to generate more falsifiable hypotheses
 Further research may question as to why some decisions tend to
become garbage cans
There is the need to anchor the framework within specific
institutional contexts
There is a need for a theory of action
o A method for this to be applicable in real world situations
How do policy makers cope with an ambiguous world
The MS approach may link various stages of the policy making
process under a single lens
Chapter 3
Multiple Streams Framework
Structure, Limitations, Prospects
Nikolaos Zahariadis
A good theory of choice provides answers to three questions
1) How is attention rationed?
2) How and where is the search for alternatives conducted?
3) How is selection biased?
Definition – Multiple Streams (MS) - is a lens, perspective, or framework (may be used
interchangeably) – that explains how policies are made by national governments under
conditions of ambiguity. – Examined here only in its capacity to explain policy formation
(Agenda setting and decision making)
Theorizes at the systemic level, and it incorporates an entire system or a separate decision as the
unit of analysis.
In the tradition of the garbage can model of organizational choice. Collective choice is not
merely the derivative of individual efforts aggregated in some fashion, but rather the combined
result of structural forces and cognitive and affective processes that are highly context
Definition – ambiguity – a state of having many ways of thinking about the same circumstances
or phenomena. These ways may not be reconcilable, creating vagueness, confusion, and stress.
Problems with ambiguity within organizations or governments :
1) Participation is fluid – turnover is high and participants drift form one
decision to the next, and non-governmental actors exercise significant
influence over the form certain decisions will take.
2) People often do not know what they want
3) Technology – an organizations process that turns input into products is
unclear – participants may know their parts but not the “big picture”
Choice is the collective output formulated by the push and pull of several factors.
MS achieves this by assuming a temporal order – adoption of specific alternatives depends on
when policies are made – and by proposing a theory of political
“Who pays attention to what and when is critical. Time is a unique, irreplaceable resource,
whose supply is totally inelastic” – because a primary concern of decision makers is to manage
time effectively rather to manage tasks, it is reasonable to pursue a lens that accords significance
to time rather than rationality.
1) Individual attention or processing is serial, systemic attention or processing is parallel. –
Individual can only attend one issue at a time. Creates small number that a policy maker
can actually consider/ however division of labor allows for more issues to be attended to
A. the sequence in which solutions are considered strongly affects
the decision outcome
B. Parallel processing – the ability within political systems with
many subsystems that facilitate attention to many issues
2) Policy Makers operate under significant time restraints –suggests a sense of urgency in
addressing them. Time constrains limit the range and number of alternative to which
attention is given
3) The Streams flowing through the system are independent – if systems can do in parallel,
then each element or stream may be conceived as having a life of its own
Manipulation is the attempt to control ambiguity. Including the generation of facts to change
people’s minds
Three streams are identified as flowing through the policy system
1) Problems – various conditions that policy makers and citizens want addressed – Policy
makers find out about them through Indicators, focusing events, and feedback
2) Policies – a “soup” of ideas that compete to win acceptance in policy networks. Ideas are
generated by specialists in policy communities and are considered in various forums and
forms. – Only a few ideas will ever receive serious consideration on the basis of technical
feasibility and value acceptability
3) Politics –
A. National mood – the notion that a large number of individuals in a given
country tend to think along common lines and that the mood swings from time
to time
B. pressure group campaigns
C. Administrative or legislative turnover
Each is conceptualized as separate form the others at critical points in time, termed policy
windows, the streams are coupled by policy entrepreneurs. The combination of all three streams
into a single package dramatically enhances the chances that a specific policy will be adopted by
policy makers.
1) Policy Windows - choices are made when the three streams are coupled or joined
together at critical moments in time – “fleeting opportunities for advocates of proposals
to push their pet solutions, or to push attention to their special problems” Can be opened
by a compelling problem or by events in the political stream.
2) Policy Entrepreneurs – individuals or corporate actors who attempt to couple the three
streams. They are more than mere advocates of a particular solution, they are power
brokers and manipulators of problematic preferences and unclear technology.
Definition – coupling – attaching problems to their solutions and find politicians
receptive to their ideas – a policy’s chances of being adopted dramatically increase when
all 3 streams are coupled in a single package.
Processes – combination of the elements to produce choice
1) Attention – policy makers need to ration their attention among a limited number of
issues. – MS argues this is resolved by institutional structure, the type of policy window
that opens, and they symbols used to attract attention. Attention to particular issues is a
function of opportunity, bias, formal position in an organization or government, and the
number of issues competing for policy maker attention.
2) Search - the search for solutions and their availability are heavily influenced by the
structure of policy networks within which the search is taking place – where policy
makers search for solutions and how ideas germinate depends on the degree of
integration of the policy communities
3) Selection – biased by the manipulating strategies and skills of policy entrepreneurs.
Strategies include framing, affect priming, salami tactics, and the use of symbols. Not
merely a function of perception but a question of skill at coupling.
Limitations –
General Concerns –
Something fundamentally wrong with the underlying structure and logic
Paradigmatic problems
Empirically based rather than assumption driven?
Problem may not be with the lens itself but with diffusion of knowledge of works in the
field of policy studies.
Specific Concerns –
1) Are the streams really independent?
2) Can hypotheses generated by MS be statistically tested?
3) While MS provides the better overall explanations because it explains more accurately a
greater number of occurrences, it systematically under-explains cooperative policy
Prospects – broader than the original application of only agenda –setting in a single national
setting. It constitutes a lens of the policy process that is useful in a single case or in comparative
applications across time, countries, issues, and policy domains.
Implications –
1) MS amends arguments concerning the study of public policy developed explicitly by
reference to narrow policy communities
2) The lens address the issues of ideas in public policy – solutions are developed not
simply on the basis of efficiency or power, but also on the basis of equity. Political
ideology is a good heuristic in an ambiguous and rapidly changing world
3) MS subscribes to the notion that institutions make things possible, but people make
things happen
While MS provides the better overall explanations because it explains more accurately a greater
number of occurrences, it systematically under-explains cooperative policy
Chapter 5: “The Network Approach.” Silke Adam and Hanspeter Kriesi.
Main Topics
What is a policy network? Clusters of actors, each with an interest, or stake in a given
policy, and the capacity to determine policy success or failure.
Governmental organizations are no longer the central steering actors in the policy
process. Networks are self-organizing – they are autonomous and self-governing and
they resist governmental influences.
Network Management: a form of public management consisting of coordinating
strategies from different participants with varied goals and preferences in regards to a
problem/policy measure within an interorganizational network.
o Success depends on: Number of actors involved, Complexity of policy networks,
Degree that network is self-referential, Absence of conflicts of interest, and the
Cost involved.
Two-dimensional typology: Networks are characterized by two types of variables –
composition variables (actors’ attributes) and structural variables (types of ties between
actors). 1st dimension: aspect of capabilities and distribution of power. Is power
concentrated in the hands of one dominant actor or a coalition of actors or whether it is
shared between actors or coalitions of actors (fragmented). 2nd dimension: degree of
cooperation among actors and actor coalitions (conflict/competition,
bargaining/negotiation, cooperation).
By combining the two dimensions (distribution of power & type of interaction) 6 types of
policy networks can be derived.
Type of Interaction
Bargaining Cooperation
Asymmetric Hierarchical
Dominance bargaining cooperation
Symmetric Horizontal
Competition bargaining cooperation
Dominance: where a dominant coalition with a policy monopoly is challenged by a
minority coalition.
Competition: where the power differential between the challengers and the dominant
coalitions is less pronounced.
Horizontal Cooperation: cooperation on equal terms between countries/institutions.
Hierarchical Cooperation: tiered cooperation, not equal.
Asymmetric bargaining: Unbalanced, disproportionate bargaining
Symmetric bargaining: Equal, proportionate bargaining
 Actors are regarded as mutually interlinked.
 The type of interaction within a policy network determines the form of policy change.
Type of Interaction
Distribution of Power Conflict
Low to
potential for potential for
Low potential for
rapid (serial) incremental
change- maintenance
of status quo
Distribution of
Moderate to
high potential
High potential for
for rapid
(serial) shift change
Low to moderate
potential for changemaintenance of
status quo
The same policy means different things to different countries
There is not a single determinant of policy networks, rather a complex combination of
factors needs to be taken into account to understand variation in policy networks.
Policy networks are connected to policy outcomes and also the type of change that
creates these outcomes.
Policy Recommendations
Adam and Kriesi suggest that future research delve into showing whether and how
network analysis improves our understanding of policy outcomes and change.
Future hypotheses need to account for complex interactions of transnational, national and
policy-domain specific context. With that being said, future research should not
Since the network approach is not exactly a theory, it draws upon hypotheses and models
from other theories. There is a risk of relying on factors that are arbitrarily included.
One must be careful when linking approaches in order to create information that will
increase the potential of network approaches.
Future research should no longer aim at national-level generalizations across all domains,
but needs to look at the combined impact of different types of determinants.
CHAPTER 5: The Network Approach
Policy network analyses attempts to explain policy development by examining networks
of actors concerned with a given policy problem across public and private sectors and
throughout different levels of governance.
The policy network concept is strongly influenced by interorganizational theory, which
stresses actors are dependent on each other because they need each other’s resources
to achieve their goals.
Some premises include:
o Regular communication and frequent exchange of information lead to the
establishment of stable relationships between actors and the coordination of
their mutual interests.
o Governmental organizations are no longer the central steering actors in the
policy process.
o Networks are self-organizing – they are autonomous and self-governing and they
resist governmental influences.
 There are three main approaches to using the network concept:
1. Policy networks as a specific form of governance.
2. Typologies of network structure in a policy subsystem.
3. Formal network analysis.
1. Policy networks as a specific form of governance.
o Policy networks constitute a new form of governance characterized by informal,
decentralized, and horizontal relationships.
o It emphasizes that the policy process is not completely and exclusively structured
by formal institutional arrangements.
o There seems to be a blurring of boundaries between the public and private
 Points to the possibility that actors who were formally responsible for
political decisions are not even the most influential decision makers in
policy formation and implementation.
o Network management – form of public management that consists of
coordinating strategies of actors with different goals and preferences with
regard to a certain problem or policy measure within an existing network of
interorganizational relations.
o Success of network management depends on :
1. The number of actors – the fewer the actors, the easier it becomes to
reach an agreement
2. The complexity of the network – an increase in diversity and numbers
make the network more complex.
3. The degree to which networks are self-referential. If highly referential
there may be opportunities for intervention from the outside will be
4. Absence of sharp conflicts of interest.
5. Costs. The higher the costs involved, the less likely actors will take up the
task of network management.
2. Typologies of networks.
o Policy networks are characterized by 2 types of variables:
 Composition of variables – actor’s attributes.
o Mostly concerned with the specific capabilities actors have and
the distribution of these capabilities over the set of actors
o Power structure within a policy subsystem.
o Concerned with whether power is concentrated in one dominant
actor or coalition of actors or shared between actors or coalition
of actors.
o Distinguish between state actors and 3 types of actors in the
system of interest intermediation ( Political parties, interest
groups, and Nongovernmental organizations/social movement
organization) in coalitions.
Structural variables –specific types of ties between actors.
o Concerned with the degree of cooperation among actors and
actors coalition – 3 forms:
1. (Predominance of) bargaining/negotiation.
2. (Predominance of) conflict/competition.
3. (Predominance of) cooperation.
 Difficulty establishing connections between
particular configuration of policy networks and
policy dynamics.
o Combining the two dimensions you can get 6 types of policy
networks that can determine the potential for, and type of policy
Type of Interaction
Bargaining Cooperation
Asymmetric Hierarchical
Dominance bargaining cooperation
Symmetric Horizontal
Competition bargaining cooperation
Dominance: where a dominant coalition with a policy monopoly is challenged by a
minority coalition.
Competition: where the power differential between the challengers and the dominant
coalitions is less pronounced.
Horizontal Cooperation: cooperation on equal terms between countries/institutions.
Hierarchical Cooperation: tiered cooperation, not equal.
Asymmetric bargaining: Unbalanced, disproportionate bargaining
Symmetric bargaining: Equal, proportionate bargaining
Distribution of
3. Formal Network Analysis.
o Variable based approach.
o Standard procedures to analyze network structures.
Recognize networks constitute a system of actors.
Determine the set of relevant actors belonging to the system – formal
organizations or corporate actors and their individual actors.
 Collect data for the attributes of the actors and relationships obtained between
them. Standard questions in interviews can be used.
 Distributions of power data can be collected by reputational, positional, or
participation-based indicators.
 Interactions can be operationalized by interview data and involvement in specific
policy areas.
 2 techniques are used for identifying coalition structures:
 Structural equivalence – 2 or more actors jointly occupy a structurally
equivelant position. To the extent that they have similar patterns and ties
with other actors.
 Subgroup cohesion – aggregates actors who maintain dense mutual
interactions s “cliques.”
o Generative approach – Agent based approach.
 Does not prespecify the interaction system.
 Instead specifies the mechanisms responsible for generating the interactions
between the agents and then simulates the construction of the interaction
system based on theoretical assumptions about the generative mechanisms.
o Findings:
The same policy means different things to different countries
There is not a single determinant of policy networks, rather a complex combination of
factors needs to be taken into account to understand variation in policy networks.
Policy networks are connected to policy outcomes and also the type of change that
creates these outcomes.
Policy networks can be linked to policy change.
The extent and speed of change is clearly influenced by a networks capacity to
mediate, and often often minimize, the effect of change.
Policy networks clearly show network structures are connected to specific policy
outcomes and type of change that creates these outcomes.
o The type of interaction within the policy networks determines the form of
policy change.
o The degree of concentration of power is expected to determine the potential
for change. The potential is highest in fragmented power.
Distribution of Power
Type of Interaction
Low to
potential for potential for
rapid (serial) incremental
Moderate to
high potential
High potential for
for rapid
(serial) shift change
o Policy Recommendations
Low potential for
change- maintenance
of status quo
Low to moderate
potential for changemaintenance of
status quo
Adam and Kriesi suggest that future research delve into showing whether and how
network analysis improves our understanding of policy outcomes and change.
Future hypotheses need to account for complex interactions of transnational, national
and policy-domain specific context. With that being said, future research should not
Since the network approach is not exactly a theory, it draws upon hypotheses and
models from other theories. There is a risk of relying on factors that are arbitrarily
included. One must be careful when linking approaches in order to create
information that will increase the potential of network approaches.
Future research should no longer aim at national-level generalizations across all
domains, but needs to look at the combined impact of different types of determinants
Chapter 7: The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF): An Assessment by Paul Saatier
and Hank Jenkins-Smith
The ACF emerged out of 1) a search for an alternative to the stages approach, 2) a desire to
synthesize the best features of the top-down and bottom-up approaches, 3) a commitment to
incorporate technical information into a more prominent role in the policy process.
The Initial Version of ACF
Based o n5 premises
1) need to address the role played by technical information (the role of the media, think tanks,
2) requires a time perspective of at least a decade so that information can be disseminated,
absorbed, and evaluated.
3) the most useful unit of analysis is the policy subsystem (or domain) rather than any particular
political institution or organization.
4) conception of coalitions needs to break the traditional ideas of iron triangles and include 1)
journalists, researchers and policy analysts and 2) actors at all levels of government (local, state,
5) public policies/programs incorporate implicit theories about how to achieve their objectives
and can be conceptualized in much the same way as belief systems.
Structural Overview of ACF
Two set of variables:
1. Relative Stable Parameters – constitution, sociocultural values, natural resources
2. External (system) Events – socioeconomic changes, realigning elections, policy decisions
from other subsystems.
These influence the constraints and resources of subsystem actors
The belief system made up of three components:
1. deep core – basic normative beliefs such as the relative valuation of individual freedom versus
social equality.
2. policy core – basic normative commitments and causal perception across an entire domain or
subsystem (e.g., relative importance of economic development versus environmental protection).
3. secondary aspects – a set of narrower beliefs regarding specific attributes of a policy
Policy-Oriented Learning and Policy Change
Changes in beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, strategies, behavior due to new information.
1. members of a coalition may resist new information if it contradicts core beliefs.
2. accumulation of technical information may influence policy even if no cross-policy learning or
belief change occurs simply because other important actors, judge, agency head, president, etc.
learns something.
1. lineup of allies and opponents tends to be stable
2. actors within a coalition will have substantial consensus on issue pertaining to the policy
3. will admit to defects in secondary aspects of belief system but unlikely to admit policy
core errors
4. Policy remains stable as long as the coalition structure remains the same
5. Policy core attributes of a governmental program are unlikely to change in the absence of
significant external changes.
6. Policy learning across coalitions will more likely occur if the coalition has the technical
resources to engage in an informed debate and if the debate is not simply about deep core
7. Quantitative date facilitates policy learning than qualitative learning
8. Problems dealing with natural systems are more conducive to policy-oriented learning
than problems involving purely social or political systems.
9. Learning I more likely if there is a professional forum with both sides participating
Empirical Studies of ACF and what they tell us
1. ACF is well tested and investigated, but unfortunately most of the research does not
systematically gather data on actors’ beliefs.
2. Empirical studies generally support most of the hypotheses with a few minor revisions, such
as that it 1) applies best to “mature” policy subsystems; 2) government agencies generally are
more moderate than interest groups (even if in the same coalition).
3. Assumes individuals in coalitions are rational but relies more heavily on the research and
literature on cognitive and social psychology (i.e. biases and constraints in processing
information). Preexisting beliefs constitute a lens through which actors perceive the world.
4. consistent with “prospect theory”, where actors weigh losses more heavily than gains.
5. Defining and measuring Policy core beliefs was ambiguous and is beginning to be specified.
6. for example: defining a set of topics under the policy core beliefs:
a. basic cause of the problem
b. method of financing the policy solution
c. participation of the public vs. experts vs. elected officials
d. policy core policy preferences (not just secondary aspects).
7. New hypothesis is needed: Different coalitions have different levels of cohesion depending on
the type of policy goal (symbolic, social or political goal vs. material goals)
8. ACF needs to address organizational needs and maintenance (solving collective action
9. How to map a policy subsystem and also apply it to more specific policy domains (rather than
a larger subsystem).
10. What about nascent vs. mature subsystems. Subsystems may appear from new problems or
definitions of problems. A new subsystem might be more open ore permeable while older ones
more exclusive. Strategies may differ due to experience, collective action problems may be less
in older coalitions.
Solving the collective action problem of forming a coalition
sharing policy beliefs
repeated interactions
benefits and who gets them are clearly identified
benefits are distributed fairly (equal to share costs)
some type of monitoring of members
members see opponents as powerful
Strategies of Coalitions
lobbying legislature about funding issues
influencing elections
affect public opinion
coalitions venue shop, looking for sympathetic actors
strategies may differ depending on venue (level of government)
Predicting Major policy change
1. major policy change is predicted to be infrequent
2. disturbances in the external variables (socioeconomic conditions, etc.), are necessary but
not sufficient
3. institutional rules make policy change more difficult
4. Levels of change may differ depending on the level of government
5. Policy change occurs via coalition competition; different factors will dictate weather the
change in power between coalitions is a quick or slow process.
6. Or when all major coalitions view a continuation of the status quo unacceptable.
Chapter 7: The Advocacy Coalition Framework – Innovations and Clarifications
Paul A. Sabatier and Christopher M. Weible
Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) was developed by Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith arising
from their interest in understanding the role that technical information plays in the policy
process. ACF is interested in policy change over a decade or more.
This framework was an attempt to address problems involving:
 Substantial goals conflicts
 Important technical disputes
 Multiple actors from various levels of government
ACF starts with three “foundation stones”:
1. Macro-level
2. Micro-level
3. Meso-level
These foundation stones affect our belief and policy change through two critical paths:
1. Policy Subsystem – Consisted of participants who routinely look to influence policy
within a policy subsystem: including the traditional “iron triangle” (legislators, agency
officials, and interest group leaders), researchers (assumed to be the central player in a
policy process), and journalists.
2. External Factors – The behavior of policy participants are affected by two set of
exogenous factors:
 Fairly Stable Factors rarely change within periods of a decade or so and therefore
rarely providing the impetus for behavioral or policy change within a policy
 Dynamic External Factors include changes in socioeconomic conditions, changes
in the governing coalition, and policy decisions from other subsystems. Their
ability to change substantially over periods of a decade or so make them critical
factors in affecting major policy change.
The ACF argues that:
 Policy participants strive to translate components of their belief system into actual policy
before their opponents can do the same, which can lead to “devil shift.”
 Policy participants will seek allies with people who hold similar policy core beliefs.
 Advocacy coalitions provide the most useful tool for aggregating the behavior of the
hundreds of organizations and individuals involved in a policy system over periods of a
decade or more.
The ACF conceptualizes a three-tiered hierarchical structure:
1. Deep core – basic normative belief such as the relative valuation of individual freedom
versus social equality.
2. Policy core – basic normative commitments and causal perception across an entire
domain or subsystem (e.g., relative importance of economic development versus
environmental protection).
3. Secondary aspects – a set of narrower beliefs regarding specific attributes of a policy.
One criticism of ACF is that it provides insufficient justification that actors with similar policy
core beliefs actually coordinate their behaviors into coalitions.
Three important additions to the ACF since 1999 are:
1. The context within which coalitions operate.
 In addition to the existing two sets of variables external to the policy subsystem
(stable system parameters and external events), a new category of variables was
created known as “coalition opportunity structures” to mediate between stable
system parameters and the subsystem.
2. A typology of coalition resources
 Policy-relevant resources that policy participants can use in their attempt to
influence public policy (e.g., public opinion, information, skillful leadership).
3. Two new paths to major policy change (Internal Shocks and Negotiated Agreements)
 The new revision to the ACF acknowledges that major internal shocks can also
occur from within a policy subsystem and can lead to major policy change.
 For ACF to be relevant to the study of collaborative institutions and corporatist
regimes, modifications were necessary.
The basic principles of the ACF have not changed since its inception but they have been
expanded and clarified:
1. The model of the individual has remained rooted in social psychology.
2. The focus of policymaking has always been the policy subsystem.
3. The key political actor has always been the advocacy coalition held together by common
4. The concern with the role of science in policy – the core stimulus for developing the ACF
in the first place – has remained, but there’s better use of professional forums to facilitate
learning across coaltions.
Theories of the Policy Process: Chapter 8
Innovation and Diffusion Models in Policy Research
Frances Stokes Berry and William D. Berry
Focus of the chapter:
The chapter focuses on two models of policy research on the state level, innovation and
diffusion. Berry and Berry focus on explaining and identifying the flaws in existing quantitative
models that are commonly used in policy research. They go on to present a new model that they
feel is more comprehensive and useful to the field and discuss new directions that they feel
researchers should move in so as to improve policy studies research. This chapter deals with
policy innovation not invention and uses individual U.S. states as the unit of analysis.
Two primary models:
 Internal Determinants
o Internal state developments determine whether or not policy will be implemented
and when a policy will be put in place
o Political events, constituent pressure, internal economics, social characteristics of
a state population and other unique state level measures are the key to policy
o States are considered to be independent, unique, and unmoved by outside forces
o Dimensions of the Model
 The Dependent Variable
 Interval level – year of adoption
 Ordinal level – rank of the state ordered by year of adoption
 Dichotomous variable indicating adoption and date
 Recent studies have used the probability of adoption as the
dependent variable
o Can change over time
o Defined for each state at one point
o Can focus on one policy or a set of policies
 States that are bigger, more economically advanced, have better
resources, and have more political/institutional structure will be
more likely to enact policies
 States need a motivation to innovate and the ability to put those
innovations into practice
 Data on the population and characteristics of the state will be
needed to determine the preferences of lawmakers and the state
 Other factors will also be influential, timing of policy in relation to
elections is an example of this
o If politicians are single minded-seekers of reelection then
they won’t increase taxes in an election year
o The electorate has a short memory so unpopular policy will
be passed early in a term
 Outside actors or interactions with other states or the federal
government have not effect on policy within a state
o Testing Internal determinates:
 Cross-sectional regression (probit or logit)
 Causes problems with independent variables due to timing issues and the
ability to capture the true picture of characteristics within a state when
policies are adopted
 Can not definitively determine if a states actions are a cause of internal
characteristics or diffusion
 States that are near each other tend to be very similar and have
policies that address similar issues
Policy Diffusion
o Several different types of diffusion models
 National Interaction
 State leaders communicate with other leaders in similar positions
from other states and share information and policy ideas
 Heavy emphasis on the assumption of learning (discussed below)
 Model is based on a linear equation that, when graphed based on
time, shows an S-shaped pattern of policy adoption
o Assumes that all states that do not have a given policy are
equally likely to adopt it
o The dependent variable (the proportion of new states
adopting a policy in a given time period) limits the depth of
 Ignores state characteristics and outside actions by
other states
 Regional Diffusion
 Geographically arranged blocks of states influence each other
Testing is reliable in identifying regional diffusion when it happens
but does not provide any evidence that would distinguish regional
diffusion from the neighbor model
 Neighbor Model
 Closely related to regional diffusion – assumes that policy is a
result of interaction with states that share a border with the state
being studied
 Leader-Laggard
 Some states are leaders in policy implementation while others are
 Leaders should tend to share certain characteristics (economic
affluence, strong bureaucratic apparatus, professional legislature)
o Discussed by Collier and Messick – hierarchical model
o Problems included a failure to identify leader states, an
inability to predict the order of adoption among followers,
and no accounting of internal changes as a factor
 Vertical Influence
 States emulate federal policies
o Grants and funding incentives push state policies
o Federal mandates
o Assumptions of Diffusion Models
 States learn from one another – they will enact policies that they perceive
to be working in other places
 States compete with each other for resources and prestige
 Seek advantages over other states
 Seek to avoid being placed at a disadvantage
 Public pressure created by media coverage of policies in other states that
make the citizenry of a given state desire a certain policy
o Testing Diffusion Models
 Testing:
 Time series regression
 Can not tell the difference between national interaction, regional
diffusion (neighbor or regional) and internal impetus of policy
 Tests can give ample evidence that there has been some type of
diffusion but how and why this takes place is unclear and often
give false positive results
Proposed Changes (A New Model using History Analysis)
o Unit of analysis: American state eligible to adopt a policy
o Dependent variable: probability that state (i) will adopt at time (t)
o Independent variables: behavior of other states at (t) in regard to policy;
motivation of public officials (public opinion, election cycle, incentives, etc.);
Resources/obstacles that will aid/hinder the policy implementation and the
presence or absence of other policies in a state that would effect their likelihood to
adopt the policy in question
o 4 anticipated outcomes
 Independent: the policy being adopted is independent of all other actions
 Complementary: one policy increases the chance of another policy being
 Contingent: one policy will not be adopted without the adoption of
another policy (B will not be enacted if A is not enacted)
 Substitute: a policy is enacted as a substitute for a similar but less
attractive policy (cigarette tax instead of making cigarettes illegal; passing
the tax makes it less likely that the ban will be passed)
 The benefit is that, while still testing diffusion, this model takes into
consideration internal factors that affect the decisions of policymakers
o Testing: Event History Analysis
 Logit or probit maximum likelihood techniques
 Create a set of states for a given policy that could, conceivably, adopt the
policy in a given year
 Uses independent variables to assess the likelihood of adoption and the
change in the probability of adoption caused a shift in one of the
independent variables (in this case you would hold all other variables
o Problems:
 One major problem is the vast amount of data that would be needed to do
this on a large scale
 While this model allows for testing of several different ideas about policy
innovation at one time it does not account for situations in which there is a
large struggle over a policy, the policy fails, and then is out of play for a
period of time after the let down
 In this model, it would appear to be equally likely or more likely to
pass the next year then it was the year before, but this is not true
o Conclusion:
 Previous ways of studying policy innovation do not create accurate or
realistic test situations
 These models all tested theories in isolation which is almost never present
 The theories themselves were valid and useful they just needed to be
tested differently
 Event history analysis is a positive step toward a more realistic simulation
of policy innovation when applied to specific policies (not useful in
looking at policy sets)
 Data requirements may limit the scope of research
 In many cases researchers will have to choose between a large
sample size and in-depth analysis
However, more work will need to be done in order to account to certain
aspects of the policy process that are still left out (i.e.: institutional
Chapter 9: The Policy Process and Large-N Comparative Studies by William Blomquest
Early political science simply described institutions. The examination of the policy process was a
much later event. The comparative policy studies occurred even later (1960s – i.e., Thomas
Dye). They generally used an approach to examine similarities and differences in the operation
and elements of a system in a large number of governmental units and how it influenced policy
outcomes (referred to as DSH approach).
1. A focus on the U.S. States. Why?
2. a debate of which is important: external (environmental) or internal (political) factors
3. early studies suggested environmental factors dominated
4. until new methods were used to fish out the importance of political factors
5. Much of the studies follow a Systems theory approach (David Easton) where inputs are
translated by a “black box” into policy outputs.
6. There have been attempts to open up the black box, or at least elaborate on the process of
inputs and outputs (e.g., Hofferbert’s funnel).
Critiques of the DSH approach
1. often examines variation in public expenditure levels. Why is this problematic?
2. Alternatively, the approach may look at a single policy event. Why is this a problem?
3. Often cross-sectional, with only limited examination of long term processes, therefore it
cannot explain policy trends over time.
4. the variable oriented approach does tell us much about why these variables matter.
5. therefore DSH is more of a model then a theory or conceptual framework.
6. What is the unit of analysis? The state? Who is Nevada? Who is Florida?
7. What about local politics and federal politics (federalism).
8. Although the systems theory approach examines “demands and supports”, it neglects where
those demands and supports come from and the role of beliefs, ideas, and information in the
9. Inductive and data driven
Merits of the DSH approach
it has dominated much of the public policy literature
an attempt to look at macrolevel factors
actors are constrained by larger environmental constraints
identified enduring patterns which can help in theory development
While many scholar argue that policy change over time is limited, the DSH comparative
approaches found variation between units and used that variation as the phenomenon to
I. Comparative Policy Studies (1960’s, Behavioral Revolution)
 Shift from focus on institutions to an analysis of their products (policy)
o Examination of similarities/differences that offer clues about how policy is
o Large N studies w/sophisticated data analysis techniques were employed
 Richard Dawson & James Robinson (1963)- “Inter-Party Competition, Economic Variables, and
Welfare Policies in the American States”
o Do environmental or political variables matter more?
II. Dye, Sharkansky, and Hofferbert (DSH) Approach
 Exploration of cross-systems differences in a host of independant variables to see which are/not
associated w/differences in policy indicators
 Basic Approach
o Specify IV hypothesized to differentiate cases from one another with respect to some
policy, including:
 Socioeconomic factors
 Economic measures
 Demographic indicators
 Mass political behavior
 Governmental institutions
 Political culture/ Regionalism
DV = policy “outputs”
Analyze w/statistical methods
III. Reasons Why DSH has failed to provide a theory of Policy Analysis
 Policy output typically depicted as public expenditure (a troublesome yet unavoidable measure)
o Doesn’t account for cost/price variation among localities, nor spending efficiency, nor
 Policy measured as an event
o Which policy-adoption event should be selected? Every single bill, court decision, and
administrative regulation?
o Context of the policy (ie OSHA)
 Primary, if not exclusive, focus on policy formation and adoption
o Data-selection bias of initial policy adoptions limit study of policy change over time
o Others contend most policy change occurs after in a category called policy modification
or policy replacement, also policy abandonment
 Under-Described Political Systems
o Failure to incorporate existence of multi-organizational governments, multi-governmental
systems, and possibility of joint/sequential action among multiple actors
o “Black Box” criticism- and idealized, single, abstracted decisionmaker
 Lack of Human Agency
o Outputs presented as automatic (incorrect explanations of variables)
o Level of Action fixed (no account for additional levels of structure or institutional
o Scope of Conflict fixed (no account for policy proponent to maneuver policy through
different channels)
o Tendency to neglect the importance of belief, ideas, and information; individuals treated
as statistical cyphers
IV. Merits of DSH Approach
 Early pioneer in shifting attention from only institutions and political actors in policy analysis
 Showed that economic development, region, and culture matter
 Yielded some empirical base, reliable patterns in policy studies
Chapter 10: A Comparison of Frameworks, Theories, and Models of Policy Processes by
Edella Schlager
How do we compare, distinguish, and evaluate the following models, frameworks, and theories
presented in this volume?
Frameworks: bound inquiry and direct the attention of the analyst to critical features of the social
and physical landscape. It organizes inquiry but does not provide explanations.
Frameworks may vary by:
type of actors
variable development – identifying a general class of factors
Units of analysis
level of analysis
Theories: Theories place values (or weights) on some of the variables identified as important in
a framework, posit relationships among variables, and make predictions.
Theories may vary or be compared on the following traits:
1. model of the individual – how individuals behavior, are motivated, organized, etc.
(bounded rationality)
2. collective action – policy change occurs as a result of collective action
3. Institutions
4. Policy change – some focus on major policy change, some single events, laws,
regulations, etc.
5. Boundaries and scope of inquiry
According to Ostrom “Models make precise assumptions about a limited set of parameters and
variables.” Models allow for a test of specific aspects of a theory. But models can sometimes be
created outside a specific or well-developed theory (example?)
Chapter 11: Fostering the Development of Policy Theory by Paul Sabatier
Scientific theory development should be:
clear causal drives
empirically falsifiable
scope should be clear but also broad
should be “fertile”, not obvious and lead to interesting predictions
Present status of policy theory?
Lots of mountains, some with trails connecting them. Most impressive mountain?
The Origins and Development of Theories
Inductive v. Deductive
From modest frameworks to more extensive frameworks and/or theories
1. be clear enough to be proven wrong
2. start with concepts as abstract as possible
3. think causal process
4. develop a coherent model of the individual
5. work on internal inconsistencies and interconnections
6. develop a long-term research program involving both theoretical elaboration and
empirical testing among a network of scholars.
7. Use multiple theories
Main Point:
After a brief review of the current status of policy theory, Paul Sabatier suggests several
guidelines to for improving it even further. He asserts that most of the frameworks discussed
need to be developed into more logically coherent and denser theoretical frameworks, and
eventually into fully developed theories. His strategy is to use the most developed frameworks to
date, IAD and ACF, in an effort to discern the most productive guidelines for theoretical
The guidelines establishing what a theory must consist of are that it should be:
1. Logically Coherent- major terms clearly defined, and major relationships
logically coherent. Without both the implications of a set of propositions is
2. Have clear causal drivers and a sense of causal process- identify critical causal
drivers (major moving events within the system), and how those drivers affect
other variables.
3. Some of the major propositions must be falsifiable- the validity of untested
aspects of the theory can be assessed.
4. The intended scope should be clear and relatively broad.
5. The theory should be worthy to produce a large number of interesting
predictions per assumption and give rise to nonobvious implications.
Sabatier believes logical coherence is the most important of the guidelines, as the others rely
heavily on it. He suggests some authors such as (Hill, 1997) completely miss it. However, he
holds the opinion that based on the body of work he has studied, most Political Science studies or
literature, sets out only models (a representation of a specific situation) and frameworks (sets of
variables and relationships that should be examined in order to explain a set of phenomena). A
theory provides a denser and more logically coherent set of relationships, that self consciously
seek to explain a set of phenomena. Most theoretical constructs would constitute a framework or
a model, by definition. For Example: Principal-agent literature in PoliSci can be seen as a rather
minimal conceptual framework, identifying the relationship between principals and agents in
institutional settings as its scope. There are numerous models of the effects of specific
interventions by principals on the behavior of a specific set of agents. But there is nothing yet
resembling a theory. Such a theory would have to identify the goal structure, the information
assumptions, and other resources available to the principals and agents, as well as identify other
variables, and to provide a hypothesis about what strategies a principal would find effective, null,
and counterproductive.
Currently, the closest body of work to resemble a theory is Institutional Analysis and
Development and Advocacy Coalition Framework. Both research programs are used by a diverse
and large body of scholars, and seem to be increasing in coherence and scope. They should
provide clues as to how to move from simple frameworks to developed frameworks and theories,
because Sabatier said so. He later elaborates and suggests that IAD and the ACF have been so
successful and elaborated on so much, because they are both such clearly established frameworks
(concepts and propositions), whereas other more vague frameworks such as Kingdons multiplestreams framework (1984), have attracted much less elaboration and empirical testing.
Traditionally there are 2 processes of theory development: inductive and deductive. Inductive
being an accumulation of "facts" from empirical studies, and deductive the author begins with a
set of fundamental axioms and definitions and logically derives from them a more elaborate set
of propositions, some of which are falsifiable. Sabatier believes inductive is not a complete form
of theory of development because the theory starts from a positivist view of perception that
assumes we can observe facts unmediated by prior beliefs or presuppositions. Deductive seems
to error in that it assumes theories are developed in a vacuum, unconstrained by perceived
regularities in portions of the phenomena of interest. Sabatier suggests a third scenario in theory
development, which entails a scholar becoming dissatisfied with an existing conceptual
framework or body of theory, develops an alternative framework to address its shortcomings,
and then progressively elaborates that framework until it becomes a more fully developed theory
over time. He believes IAD and ACF serve as a general guideline, as they set out the clearest
frameworks, and are able to be added upon and reworked because of this. Clear, explicit
hypotheses attract serious scrutiny by other scholars. However, the concepts within the theory
should be abstract, because broader propositions are more likely to be falsified in some
situations, and confirmed in others. That, in turn, should lead to identifying intervening variables
or conditional relationships that is to an elaboration of a theory.
Another modification to the current theory developing process would be to think in terms of
causal process. That is, identifying the mechanisms by which A affects B, which, in turn, affects
C, and so on. Next, a coherent model of the individual must be developed. Such a model should
include the goals or rules fundamentally driving the actor's capacity to acquire and process
information, their decision rules, and their politically relevant resources. Once a framework and
model are set up correctly, it should be an important goal to work out internal inconsistencies
and interconnections. Here is another fundamental task in developing minimum frameworks into
much denser, internally consistent frameworks and theories. This process usually involves both
empirical work that identifies inconsistencies and anomalies and then logically thinking about
how to resolve them. It seems the best way to work out inconsistencies and interconnections
would be to develop a long-term research program involving both theoretical elaboration and
empirical testing among a network of scholars. This may be the most important guideline. This
should stimulate revision and elaboration of the theory, although this may take some time--at
least a decade! Finally, it is likely advantageous to use multiple theories. First, this guideline
provides some guarantee against assuming that a particular theory is the valid one. Second, it
leads to an appreciation that different theories may have comparative advantages in different
setting. Third, knowing other theories should make one much more sensitive to some of the
implicit assumptions in one's favored theory. As a side note, funding and publication, as
institutional incentives, would have to be integral in the development of more dense theories.
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