Peter John, Analysing Public Policy (1998).

Key point: argues that policy analysis (seeking to explain policy variation and policy change)  should occur through the lens of evolutionary analysis. Policy change and variation are seen to emerge from the interaction of processes: it is through the process of evolution or learning that policies improve. John has yet to work out all the details of this evolutionary theory, however, so… yeah.

 

Notes:

 

*traditional approaches to policy research have sought to simplify a messy picture through the adoption of a stages model, which understands policy as proceeding through discrete stages: initiation and formulation, through to negotiation and law-making, followed finally by implementation.

**this linear sequential model has been discredited in the policy analysis literature for some time now, yet still persists in representations of the policy-making process provided by evaluators, journalists, bureaucrats, and politicians.

*John then considers (over 5 chapters) the alternative theories:

**institutional approaches, which assume that formal structures and their norms process decisions.

***these work best when comparing policy-making and implementation across states.

***but these are better at explaining policy stability than policy change.

**group and network approaches, which assume that the pattern of political association explains policy stability and variation.

***these work best to examine the particularities of policies in different sectors.

***but these are better at explaining policy stability than policy change.

**socio-economic approaches, which try to explain political processes as reflections of changes in society and in the economy.

***these are good at explaining both policy change and stability (although only in terms of wide-ranging forces) and also do well in explaining differences in policy-making between sectors.

**rational choice theory, which seeks to explain policy from the strategic choices open to individual actors.

***explains both policy variation and change.

***but takes actors preferences as given.

**ideas-based approaches, which explore the salience of argumentation, discourse and advocacy in the policy process.

***are good at explaining policy change.

***but fail to deal adequately with variation across sectors and nations.