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How Can Policy Theory Have an Impact on Policy Making
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In public policy we can also identify texts which try to explain why policy theory is less. influential now than it perhaps used to be In that vein it is tempting to highlight a simple. contrast between the good old days in which policy analysts and policymakers worked. closely together to solve the world s problems and modern days in which there is often a. significant distance between the academic and the practitioner The narrative would suggest. that although they once shared a common language they now have their own ways to. understand and describe the world Although they once worked closely together they now. share a mutual distrust and maintain professional distance Although they once believed that. they could solve policy problems together they now do not academics increasingly point to. the intractable or at least complex nature of policymaking and policy problems and. practitioners define their own success in less ambitious terms than solving problems. fundamentally This contrast represents a caricature of the early post war and modern eras. which can easily become romanticised However it prompts us to consider if we have. moved from a position of optimism about partnership in the early post war era towards an era. in which academics with a policy theory background generally struggle for policy influence. and or engage rarely with policy practitioners on the subject of good policymaking in a. way that both can understand these themes are explored in Radin 2000 on the US. experience on the US and Howard 2005 on Australia If so how do we fill this gap between. the academic and the practitioner, The answer explored in this paper is that we can link this gap to major shifts in the tone of. modern public theory since the postwar period from a focus on policy cycles and ordered. stages towards theories that recognise the messy and unpredictable nature of politics and. policymaking The problem may be that this shift in academic thinking may not be reflected. in academic policy advice and the models that governments use to organise policymaking. Cairney 2012c Despite recognition by scholars and in my experience civil servants that. policymaking does not operate in discrete stages there is often still a residual attachment to. stages based policymaking models in policy training seminars and in government itself for. example the Scottish Government s 2009 Review of Policymaking identifies five UK. Government models of policymaking all based on the policy cycles theme Further the. scholarly identification of messy policymaking in which it is difficult to link policy. outcomes to particular individuals or organisations is not an argument likely to be embraced. in Westminster systems where practitioners may feel obliged to uphold the idea of. accountability to the public via ministers and Parliament which in turn is based on the idea. that power is concentrated at the centre of government Consequently part of the. explanation for a disconnect between academics and policymakers is that their language has. begun to diverge the relatively straightforward language of cycles and stages and in many. systems the language of the Westminster model has been maintained in policy circles but. rejected in the literature Further the new theories and concepts discussed by policy scholars. may be more realistic but less amenable to policy advice because they are written for an. academic audience in a way that may require considerable translation Flinders 2013. To examine these issues the paper is set out as follows First it explores the idea that. academic and practitioner conversations were more straightforward in the early postwar. period Second it considers the legacy of that early period and the extent to which we still. use key concepts such as the policy cycle the ideal of comprehensive rationality and the. top down approach to implementation developed to aid policymaking Third it considers. the extent to which modern theories and concepts can provide insights to policy practitioners. even if they were not always designed to that end Fourth it considers briefly the extent to. which we can engage with governments to translate and discuss those insights. Beyond the Era of the Policy Sciences, The way that we study public policy has changed significantly since an initial post war focus. on the policy sciences This shift of approach is easy to oversimplify and exaggerate but. we can identify the same basic narrative in a range of studies the world has changed and so. too has the way in which we try to understand it Cairney 2012a 2012b There are three. key elements to this narrative about the early post war period First the policy sciences. developed to reflect a belief that a new scientific methods should be applied to policy. analysis b policy analysis could be used to better understand and make decisions and c. science and scientists could be called upon to solve society s problems Lerner and Lasswell. 1951 Parsons 1995 16 28 Radin 2000 Second there was less uncertainty about policy. analysts abilities to understand and solve problems and the ability of policymakers to control. the policymaking world in which they operated Cairney 2012 5 Third policy was driven. by a small number of policymakers at the centre who relied on an elite group of policy. analysts to produce objective ways to gather facts analyse and solve problems Radin. 2000 15 34 Howard 2005 4 note that they were not necessarily political scientists. Lasswell 1970, This picture of policy analysis has changed following three main developments First our. object of study has changed and new approaches have developed to conceptualise that new. world Cairney 2012a 42 Modern accounts do not support the simple idea of top down. decision making pursued by a sole central actor Cairney 2012b Rather they describe. action within a complex policy process We have witnessed what Heclo 1978 94 describes. as an end to the clubby days of US politics and Jordan 1981 96 100 links in other. countries such as the UK to a shift from corporatism towards a more fragmented system with. many more policy participants A rise in governmental responsibilities not only mobilised. more groups but also stretched the government s resources producing its increased reliance. on outside advice This rise in activity from multiple sources combined with the reduced. exclusivity of policy analysis often caused issues which were once quietly managed by a. small group of insiders to become controversial and politicized Heclo 1978 105. Further our focus has shifted from the idea of one policymaking centre to multiple centres or. sources of authority power has dispersed from a single central actor towards many. organisations and sources of authority and influence The policy environment now seems. more complex and potentially unstable populated by more fragmented governments and. many participants with different values perceptions and preferences Sabatier 2007 3 4. Second there is a diminished sense of optimism regarding the government s ability to solve. problems through objective scientific analysis The status of policy analysis has diminished. John 1998 32 3 and policy scientists have to compete with many other actors for. policymaker attention Third there has perhaps been some movement away from a direct. engagement between policy theorists and policymakers a problem discussed by Guy 1999. 2003 642 3 on the US For example the language of policy theory is often rather dense or. esoteric and it is not easily translatable to policymakers unless they went into politics after a. career as a politics lecturer, Overall a key difference found in the modern era is that policy scholars are less central to the. policy process Further while they have developed useful ways to describe and explain a. complex policymaking system many of the concepts have been directed at an academic not. practitioner audience This lack of access to policymaking combined with unclear incentives. for academics and practitioners to converse has influenced the ability and sometimes. willingness of academics to translate their insights to policymakers One consequence is that. practitioners may still draw on old but relatively simple policymaking concepts that were. developed by policy analysts in a more practical policymaking environment. What Remains From that Legacy, A key legacy from that early period is that some concepts developed to aid our.
understanding of policymaking such as the policy cycle and the ideal of comprehensive. rationality are often still in good currency However we now tend to use them in rather. different ways in different venues concepts that are critiqued in the academic literature may. still be employed in the real world Take for example the idea or ideal type of. comprehensive rationality in which elected policymakers translate their values into policy in. a straightforward manner this is described in a variety of subtly different ways in the. literature They have a clear coherent and rank ordered set of policy preferences which. organisations carry out in a logical reasoned and neutral way John 1998 33 There are. clear cut and ordered stages to the process aims are identified the means to achieve those. aims are produced and one is selected and analysis of the policymaking context is. comprehensive The policy cycles approach is to some extent an offshoot of that idea The. suggestion is that stages can be used to organise policymaking policymakers should divide. the process into a series of stages to ensure policy success identify policymaker aims. identify policies to achieve those aims select a policy measure ensure that the selection is. legitimised by the population or its legislature identify the necessary resources implement. and then evaluate the policy again this is described in a variety of ways Cairney 2012a 6. In other words the academic idea is simple and the consequent advice to policy practitioners. is straightforward This presents a dual problem First the cycles approach may be employed. despite its analytical problems linked partly to the ideal type of comprehensive rationality. Second it is difficult to describe a more meaningful analytical model to policymakers and. give advice on how to act in the same straightforward way. It is important not to overstate academic and policymaker adherence to what we might now. call a naive approach to policy analysis particularly since early discussions of comprehensive. rationality produced Simon s 1947 1976 xxviii concept of bounded rationality and. Lindblom s 1959 1979 identification of incrementalism both of which still underpin. modern policy analysis Lindblom has helped us move on from the idea that comprehensive. rationality and stage based decision making are ideals to aspire to towards the understanding. that they are ideal types used to describe how policymaking really works by comparing the. ideal type with a very different reality Comprehensive rationality is used to explain why. policymaking cannot be comprehensively rational while the cycles approach is now often. identified to show us why it is difficult or impossible to separate policymaking into stages. Sabatier 2007 7 Cairney 2012 6 41 Overall we have not moved radically from one. position to another the shift is more subtle and uneven The examples of implementation. studies and the modern use of cycles demonstrate this shift. The example of implementation perhaps demonstrates a double shift from past studies. Studies of implementation are based on the simple point that decisions made by policymakers. may not be carried out successfully Instead we can identify an implementation gap which. represents the difference between the expectations of policymakers and the actual policy. outcome deLeon 1999 314 5 Hogwood and Gunn 1984 197 Hill and Hupe 2009 11. Cairney 2009 The common aim is to highlight the conditions that have to be met to ensure. perfect implementation success but the understanding is that in fact they explain why. policies fail or achieve partial success, 1 The policy s objectives are clear consistent and well communicated and understood. 2 The policy will work as intended when implemented. 3 The required resources are committed to the programme. 4 Policy is implemented by skilful and compliant officials. 5 Dependency relationships are minimal,6 Support from influential groups is maintained. 7 Conditions beyond the control of policymakers do not significantly undermine the. process Hood 1976 6 Hogwood and Gunn 1984 198 Sabatier 1986 23 4 Jordan. and Richardson 1987 234 41 Birkland 2005 191 Cairney 2009 357. This list of conditions arguably represents a shift of attitudes from the idea that policy. formulation is central to the recognition that other stages are not mere formalities For. example Pressman and Wildavsky 1973 1979 drew on such factors to explain why the. provision of US federal funds for public works programmes to solve the problem of high. unemployment and racial unrest did not have the desired effect in Oakland California note. their famous subtitle How Great Expectations in Washington are Dashed in Oakland A. further analytical shift was produced by the growth of bottom up implementation studies to. counter the idea that implementation should be viewed as a success or failure from the top. down Barrett and Fudge 1981 Hjern and Porter 1981 Hjern 1982 Lipsky 1980 compare. with Wildavsky and Majone 1978 who anticipated this. How Can Policy Theory Have an Impact on Policy Making from the policy process to develop a breadth of knowledge and produced generalisable

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