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The contributors investigate policy paradigms and their ability to explain the policy process actors, ideas, discourses and strategies employed to provide readers with a better understanding of public policy and its dynamics.



Part I


1. Reflections on Our Understanding of Policy Paradigms and Policy Change

This volume seeks to contribute to the ongoing conversation among policy scholars on the subject of policy paradigms. It provides a window into the research frontier of policy dynamics and a re-evaluation of the precision and utility of existing policy paradigm orthodoxy. A ‘policy paradigm’ constitutes a theoretical tool to specify and understand the guiding principles, or ideas, for creating public policy, why the various actors involved are involved, and why they pursue the strategies they do. The book provides unique and varied insights into the current state of the art regarding how a range of scholars understand such paradigms, and public policy ideas, both conceptually and empirically. It does this by drawing together contributions from leading political science and social science researchers, to provide a multidimensional set of perspectives on how paradigm-related elements such as policy ideas, coalitions, discourses, interests, crises, anomalies and routines contribute to policy development and our understanding of that process. As academics, we are conscious that, by presenting a variety of perspectives in one book, we and our readers can learn from each other.

John Hogan, Michael Howlett

2. What Is a Policy Paradigm? Overcoming Epistemological Hurdles in Cross-Disciplinary Conceptual Adaptation

The advent of the new institutionalism in the policy sciences has brought with it a tendency to borrow concepts from disparate fields of study (Immergut, 1998; Koelble, 1995). Though it is a discipline vulnerable to critique for embracing metaphors rather than models (Dobuzinskis, 1992; Dowding, 1995), three decades of new institutionalism has produced theories whose conceptual origins can be traced to cybernetics (Steinbruner, 1974), evolutionary biology (Krasner, 1984), seismic geology (Jones et al., 2009), anthropology (Mahoney, 2000), economics (North, 1990), and organizational theory (Agyris & Schön, 1978). From the philosophy of science, the discipline has borrowed and adapted Thomas Kuhn’s concept of paradigms to explain the dynamics of long-term policy change (Kuhn, 1962, 1970a), culminating in the routine mention of paradigms in policy journals since the early 1990s (Béland & Cox, 2013; Skogstad, 2011).

Matt Wilder

3. Can You Recognize a Paradigm When You See One? Defining and Measuring Paradigm Shift

Whether as a subfield of political science or as a discipline in its own right, policy studies have come a long way since Harold Lasswell’s seminal work on the policy cycle (Howlett & Ramesh, 2003, p. 702; Sabatier, 2007; Savard & Banville, 2012). Nowadays, policy scholars use various theoretical frameworks to understand policymaking, including advocacy coalitions (Sabatier & Jenkins-Smith, 1993), multiple streams (Kingdon, 2003), and punctuated equilibrium (Baumgartner & Jones, 2009). To a significant extent, these frameworks emphasize the influence of “ideas,” for instance, worldviews, ideologies, cognitive filters, and causal beliefs, on policy change (Real-Dato, 2009). This should not come as a surprise since ideas have recently gained ascendency in social research alongside the “usual suspects” of interests, institutions, and socioeconomic conditions (Béland & Cox, 2011; Jacobs, 2015).

Pierre-Marc Daigneault

4. Is There a Fourth Institutionalism? Ideas, Institutions and the Explanation of Policy Change

While the concepts of policy paradigms and paradigmatic change now range freely through the policy literature, one of the most influential contributions to the currency of the paradigm and related concepts is that of Hall (1993). This is not to say that Hall invented the idea of transferring Kuhn’s (1970) original ideas from the sociology of science to politics and policy. Scattered references are found much earlier, for example in Manning (1976, pp. 26–7), where the succession of dominant ideologies is treated as an example of paradigm shifts. Nonetheless, for modern policy studies, Hall (1993) is the canonical reference. This chapter explores the connection between the contemporary debates about policy paradigms and the tradition in which Hall (1993) was written, namely neo-institutionalism. It is argued that much of the value of the concept, together with some of the unresolved problems and ambiguities surrounding its use, can be traced to its origins in the new institutionalism and the debates around variant “institutionalisms”. By returning to these debates, we get a better picture of both the strengths and the weaknesses of the idea of policy paradigm.

Jeremy Rayner

Part II


5. Comparing and Contrasting Peter Hall’s Paradigms and Ideas with the Advocacy Coalition Framework

The study of policy processes is growing and diversifying both in numbers of scholars and in theoretical and methodological approaches. Scholars are increasingly developing established theories and creating new theories, studying public policies in a variety of contexts that span the globe, and applying a diversity of methodological and analytical techniques. If communication among policy scholars is essential for lesson learning and advancing the field then clear vocabulary lies at the fulcrum of progress. A key way to improve that communication process is to describe and compare, in great depth, the language of key concepts and theories.

Paul Cairney, Christopher M. Weible

6. Paradigm Construction and the Politics of Policy Anomalies

The concept of ‘paradigmatic’ policy-making was introduced in the early 1990s by figures such as Jenson (1989), Hall (1993) and Campbell (1998) and continues to be the most well-known method for reconciling ideas with interests and institutions in the description and understanding of policy processes (Baumgartner, 2013; Berman, 2013). Hall’s (1990, 1993) concept of policy paradigms, in particular, remains the most influential and widely used means of theoretically integrating ideational influence with other well-known determinants of policy behaviour (see Baker, 2013; Hodson & Mabbett, 2009; Larsen & Andersen, 2009; Orenstein, 2013; Skogstad, 1998). In this approach, policy-makers operate within the parameters of more or less fixed sets of ideas—‘paradigms’—and change policies only in so far as discrepancies between policy ideas and realities—‘anomalies’—appear forcing them to reconsider their ideas.

Matt Wilder, Michael Howlett

7. From Policy Paradigm to Policy Statement: A New Way to Grasp the Role of Knowledge in the Policymaking Process

Thomas Kuhn’s (1962) concept of a paradigm, which he used to describe the dynamics of knowledge production in the natural sciences, is particularly important for the social sciences. As is the case for many famous concepts, the notion of a paradigm takes on a different meaning depending on the interpreter, period, and the field to which the concept is applied. After it was used by sociologists to examine the history of natural science, other social scientists adopted it to describe their own scientific field. In sociology, for example, Robert Merton (1968) suggested using this concept to highlight a complete set of sociological postulates, concepts, and proposals to produce a coherent analysis.

Philippe Zittoun

8. Paradigms and Unintended Consequences: New Public Management Reform and Emergency Planning in Swedish Local Government

What is puzzling about paradigms, according to Hall (1993) and others, is primarily how and why policies change over time through processes of social learning. While this perspective has been influential in revisiting state-centric theories of policymaking, it leaves important questions about policy paradigms unanswered. One of the questions that have not yet received much theoretical and empirical attention is how paradigmatic policy reforms are actually received by public managers in their everyday work. Do managers embrace emergent paradigms by complying with new directions, rules, and practices, or do they set on a conservative course of alienation and resistance? And what factors may account for these differences? These questions are at the center of this chapter.

Daniel Nohrstedt

Part III


9. The Critical Role of Ideas: Understanding Industrial Policy Changes in Ireland in the 1980s

In the current context of economic crisis we examine how earlier Irish governments, also confronted with challenging economic circumstances, sought to alter the country’s industrial policy. During the second half of the 1970s the Irish economy performed relatively well, after weaker performance following the first oil shock. However, recovery proved transitory, as procyclical fiscal policies fed inflation. By the 1980s, the economy shrank, and unemployment and emigration returned. This led to a questioning of industrial policy in place since the 1950s. What changes were made to this policy during the 1980s? And what lessons might this hold for contemporary policy makers? We use the Critical Junctures Theory (CJT) to investigate these questions. According to Hogan (2006) a critical juncture is a multistage event that sets a process of policy change in motion. A crisis can create a situation where extant policies and associated ideas are called into question by change agents. Any subsequent displacement of the extant paradigm by a new set of ideas on how policy should operate can lead to radical policy change. But, without ideational change, policy change will likely be relatively minor — the hierarchy of goals underpinning a policy will remain unaltered and extant policy will soldier on. Through using the CJT we can gain a deeper understanding of the nature of the changes that occurred in Irish industrial policy during the 1980s.

John Hogan, Brendan K. O’Rourke

10. The Bologna Process and the European Qualifications Framework: A Routines Approach to Understanding the Emergence of Educational Policy Harmonisation — From Abstract Ideas to Policy Implementation

In this chapter we explain the background to the emergent nature of the Bologna Process within a policy context. We identify the specific artifacts that were linked to how signatories attempted to meet the objectives of the Bologna Process. We trace the selection and retention of abstract ideas within the policy formation stage of the Bologna Process and illustrate how these facilitated the emergence of an educational policy whose goal was to harmonise qualifications within an agreed European Qualifications Framework (EQF). In doing this, we utilise the ostensive-performative theory of routines as our theoretical lens. By using this approach we distinguish it from hegemonic approaches to policy change such as the punctuated equilibrium framework (Jones & Baumgartner, 2012) and advocacy coalition framework (Weible et al., 2011). We illustrate the emergence of the harmonisation sub-routine as it is supported by various declarations and communiqués. We trace patterns of activities relating to both policy formation and implementation. Our contribution is twofold. Firstly, we argue for use of routines theory as a theoretical tool to understand the principles, objectives, and processes undertaken in the creation and adoption of the EQF. Secondly, we highlight the importance of abstract ideas, their connection to endogenous change, and how they inform performances.

Sharon Feeney, Conor Horan

11. The Role of Ideas in Evaluating and Addressing Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations

Many policy scholars have promoted and studied the influence of paradigms and ideas on politics and policy (Béland, 2009, 2010; Blyth, 2001; Campbell, 1998; Goldstein & Keohane, 1993; Hall, 1993; Jacobs, 2009; Parsons, 2002). The study of ideas is based on the observation that most political debates involve arguments about which actions to take and how these actions correspond to outcomes. Set within a dominant paradigm or competing paradigms, such arguments are ideational as participants depend on reasoning, utilize concepts, apply their values, and examine evidence about alternative policy options (John, 2012). In this chapter, we examine the effect of different types of ideas on the evaluation of current regulatory policy as well as the perception of future policy proposals.

Christopher M. Weible, Tanya Heikkila, Jonathan J. Pierce

12. Communications Frameworks and the Supply of Information in Policy Subsystems

In this chapter, we develop a new perspective on policy dynamics based on the generation and communication of information between the bureaucracy, Congress, and other relevant actors at the federal level in the United States. Our communications-based model of signaling emphasizes the importance of problem definition and the strategic manipulation of competition in the provision of information. In doing so, we draw a distinction between information supply in incentive-based systems versus competition-based systems. This distinction in the way information is supplied represents the emergence of a new paradigm for the study of policy dynamics with theoretical and practical importance.

Samuel Workman, JoBeth S. Shafran

13. How and Why Do Policy Paradigms Change; and Does It Matter? The Case of UK Energy Policy

It has long been argued that materialist explanations (i.e. focusing exclusively on interests) of policy-making and institutional change are limited and that concepts developed within the ‘new’ institutionalism may provide some extra explanatory depth (Blyth, 2002; Fischer, 2003; Widmaier, Blyth, & Seabrooke, 2007). The ‘new’ institutionalism, formed in the 1980s and 1990s as a response to rational choice and behaviouralism, sought to ‘bring the state back in’ to the explanation of political action (Hall & Taylor, 1996; Peters, 2005). Sociological and constructivist variants of new institutionalism have built upon Hall’s (1993) seminal work on policy paradigms in order to provide explanations of the role ideas play in policy and institutional change (e.g. see Béland & Cox, 2013; Carson, Burns, & Calvo, 2009; Daigneault, 2013; Kern, 2011; Kuzemko, 2013; Menahem, 2008; Murphy, 2012; Niemelä & Saarinen, 2012). These analyses proceed from the observation that frameworks of ideas colour not only how a policy problem is understood, but also policy choices and institutional structures. Likewise, frameworks of ideas can also impact heavily upon processes of institutional change, often understood as happening in response to crises. Ideas and their expression in the form of narratives are understood as being capable of convincing groups within society that there is a crisis, that existing policy is failing to solve the crisis, and that alternative solutions should be pursued.

Florian Kern, Caroline Kuzemko, Catherine Mitchell



14. Bringing Ideational Power into the Paradigm Approach: Critical Perspectives on Policy Paradigms in Theory and Practice

The work of Peter A. Hall (1993) on the role of policy paradigms in public policy is remarkable. Unrivalled by any other publication in ideational scholarship in terms of citations and impact, it — together with the work of scholars like Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith (1993), Kingdon (2003), Baumgartner and Jones (2009), and Stone (1988) — drew on the social learning-tradition (Heclo, 1974) to help bring ideas on the agenda of mainstream political science and policy studies (Béland & Cox, 2013; Blyth, 2013; Daigneault, 2014). With the subsequent important work of what may be termed ‘second generation ideational scholarship’ (e.g. Béland, 2007; Berman, 1998; Blyth, 2002; Campbell, 1997; Campbell & Pedersen, 2001; Cox, 2001; Lieberman, 2002; Schmidt, 2002), ideational frameworks for analyzing policymaking grew into a more or less coherent approach in its own right, what Schmidt (2008) later dubbed ‘discursive institutionalism.’ Hall’s (1993) theory of policy paradigms was essential for the coming of age of the ideational approach because while it placed institutions and interests centrally in its explanatory framework, ideas were the primary factor in accounting for processes of stability and change.

Martin B. Carstensen


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