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Article

Disproportionate policy response is understood to be a lack of ‘fit’ or balance between the costs of a public policy and the benefits derived from this policy, and between policy ends and means. The study of this phenomenon and its two anchor concepts, namely, policy over- and underreaction, has been inspired by the insight that inefficiencies in the allocation of attention in policymaking leads policymakers to react disproportionately to information. This theory of information processing appears to be broadly accepted and has generated a large body of research on agenda setting. However, little attention has been devoted to actual policy over- and underreaction and how it affects the public. The latest developments are conceptual in nature and include a conceptualization and dimensionalization of policy over- and underreaction, as well as an early-stage development of a preference-driven approach to disproportionate policy response. These issues are fundamental to developing understanding of the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of disproportionate policy response. They are also valuable to those who want to better understand the processes through which policy over- and underreaction occur and are of considerable interest to practitioners who want to understand how to manage disproportionate policy responses more effectively. Although disproportionate policy response poses methodological challenges because it is time-bound, context-sensitive and has a problematic counterfactual (i.e., proportionate policy response), it deserves academic attention. This is because the insight of the punctuated equilibrium theory—that policy responses oscillate between periods of underreaction to the flow of information coming from the environment into the system and overreaction due to disproportionate information processing—implies that policy oscillation is the norm rather than the rarity. To probe research questions related to the topic at hand, disproportionate policy response can be measured as individuals’ perceptions of what they think about the proportionality of policy. Alternatively, scholars may employ vignette survey experiments, sophisticated cost-benefit analysis and a comparison of policy outcomes with (national or international) standards developed by experts. Scholars may also undertake experimental manipulation using risk unfolding over time, combined with varying types of warnings. The study of disproportionate policy response is a gateway to some of the most significant aspects of public policy. Global and domestic threats coupled with relatively skeptical publics about politicians and political institutions and rising negativity and populism in democratic politics imply that policy overshooting is increasingly required for the public to perceive policy action as sufficient and politicians as competent, at least in the short term. Not only has disproportionate policy response been a focal point for political actors seeking decisive and swift policy change in times of real or manufactured crisis or no change at all, but such action has time and time again also made a dramatic impact upon the direction and the character of policy and politics. Classic examples are the U.S. response to 9/11 and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. So far the literature on policy change has not responded to the emergence of the stream of research aimed at fully understanding the complex phenomenon of disproportionate policy response, but a robust research agenda awaits those answering this article’s call for action.

Article

Jonathan Pierce and Katherine Hicks

The advocacy coalition framework (ACF) was developed to explain policy processes where contentious coalitions of actors seek to translate competing belief systems into public policy. Advocacy coalitions may include interest groups, members of the media, scientists and academics, and government officials that share beliefs about a public issue and coordinate their behavior. These advocacy coalitions engage in various strategies using resources to influence policy change or stasis. As part of this process, advocacy coalition members may learn within and/or across coalitions. This framework is one of the most prominent and widely applied approaches to explain public policy. While it has been applied hundreds of times, in over 50 different countries, the vast majority of ACF applications have sought to explain domestic policy processes. A reason for the paucity of applications to foreign policy is that some ACF assumptions may not seem congruent to foreign policy issues. For example, the ACF uses a policy subsystem as the unit of analysis that may include a territorial dimension. Yet, the purpose of the territorial dimension is to limit the scope of the study. Therefore, this dimension can be substituted for a government body that has the authority or potential authority to make and implement foreign policy. In addition, the ACF assumes a central role for technical and scientific information in the policy process. Such information makes learning across coalitions more conducive, but the ACF can and should also be applied to normative issues, such as those more common among foreign policy research. This article introduces the ACF; provides an overview of the framework, including assumptions, key concepts and theories, and transferability of the ACF to foreign policy analysis; and discusses four exemplary applications. In addition, it proposes future research that scholars should explore as part of the nexus of the ACF and foreign policy analysis. In the final analysis, the authors suggest the ACF can and should be applied to foreign policy analysis to better understand the development of advocacy coalitions and how they influence changes and stasis in foreign policy.

Article

An improved understanding of foreign policy learning necessitates a clarification of what foreign policy learning is, who learns, and how such learning occurs. Cognitive and social psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists situated in a variety of subfields have contributed to the understanding of foreign policy learning, a multidisciplinary area of inquiry. Learning theorists seek to show how a change in an actor’s beliefs due to experience or observation can lead to changes at other units, such as organizations and within the government. This cognitive dimension is important because actors may pursue a new course of action for politically expedient reasons rather than having genuinely “learned”—a distinction referred to as “complex” vs. “simple” learning. Foreign policy learning can be internal or external. The former type of learning entails what individuals, governments, or organizations learn from their prior experience. Learning theorists who focus on the individual level of analysis borrow insights from political psychology in an effort to shed light on the personal characteristics, the belief structures, and the cognitive psychological mechanisms of political actors that can better inform policymaking. Leaders whose cognitive structures are described as relatively open and complex—like Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose learning brought about the dramatic changes that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union—are more likely to alter their beliefs than their cognitively closed and simple counterparts. Yet external learning occurs as well. Policy diffusion studies show that learning can result from demonstration effects. Foreign policy learning via diffusion is not instrumental, but instead occurs through osmosis. Privatization in the former communist states, China’s Foreign Direct Investment liberalization, and the diffusion of environmental norms in the European Union are examples of learning that is contagious, not chosen. A more conscious mode of learning than diffusion is policy transfer, which entails policymakers’ transferring ideas from one country and implementing them in another. Technological innovations, unlike lessons that involve political ideology, are generally easier lessons to transfer—for example, Japan’s success in applying lessons from the West to modernize its army in the second half of the 19th century. The constraints to foreign policy learning are formidable. Decision makers are not always open to reconsidering views that challenge their beliefs. Leaders tend to resort to, and misuse, analogies that prevent learning. Even a change in a decision maker’s beliefs may not lead to foreign policy change, given the myriad political pressures, bureaucratic hurdles, and economic realities that often get in the way of implementing new ideas. Indeed, foreign policy learning and foreign policy change are not synonymous. Scholars face significant obstacles in studying foreign policy learning. There is no consensus on the definition of learning, on what constitutes learning, on how actors learn, when they learn, or on how to assess whether learning has taken place. Despite attempts to make sense of the confusion, scholars face the daunting challenge of improving understanding of how learning is shaped and funneled through the interaction of agents and the structures in which they are situated, as well as the relationship between learning and foreign policy change.

Article

Logical models and statistical techniques have been used for measuring political and institutional variables, quantifying and explaining the relationships between them, testing theories, and evaluating institutional and policy alternatives. A number of cumulative and complementary findings refer to major institutional features of a political process of decision-making: from the size of the assembly to the territorial structure of the country, the electoral system, the number of parties in the assembly and in the government, the government’s duration, and the degree of policy instability. Mathematical equations based on sound theory are validated by empirical tests and can predict precise observations.

Article

Marijke Breuning

Role theory first emerged as an approach to the study of foreign policy with the seminal work of Holsti, who argued that decision makers’ conceptions of their state’s role on the world stage influenced that state’s foreign policy behavior. Holsti’s approach was ahead of its time. The potential of role theory to contribute to the agent-structure debate has not always been appreciated. In fact, early research employing role theory often maintained a close connection to structural theories of international relations, especially among U.S.-based scholars. In the last decade or so, there has been a renewed interest in role theory that differs from earlier work in that it more clearly connects with psychological approaches to foreign policy analysis. It also takes more seriously the domestic sources of role theory through inquiry into horizontal and vertical role contestation. Much of this new work intersects with constructivism, although it remains grounded in empiricism. As foreign policy analysis increasingly seeks to understand the foreign policies of a broader array of states—including smaller states that face significant constraints on their ability to act in the international arena—role theory provides an attractive framework. Its focus on decision makers’ conceptions of their state’s role in international politics enhances the ability to make sense of the foreign policies of a wider array of states in the global arena. In essence, role theory allows foreign policy analysis to move beyond a U.S.-centric or global-north-centric field to become more broadly comparative.

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.

Article

Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer

The main contribution of veto player approaches in Comparative Politics has been to the study of policy stability and change. Specifically, the argument is that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity and issue area depend on the configuration of veto players and veto points. Most notably, veto player approaches have introduced a general conceptual tool kit that has facilitated the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across (democratic and non-democratic) regime types and public policy areas. However, in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), references to veto players and veto points tend to be hardly systematic and are mainly used to highlight domestic constraints on preference formation, decision-making, or responses to international crises. Hence, the theoretical and empirical potential of veto player approaches for FPA has not yet been systematically explored. Against this background, the article makes the case that “taking veto players seriously” has a lot to offer to the study of foreign policy. While there are differences between applying veto player approaches in public policy and in FPA (e.g., with respect to the more informal process of foreign policy decision-making or the larger policy discretion of the agenda setter in foreign policy), those differences must not be overdone. Indeed, they point to certain shifts in emphasis and specific methodological challenges for veto player studies in foreign policy, but do not call into question the basic explanatory logic of veto player approaches or their transferability from one field to the other. What is more, the article shows that multiple links between veto player approaches and FPA theories can be established. Generally speaking, veto player approaches have immense potential in reinvigorating comparative foreign policy analysis. More specifically, they can be linked up to FPA works on the role of parliaments, coalitions, or leadership styles as well as on those discussing change, effectiveness, or fiascos in foreign policy.

Article

Steve Pickering

The relationship between geography and foreign policy is deep and fundamental. Yet it is far more complex than many recognize, and many authors, including scholars who should know better, fall into the trap of determinism. This article will describe the ways in which critical approaches can help us to look at geography and foreign policy by building the frameworks for analyses including religion, popular geopolitics, and feminism. Additionally, it will argue that once we have understood the dangers of an overly simplistic approach to geography, we need to apply new, cutting-edge geospatial methods to better understand how geography and foreign policy are related. By doing so, we can deal with important international issues, such as war and peace, and climate change.

Article

Spyros Blavoukos and Dimitris Bourantonis

Foreign policy change entails the redirection to a lesser or greater extent of a state’s foreign policy. The parameters that account for such a change can be clustered according to their nature (structural or conjunctural) and origin (domestic or international). Domestic structural parameters comprise the politico-institutional setting within which foreign policy decisions are made and advocacy groups in support of alternative foreign policy options. The focal point of analysis for both is the “authoritative decision unit” that can take the form of a powerful leader (e.g., a monarch, dictator, or a predominant political figure in a democratic system), a single group (e.g., the Politburo in the former Soviet Union, a group of Army officers collectively engaged in a military coup, or Cabinet under a Prime Minister with a collective policy-making style), or a multitude of autonomous actors (e.g., coalition governments and actors with veto power over foreign policy decisions). Whether these units are “open” or “closed” to international pressures and the degree of their insulation from domestic societal pressures are key issues that determine how conducive to change domestic political settings are. Advocacy groups comprise adherents to an alternative political culture, socioeconomic groups with divergent views and interests, and policy entrepreneurs in position to engineer foreign policy change. International structural parameters refer on one hand to systemic changes that may bring about a foreign policy realignment and on the other hand to the country’s role in the international system (e.g., participation in international organizations) that may activate foreign policy changes through socialization processes. Conjunctural parameters, either domestic or international, account for unexpected developments that may upset the existing status quo (e.g., the death or succession of a political leader, unexpected domestic political crises, human disasters and humanitarian crises, and international security or economic crises). This eclectic list of parameters helps account in a comprehensive way for two cases of major foreign policy realignment. The first deals with the incremental Greek-Turkish rapprochement in the late 1990s. Greece altered its way of approaching the bilateral disputes with Turkey by moving away from its earlier confrontational approach to a more engaging one. This change owed much to domestic political changes (new political leadership as an outcome of the sudden death of Prime Minister A. Papandreou), which led in turn to a reprioritization of the Greek foreign policy objectives related to the accession to the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union. It was further assisted by the participation of Greece in the European Union, which helped put the bilateral Greek–Turkish relationship in the frame of the EU enlargement policy. The second case accounts for the Israeli reorientation in the early 1990s vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue. Following the international upheaval after the end of the Cold War, the societal concerns after the Palestinian Intifada, and domestic political changes, the new Israeli political leadership orchestrated the foreign policy change that enabled the signing of the Oslo Peace Agreement.

Article

The nature and evolution of the field of studies of public sector leadership can be understood by focusing on four theoretical orientations: institutional, transformational, collaborative, and contingent. The first one argues that, within a democracy, public sector executives do not exercise—or should not exercise—a strong leadership. The second one, on the contrary, stresses their “transformational” role. The third orientation favors more horizontal leading styles, while the last one argues that all the previous types of leadership could emerge depending on the specific conditions. Each of these four orientations takes a specific position toward change and has led to a considerable number of books and articles. This clearly shows that leadership is an important issue in the study of the public sector. It also shows the theoretical fragmentation present in this field and that there is not a fit-all type of leadership. Paradoxically, there is still a noticeable lack of research on some topics, such as the causes and effects of leadership. Thus, there is not a clear understanding yet of the extent to which leading within government makes a positive difference and, in case it does, of how to make it happen. Filling these voids would certainly help this field to gain greater relevance within the wider field of leadership studies as well as in the social sciences in general.

Article

Attitudes towards political groups and their rights are often shaped by the core values held by individuals. In reference to LGBT people and their rights, research has often shown that core values play a role in understanding affect towards the group and related policies. Values such as moral traditionalism and egalitarianism have long been understood to be determinants of people’s attitudes toward LGBT rights. LGBT issues are framed relying on competing value frames, which change in their dominance over time. However, core values tend to be stable but American attitudes toward LGBT people and rights have undergone sharp increases in their favorability. One explanation for this change is an increasing political tolerance among the American public. Political tolerance is the degree to which the public supports the civil liberties of members of different social groups, and it is distinct though related to attitudes on LGBT issues of equality (e.g., marriage equality). Political tolerance encompasses attitudes toward the rights for LGBT people to exercise their free speech, political and social organization, and live free from government intrusion. In the US, adults have consistently expressed greater political tolerance for lesbian and gay people than issues of LGBT equality. Political tolerance toward lesbian and gay people has increased since the 1970s, but egalitarian values have remained rather stagnant. The effect of egalitarian values on political tolerance for lesbian and gay people was stronger in earlier years, and as Americans have become more tolerant of lesbian and gay people, the role of egalitarianism in affecting political tolerance has diminished. There are limitations of existing data, especially regarding the political tolerance of bisexuals, transgender people, and others who are generally considered to be within the broader LGBT community.

Article

Institutions have always been of great concern to public administration, in both a practical and an analytical sense. The new institutionalism, developing in different versions from the early 1980s, has contributed new and varied insights on how institutional factors shape the life of public administrations. Instead of mainly focusing on formal rules and organizations, as in traditional (“old”) institutionalism, new institutionalism perceives of institutions in a broader sense, as patterned behavior also following from informal rules, norms, and habits. Different institutional perspectives continue to develop with some mutual borrowing of ideas, but they also specialize, which help us understand how public administrations are shaped by the historical legacies of institutions, institutional rules and norms that socialize organization members; institutions as incentive structures designed to increase trust and compliance; organizational adaption to major institutional trends, and institutions as cultures of communication. These perspectives are specific lenses that bring valuable, complementary insights, particularly when it comes to their varied conceptualizations of agency: strategic calculation, social adaption and imitation as well as social construction in communicative settings. However, it is argued that institutionalism has largely neglected political aspects in the interaction between institution and agency, which needs to be explored and elaborated on in future empirical research and theoretical development. The political character of public administrations is very complex and varies from individual preference falsification in order to adapt to institutions, to subversive actions for trying to undermine or to secure existing institutions when important values are at stake in public administrations.

Article

Anika C. Leithner and Kyle M. Libby

Path dependence has been employed more frequently in the field of foreign policy analysis, though it is still an emerging framework. The roots of path dependence are traced from the physical sciences and economics to the social sciences, and finally, foreign policy. The basic assumptions of path dependence are summarized, including the role of critical junctures, increased returns, and policy legacies that are produced and reproduced by a variety of causal mechanisms. The preferred methods employed by path dependence scholars are briefly outlined; framework’s applicability to the study of politics is addressed, and the major critiques of path dependence are reviewed. This leads to the general conclusion that despite conceptual and methodological challenges in the area of foreign policy, there is definite “value added” in path-dependent approaches.

Article

The theoretical concept of inside activism brings fresh light on institutional change by upgrading the importance of political agency within public organizations. Inside activism captures a specific empirical phenomenon, namely, public officials being committed to the agendas of civil society networks and organizations, and acting from inside public organizations to induce policy and institutional change. Inside activism upgrades political aspects of public organizations, recognizing the importance of authority, power, and combative action. Public organizations are institutionally shaped by continuous processes of consolidation and fragmentation. This means opportunities for inside activists to act politically, preferably in secret and subversive ways, and to further strengthen the fragmented nature of public organizations. Strategically, inside activists can work for institutional change by expanding their agency through the development of collective power and networking, using combative subversive strategy, working for cumulative effects and combinative solutions as well as to bend and break constraints on their actions (the 5C model). To induce change, they further exploit institutional ambiguities like “weak spots” of institutions and discrepancies between institutional rules and practices on the ground. The neglect of inside activism within institutional theory likely means that the possibility of institutional change has been underestimated and there is thus a need for a comprehensive research agenda on inside activism, political agency, and institutional change, which in this article is termed “new political institutionalism.”