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About this book

In this major new text, Christoph Knill and Jale Tosun provide an engaging introduction to the theory and practice of public policy analysis and to the changing nature of the policy process.

The book examines the key approaches and methods of public policy analysis and shows how these can inform public policy choices. It assesses the way various actors, interests and institutions affect each stage of the policy process – including agenda-setting, decision-making and implementation. The authors go on to explore core themes such as policy change over time and policy variation across countries and sectors. Diverse real-world examples – from alcohol control in Russia to environmental policy in Mexico – are included throughout to illustrate the international and multilevel dimensions of public policy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
Public policies are omnipresent in our daily lives. Newspapers, the television, and the internet provide a constant supply of information on the making of public policies from the regulation of genetic engineering or blood alcohol limits for the operation of a vehicle to the financing of infrastructure projects like new roads or the level of income tax. Being indirectly confronted with policy decisions through media coverage is one thing, but almost every aspect of our daily life is to some extent directly regulated through public policy decisions of which we are often entirely unaware.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 2. The Nature of Public Policies

Abstract
Public policies are omnipresent in our daily lives and relate to many diverse areas, including defence, education, environmental protection, health care, unemployment benefits, motorway construction, monetary issues and taxes. For analytical purposes, however, it is useful to think of ways of assigning public policies into specific groups as this allows us to make more general statements. The objective of this chapter is to introduce and discuss criteria employed in the policy-analytical literature for categorizing public policies. The most widely applied instrument for achieving this refers to the construction of typologies, though the actual idea underlying these typologies is that specific groups of public policies entail equally specific patterns of policy-making. Thus, conceiving of these typologies as tools for descriptively categorizing public policies would not do them justice. We will suggest alternative approaches to categorizing public policies, which include considerations about how they bring about changes in the behaviour of those that the policy is aimed at and how they shed light on different policy dimensions. While typologies represent simple analytical frameworks, the term ‘dimensions’ concerns the different aspects of a public policy which can refer to the stage of its development or its contents. We will also introduce the concept of policy styles, which is about ways in which governments make and implement public policies: a perspective which further underscores the fact that the nature of public policies cannot be fully understood without paying attention to politics. More generally, the topics addressed in this chapter represent the key issues of ‘classical’ public policy analysis and serve as the basis for the subsequent explanations as providing a better understanding of what public policies are and how their particular characteristics might influence the process in which they are made.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 3. The Context for Policy-Making: Central Institutions and Actors

Abstract
Policy choices are affected by both the polity (i.e. the institutional arrangements characterizing a political system) and the politics (i.e. the policy-making process). This chapter provides an overview of the most central institutions and actors participating in the policy-making process and paves the way for the analytical approaches to be presented later. We conceive of institutions as established sets of formal rules that determine the extent to which actors’ preferences may be transposed into public policies. We define ‘actors’ as (groups of) individuals who participate in policy processes and whose preferences will ultimately determine the policy choice. The most central institution of any political system is represented by the constitution and — where this exists — the constitutional court protecting the fundamental principles of government it defines. This is followed by the horizontal division of power between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary as well as the vertical division of power determining whether a state is unitary or federal. This group of fundamental institutions is complemented by the electoral and party system. In addition to national institutions, supranational and intergovernmental institutions are increasingly influential on domestic policy-making. Taking this into account, we outline the main characteristics of two such international organizations: the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). We then shift the focus from the institutions to the key policy-making actors, including the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, bureaucracies, political parties, interest groups and experts.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 4. Theoretical Approaches to Policy-Making

Abstract
The objective of this chapter is to provide a basic idea of the processes underlying policy-making. We will present different theoretical perspectives to explain why governments institute, modify and, indeed, terminate public policy. In this regard, structure-based models, institution-based models and interest-based models have received considerable scholarly attention. Structure-based models emphasize the possible policy consequences of enduring macrostructures in societies. In this context, socioeconomic development and divisions between different social groups (cleavages) are important. Institution-based models primarily outline how formal and informal institutional arrangements may influence public policy. Thus, the theoretical perspectives to be presented complement the description of formal institutions that we gave in Chapter 3. Interest-based models, by contrast, emphasize the role of actors and their respective policy preferences. The three theoretical perspectives are complementary as they address various levels of analysis. Structure-based models offer an explanation at the macrolevel, whereas interest-based models are at the microlevel. Institution-based models can relate to both levels, although in most cases they produce mesolevel explanations, i.e. they illuminate how macrolevel pressures shape microlevel activity. While this complementarity of analytical perspectives is desirable for developing a full understanding of policy-making, it also implies that looking at one and the same subject of interest might lead to different conclusions, depending on which theoretical underpinning is chosen — and the appropriateness of this choice depends on the researcher’s particular interests.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 5. Problem Definition and Agenda-Setting

Abstract
This chapter addresses the initial moments of the policy-making process, namely problem definition and agenda-setting. Most citizens and organizations possess some concerns — real or perceived — that they believe merit government attention. There are many different ways in which one and the same issue can be defined. Our first goal in this chapter is to show that problem definition is subject to different interpretations and ‘social construction’. Although there are many public problems, in the end only a small number of them will be given official attention by legislators and executives. Public problems — which may be real or mere social constructions — that are chosen by decision-makers for further consideration constitute the policy agenda. Our second goal is to outline the dynamics by which ideas, policy proposals and new understandings of problems are formulated. We will learn that the possibility of influencing the agenda is an important source of power since legislative institutions grant an advantage to the ‘first movers’, i.e. those who address a problem and propose a solution to it first. Several groups of actors compete with one another in order to set the agenda in accordance with their preferences: politicians, the mass media, interest groups and epistemic communities.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 6. Decision-Making

Abstract
When a specific policy problem has become a part of the institutional agenda, the relevant actors will address it in the course of the decision-making process. This stage consists of two theoretically separable — albeit empirically closely related — actions. The first action concerns the drafting of a legislative proposal, which often involves a debate about the more specific nature of the social problem to be resolved by it. Based on this definition, official and unofficial policy-makers discuss the policy design, which also includes decisions about the instruments to be employed and their specific settings. Central to policy formulation are the executive and the ministerial bureaucracy; the latter in particular often has a dominant position. The way in which the ministerial bureaucracy develops a policy proposal might be affected by external expertise, policy recommendations of international organizations, interest group preferences, partisan ideology and bureaucratic self-interests. The second action related to decision-making refers to the actual adoption of the policy proposal in order to turn it into binding law. At this stage, the number of actors involved diminishes and executive-legislative relations are brought to the fore. Depending on the institutional and procedural characteristics of the country concerned, in the formal adoption process the executive and the legislature can either be on an equal footing or have a relationship in which one dominates the other, bringing us back to the characteristics of polities discussed in Chapter 3. We illustrate how institutional arrangements may affect decision-making processes by referring to Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 7. Implementation

Abstract
In Chapter 2 we argued that a public policy is intended to solve a certain social problem that has reached the institutional agenda. As a rule, the problem that initiated the policy-making process can only be solved effectively if the adopted policy is properly put into practice. If a given policy is introduced but insufficiently implemented, it is possible that the ultimate result will be less desirable than the previous state. Despite the importance of this aspect, for a long time there has been the (implicit) assumption that once a policy is adopted, it will be implemented and then produce the desired results. This expectation rests upon a number of conditions, which may not be found in all political systems. Rather, implementation research has demonstrated that it is anything but a straightforward task to put public policies into practice. Most importantly, the specific interests of actors are likely to affect the outcomes. In this chapter, the central focus is on what has been called ‘post-decisional’ politics. We will approach the implementation of public policy from different analytical angles, including a clarification as to which actors implement public policy and a presentation of the major theoretical perspectives on implementation activities (which can combine ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ approaches). We then propose categories for assessing the degree to which a policy can be implemented effectively and identify factors that might hamper such implementation. The latter also include considerations about the design of public policies, thus underscoring the interlinkage between decision-making and implementation.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 8. Evaluation

Abstract
Policy-making does not end with the passage and implementation of legislation. Several questions emerge afterwards. Has the policy attained its objectives? What are its unintended effects? Is the failure to meet the policy goals related to the design of the public policy or its implementation? Policy evaluation tackles these and related questions about expected and unexpected policy outcomes and impacts. By definition, evaluation studies make judgements about the quality of public policies, which implies that negative findings can, in principle, reinitiate the policy-making process with the objective of improving existing policy arrangements. While this definition might give the impression that evaluation studies are only carried out by experts who possess the required knowledge and techniques for making such judgements, many actors are in fact involved in the process. The large number of potential stakeholders at this policy stage results from the fact that there is a ‘political’ component to policy evaluation, meaning that statements about the success and failure of a given public policy are likely to be used for generating positive or negative images of those in power. Therefore, to understand fully policy-making the evaluation stage cannot be left out. To illustrate the central topics, we will first give an overview of the different types and methods of policy evaluation, before moving on to the role that theories play in this process. This is followed by a discussion of the political characteristics of policy evaluation and the role of ‘evidence’ in policy-making.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 9. Governance: A Synoptic Perspective on Policy-Making

Abstract
The governance concept focuses on patterns of political steering, that is, the institutionalized relationship between public and private actors, in order to resolve social problems. It concerns both hierarchical and nonhierarchical modes of political steering, and it is particularly the recognition of the non-hierarchical forms that distinguishes governance from government, i.e. the traditional mode of hierarchical intervention, which we have implicitly employed as the point of reference in previous chapters. The second innovative feature of the governance concept relates to the fact that it allows for a more holistic view of policy-making that cuts across policy stages. This is attained by placing the forms of cooperation between public and private actors centre stage. In this way, the governance perspective can be employed to scrutinize processes of problem definition and agenda-setting as well as decision-making, implementation and, to a certain extent, even evaluation. The chapter begins with an introduction of the central concepts and modes of governance. We also address the question of whether there has been a shift from hierarchical to non-hierarchical forms of political steering over time. We then present a typology of governance types, to provide a better understanding of how public and private actors might cooperate in the policy-making process and to what extent their relationship is characterized by a dominant position of the state. Finally, we discuss and apply the different criteria for evaluating the extent to which governance might be characterized as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 10. Public Policies beyond the Nation State

Abstract
The development of public policies is not restricted to the nation state. Rather governments have always cooperated at the international level in order to address common problems that cannot be effectively addressed by individual countries. In fact, it was the existence of transboundary effects and externalities that stimulated the creation of international regimes such as the Basel Convention governing the international movement of hazardous waste or the United States-Canada Great Lakes water quality regime. As a result, there is an increasing number of public policies that reach beyond the nation state. While interdependencies are certainly one of the most important drivers of this process, social, political, economic and technological changes equally contribute to it. In light of these developments, it is our central objective in this chapter to identify analytical factors that influence the formulation and implementation of public policies beyond the nation state, that is, international public policies. We will first offer a general assessment of the rationales for international cooperation and provide an overview of the actors and institutions involved in policy-making beyond the nation state. This step involves combining public policy analysis with the disciplines of international relations and comparative political economy. We will then address interest constellations and mechanisms affecting the dynamics of policy formulation at the international level. Finally, we turn to the peculiarities and challenges that characterize the implementation of these policies. In this way, we take up once again two important stages of the policy-making process, namely decision-making and implementation.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 11. Policy Change and Policy Convergence

Abstract
We now turn to one of the most central topics in the study of public policy, namely the occurrence and determinants of policy change. The analysis of policy change is again an issue that cuts across the different stages of the policy cycle and therefore allows us to combine different theoretical perspectives and analytical concepts. Changes in public policies can be studied by relying on the agenda-setting process and by referring to implementation problems and the (negative) findings of evaluation studies. In addition, the theories discussed in the context of decision-making may be equally helpful in scrutinizing events of policy change. The institutional characteristics of polities again prove to be important for facilitating or impeding policy change. Yet it is, in particular, the broad nature of the topic that renders the systematic analysis of policy change a challenging task in terms of assessment and explanation of change — an issue we will address in the first part of this chapter. In a second step we will turn to cross-national policy convergence and the analysis of the aggregate consequences of policy adjustments in individual countries. The central question addressed by research on policy convergence concerns the extent to which national policies become more similar over time. We discuss basic types and dimensions of the convergence concept and differentiate it from related concepts, including policy transfer, policy diffusion and isomorphism. Based on this discussion, a third step focuses on the causes and conditions that trigger cross-national policy convergence.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

Chapter 12. Conclusions: Future Challenges for Public Policy Analysis

Abstract
In this chapter we will briefly summarize the main characteristics of policy-making on the basis of the explanations given in the course of this book. Then we will point to open questions that aptly characterize the state of the art in public policy analysis. As we will show, there are still various avenues along which the state of research can be improved. We summarize these points and put forward a research agenda to stimulate future inquiry.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun
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