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Article

As a part of the policy process, implementation follows policy as formulated and decided upon. Three aspects can be distinguished as inherent to the term implementation. The first one regards the temporal order in which implementation in a policy process takes place. The second aspect concerns the causal logic, while the third one is about the form of authority. Policy implementation is looked at and talked about from two fundamentally contrasting perspectives. One can be called an “ideal” perspective, the other a realistic one. “Ideal” stands here for a use of the term implementation without further reflection; the phenomena the term refers to are taken for granted. By contrast, the alternative perspective can be labeled as a realistic one. This perspective is a construction as well, but instead of taking things for granted it invites for empirical observation and testing. From an ideal perspective implementation is viewed as following instructions. Implementation is seen as a separate stage, identifiable as such. Inputs are supposed to determine outputs, while authority is exercised in a hierarchical relationship. From a realistic perspective implementation is seen as practice. It is approached as a multilevel phenomenon. Results of a policy process are explained by a variety of factors and social mechanisms. Authority is exercised as based on various sources. Both the view on implementation as following instructions and its realistic opposite shed a relevant light on implementation and its place in the policy process. Each view can be found in the practice as well as the study of the policy process. In the expectations about national politics the view on implementation as following instructions may be more observed than the alternative view, while at the street level of government the opposite can be supposed. However, these concern empirical questions. As far as implementation research is concerned, the normative appeal of the assumptions underlying the view on implementation as following instructions makes that view still occurring. At the same time, these assumptions have been challenged rather fundamentally, both at a theoretical and empirical level. The opposite character of the two views has consequences for the ways implementation and its place within the policy process are understood, but also for the ways in which variation in the results of policy processes is explained. Ultimately, understanding and explaining those results are enhanced when an approach is adopted in which elements from both views have been incorporated.

Article

Jeb Barnes

How do courts affect social policy? Answering this question is deceptively complex. Part of the challenge stems from the sheer scope of contemporary judicial policymaking, particularly in the United States, where litigation reaches into nearly every nook and cranny of the American welfare state and casts a shadow on policy issues ranging from marriage equality to healthcare reform. Another obstacle is that scholars remain deeply divided on fundamental questions about the nature of judicial decisions and how their policy effects should be studied. These disagreements, in turn, have engendered three very different approaches to studying the role of courts in social policy that often talk past each other. The dominant approach views judicial decisions as prescriptive rules—legal commands from the bench—and asks to what extent do judicial decisions change policy? This view implies that judicial decisions are “treatments” whose efficacy should be tested by measuring shifts in policy outcomes from the pre- to post-treatment period or across treatment and control groups. An alternative tradition envisages judicial decisions as a potential resource, which can be used by activists as leverage in building movements and pursuing agendas in multiple forums. Here, the core question is not whether court decisions produce abrupt policy shifts, but how activists use them to challenge the status quo, mobilize interests, and generate pressure for policy change. A third approach sees legal precedent as a constitutive framework that shapes and constrains policymaking and its politics over time. The test for whether law matters under this approach centers on the degree to which judicial decisions influence the developmental trajectories of policy and politics, which includes consideration of paths not taken in the policymaking process. That is not to say that the literature is wholly discordant. Despite their significant conceptual differences, these approaches tend to converge on the general idea that judicial policymaking shares many attributes with other policymaking processes: the implementation of judicial decisions, like statues and regulations, is contested and subject to capture by sophisticated interests; litigation, like lobbying, is a form of mobilization that seeks to translate policy grievances into effective political demands; judicial precedents, like other policies, generate policy feedbacks. Identifying similarities among judicial policymaking and its counterparts is a signature achievement in the study of courts and social policy, which has largely dispelled the “myth of rights” and simplistic notions that the law is somehow removed from politics. Yet it arguably has an unintended effect. Normalizing judicial policymaking—making it seem like other types of policymaking—threatens to render it less interesting as a distinct topic for research. This article suggests the time has come for all of the various research traditions in the field to return to foundational questions about what makes judicial policymaking distinctive and systematically study how these particular tilts and tendencies influence the continuing colloquy that drives the policymaking process.

Article

Rules issued by the European Commission, based on powers delegated by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, constitute the vast majority of all EU rules. They regulate the daily operation of common policies in all areas. Because the devil is often in the details, Commission rules are tightly controlled by the member states. This traditionally takes place in the so-called comitology system, which is a system of 200–300 member state committees set up to control and approve draft Commission rules. Comitology dates back to the early 1960s, when the Common Agricultural Policy was introduced. The institutional setup of the comitology system is a four-tiered structure composed of Treaty rules, framework rules, daily legislation, and the formal and informal working practices in the individual comitology committees. The Treaty of Lisbon gave the comitology system a major overhaul and introduced new types of Commission rules, delegated acts, and implementing acts. Research on comitology has focused on the purpose and design of the system and its daily workings. Relevant research questions for future studies include the legislative choice between delegated and implementing acts, the daily workings of the comitology committees, lobbying of comitology committees by interest groups, introduction of comitology through the back door in the delegated acts system, and the relationship between comitology and the new rule-making role of European agencies.

Article

John Polga-Hecimovich

The bureaucracy is a central body in the effective functioning of democracy and oversight of the rule of law, and knowledge of how public agencies interact with politics and effect policy implementation is crucial in understanding the “black box” of the state. However, this body of non-elected officials can only fulfill its mandate and achieve good governance if it meets certain conditions, such as technical expertise, a clear organizational hierarchy, meritocratic recruitment for personnel staffing, as well as political support, resources, and the autonomy to devise solutions based on expertise. Unfortunately for Latin America, its bureaucratic agencies have seldom enjoyed these conditions. Instead, public administration in the region has been characterized by patronage appointments, patrimonialism, and a weak capacity to execute public policies. Yet this blanket depiction of the Latin American bureaucracy obscures a great deal more diversity—as well as the fact that Latin American bureaucrats and public agencies are more dynamic and responsive than they are often portrayed. To begin, the size and role of the public administration have evolved constantly throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, growing under statist development policies of the mid-20th century before shrinking under neoliberalism in the 1990s and again growing during the 2000s in some countries. Moreover, the quality of the bureaucracy to efficiently provide services and implement policy varies by country, over time, and even within countries among agencies. This means that there is also variation in the scope and quality of the bureaucracy’s chief functions of policymaking, regulation, and implementation. In fact, politicians and bureaucrats in the region have found a number of creative solutions to agency weakness. Moving forward, politicians can guarantee even better bureaucratic performance by addressing some enduring challenges, such as public sector corruption and an institutional setup that favors short-term policymaking.

Article

Understanding policy instrument choices and the range of possibilities present in any implementation situation is key for both policy advisors and decision makers. These choices are a concern in policy formulation, which requires an understanding of what kinds of instrument options exist, which subset of tools is generally considered feasible or possible in a given context, and which among that smaller subset of all possible tools is deemed by policy experts, politicians, and the public to be the most appropriate to use at a given time. And, once plans have been adopted, questions of how they can best be implemented and how implementation can be done by governments raise another key set of instrument-related issues important to both policymaking and public administration.

Article

The European Union (EU) has developed an extensive body of environmental policies spanning a wide range of areas. No other international organization shapes the environmental affairs of its members to anywhere near the same extent. However, implementation of environmental policy has remained a persistent challenge, and Europeanization of member states’ environmental policies remains partial. There has not been a wholescale convergence of environmental policy, though the differentiation between leaders and laggards is not as stark as it once was. The rules, regulations, and policies that make up EU environmental policy have increasingly impacted not only member states but also the wider world, and the EU has emerged as a key player in global environmental politics across a range of policy domains. It has been central to the creation of many international environmental regimes and has integrated environmental issues into a variety of facets of its external relations. Looking forward, increasingly stark warnings from bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services should raise questions regarding existing responses to environmental challenges, which to a significant extent favor incremental over transformational change. The EU faces the task of responding to these profound challenges against the backdrop of increasing political turbulence at home and abroad. Over the past decade, the EU has been beset by profound challenges that have shaped both its internal and external environmental policies. At home, the EU has been shaken by the global financial crisis as well as the decision of the United Kingdom to withdraw from the EU. The EU’s external environment is to a growing extent shaped by nativist regimes such as Donald Trump in the United States and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, both of whom seem determined to undermine not just the foundations of global environmental governance but the rules-based international order more generally. The coming generation of scholarship on EU environmental policy will need to reflect upon how these competing forces serve to reshape the EU’s environmental policies.

Article

Making decisions is a complex and often problem-ridden process in a union of almost 30 member states. Most political science research hence discusses aspects of either decision-making or contents of specific EU policies. However, intricacies do not end when the governments and the European Parliament come to an agreement about, for example, regulative standards in a given policy. In actual fact, it is all but clear that the rules decided on the top layer of the European multi-level system will be implemented on the lower levels, ranging from the central governments of member states down to local communities. Multi-facetted issues related to the actual practice of implementing EU rules, and the Commission’s tough job in controlling this compound process, need to be addressed, while also evaluating the social science coverage of the topic. Research has a strong bias toward looking into the early phases of the implementation of EU law as opposed to the later ones, a trend which has only somewhat softened in the “new school” of relevant studies. A hardly researched but increasingly relevant factor in non-compliance with EU law is unwillingness by national governments. Therefore, it is important to consider the state of the rule of law in several member states and democratic backsliding—both essential for a healthy European integration process.

Article

Thomas M. Keck and Logan Strother

Scholars have long been interested in judicial impact—the ability of courts to meaningfully alter policy or politics—because judicial decisions shape law, have the potential to affect many people, and may even implicate democracy in a fundamental sense. Classic studies in this tradition concern the degree to which actors outside the court comply with judicial decrees, such as whether or not (or to what extent) schools desegregated in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. However, scholars working in a variety of other traditions have likewise examined the impact of judicial decisions, though they have not always used those terms. For example, advocates of interbranch analysis have situated courts within broader ongoing policy processes, and in so doing have documented repeated instances in which policy outcomes were altered by the actions of lawyers and judges. Likewise, students of legal mobilization have documented the sometimes constitutive effects of legal ideas on a wide range of political identities, attitudes, and behaviors. In short, the concept of impact includes a variety of ways in which courts influence politics, and the field of judicial impact studies will continue to benefit from a vital diversity of methods of inquiry, subjects of analysis, and conceptions of law.

Article

Administrative capacities are required to give effect to policy instruments. While seemingly obvious, policy research has, as yet, not systematically linked these two perspectives. The policy instrument perspective emerged in the context of implementation research and the wider debate about changing modes of governance. Administrative capacities and resources always played a role in this research, but cumulative empirical exploration or theory building has remained underdeveloped. A stronger integration of administrative capacity perspectives into research on policy instruments is essential so as to progress our understanding regarding the choice, design, and operation of policy instruments. A stronger policy orientation in research on administrative capacities can help to address limitations of indicator-based studies of capacity, which currently dominate empirical research on administrative capacities. The design and choice of policy instruments has an effect on administrative capacities: Capacity-reinforcing policies can be distinguished from capacity-undermining ones. A challenge for future research is under which conditions will politicians invest in administrative capacities, an investment that will only yield (uncertain) positive outcomes in the medium term.

Article

Implementing public policies in federations involves clashes of concept and practice. In its design, federalism is not particularly conducive to the formulation and implementation of public policy because the acclaimed strengths of a federal form of government, including diversity, fragmentation of power and sovereignty, and responsiveness to regional and cultural interests, all serve to make the introduction of national policies complex and challenging. This is especially the case regarding the implementation phase of policies which tends to be a most difficult task given the layers and negotiating steps through which policies must pass before being delivered to clients. Success in implementing public policies in federations requires a mixture of strategies that can range from coercion to collaboration and cooperation. Achieving performance with accountability throughout this process has proven difficult in most federations. Moreover most of the literature has avoided the client perspective, in particular whether citizens really care about the vagaries of federal arrangements as they simply want to see the programs that affect their daily lives delivered efficiently, effectively, and accountably.

Article

Christoph Knill, Christina Steinbacher, and Yves Steinebach

Modern policymaking becomes an ever more complex and fragmented endeavor: Across countries, the pile of public policies is continuously growing. The risk of unintended interactions and ineffective policies increases. New and cross-cutting challenges strain the organizational setup of policymaking systems. Against this background, policy integration is assumed to present an antidote by improving the coherence, consistency, and coordination of public policies as well as of the processes that produce these policy outputs. Although various research attempts focus on policy integration, common concepts and theories are largely missing. The different facets of the phenomenon have only been covered disproportionally and empirical analyses remained fragmented. On these grounds, a more comprehensive and systematic view on policy integration is needed: To cope with complexity, governments are required to streamline and reconcile their products of policymaking (i.e., every single policy). Here, policymakers need to check for interactions with policies already adopted on the same level as well as with policies put in place by other levels of government (e.g., subnational). Moreover, policy integration also implies the creation and development of policymaking processes that systematically link political and administrative actors across various policy arenas, sectors, and levels. By elaborating on these process and product components of policy integration as well as on their horizontal and vertical manifestations, the different perspectives on policy integration are synthesized and embedded into a systematic framework. On the basis of this scheme of identifying four policy integration categories, it becomes clear that there are still loopholes in the literature. As these blind spots culminate in the absence of almost any concept on vertical policy process integration, a way of capturing the phenomenon is introduced through arguing that vertical policy process integration depends on the structural linkages between the policy formulation at the “top” and the implementation level at the “bottom.” More precisely, it is necessary to take account of the extent to which the policy producers have to carry the burden of implementation, and the degree to which the implementers can influence the policy design over the course of formulation. The proposed framework on policy integration is intended to serve as a guide for future research and to help to identify those aspects of policy integration in which further research efforts are required. Only in this way can policy integration as a theoretical and empirical concept be applied systematically across policy contexts—covering different countries, levels, and sectors— and serve as a stimulus for better policymaking.

Article

Eva-Maria Euchner

Morality policies are a specific set of public issues that provoke fierce debates over the “right way” of living. Popular examples are the referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland in 2015, the conflict on abortion policy in Poland in 2016, the reform on prostitution policy in France in 2016, and the legalization of assisted dying in Canada in 2016. Future moral questions concern the use of CRISPR in gene editing of embryos, transgender rights, the regulation of self-driving cars with a hands-off regulation, and the involvement of robots in elderly care. Morality policy analysis is a relatively new field of study that struggles with finding a clear-cut definition and delimitation of morality issues from nonmorality issues. The lowest common denominator is that value conflicts over “first principles” and “battles between right and wrong” are indicative of this type of policy, while monetary values fade into the background. Based on this definition, four groups of typical value-loaded topics can be identified, issues related to: life and death (e.g., assisted dying, abortion policy, artificial reproduction, capital punishment), gender and sexuality (e.g., homosexuality, prostitution, pornography, sex education, transgender rights), addictive behavior (e.g., drug policy, gambling policy), and limitations on individual self-determination (e.g., gun policy, veil policy, Islamic religious education). The basic analytical question that drives the scholarly community is the popular proposition that “policies determine politics.” In other words, the underlying key interest is whether morality policies provoke different political processes than “nonmorality” issues. At first, scholars from the United States started to explore this question, which was also known as “culture wars.” Later on, since the early 2000s, the enquiry expanded in Europe. Thus, a growing number of researchers are investigating policymaking processes for morality issues and are evaluating traditional explanatory factors from the field of comparative public policy analysis. These factors include, among others, the influence of political parties and party cleavage structures, interest groups and societal mobilization, and institutional as well as cultural variables (e.g., religion, value change, and cultural modernization). In most cases, a uniform and direct impact of these factors is controversial, which is probably related to disagreement about the classification of public issues as moral problems. Discussion of this problem would benefit from contributions from other fields, such as research on religion and politics, the literature on gender and politics, legislative behavior, and political psychology. Aside from a more careful review of traditional explanations of morality policy change, including in particular the role of political institutions, it would be enriching to widen the analytical focus and investigate other stages of the policy cycle. The implementation phase is particularly interesting because morality policy outputs often suffer from legal vagueness, which leaves wide room for discretion by street-level bureaucrats or other third parties. Moreover, an increasing number of cross-policy comparisons (including comparisons between morality and nonmorality issues), as well as an alternative set of methodological tools (e.g., social experiments, network analysis, and quantitative content analysis), would enrich our understanding of morality policymaking.