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About this book

A comprehensive introduction to public policy and the policy cycle, the fully revised second edition of this popular textbook offers a practical guide to the topic while remaining underpinned by cutting-edge research. Bringing together analysis of classic works alongside the most recent developments in the field, this book is guided by the following three crucial questions: What is public policy? Who participates in making and putting public policy in practice as well as in assessing its success? And when and how does public policy change over time? In answering these questions, the book covers everything from the central institutions and actors of policy-making to implementation, evaluation and governance. Drawing on examples from across the world, the new edition expands on themes that were previously covered only marginally, including the underexplored connection between public policy and political economy, as well as placing more emphasis on climate change and practical advice on doing policy analysis.

For undergraduate or postgraduate students studying on courses focussed on public policy or the policy cycle or process, this textbook is the essential guide to the subject. The book is also suited for those studying public policy in the context of politics or public management and administration.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
Public policies are omnipresent in our daily lives. Newspapers, the television, the internet and social media provide a constant supply of information on 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. Many people may not be aware that a great deal of information on politics is actually about ‘who gets what, when, how’, as famously described by Harold D. Lasswell (1936), one of the founders of policy research. The opening sentence of the book by Lasswell that carries this title posits that politics is the study of ‘influence’ and ‘the influential’.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

2. The Nature of Public Policies

Abstract
The pervasive importance of public policies in ordinary life is manifest in such diverse areas as 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 categorizing 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 of how they bring about changes in the behaviour of those at whom the policy is aimed 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 refer to 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 subsequent explanations by providing a better understanding of what public policies are and how their particular characteristics might influence the process by which they are made.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

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 presented later. Our understanding of institutions corresponds to formal and information rules that shape the choices individuals make in different institutional settings. 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 (Shane 2008). 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 in domestic policy-making. Taking this into account, we outline the main characteristics of two such intergovernmental organizations: the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). We then shift the focus from 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

4. Theoretical Approaches to Policy-Making

Abstract
Policy-making is undoubtedly a complex process – often one factor that stimulates the promulgation of a public policy in one political system does not necessarily lead to the same outcome in another. For example, many countries are confronted with demographic changes. In particular, the proportion of senior citizens is growing, creating increased demands for certain public services, such as social care. Despite having common demographic changes, countries have adopted different policies for addressing this problem. Germany and Korea, for instance, have established long-term care insurance to cover the costs resulting from elderly persons’ losing their ability to look after themselves (see, e.g., Kim et al. 2013).
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

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. Our first goal in this chapter is to show that problem definition is subject to different interpretations and ‘social construction’, which also entails that there is competition over how a problem is defined. Although there are many problems, in the end only a small number of them will be given attention by legislators and executives. Problems 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 policy agenda is an important source of power, since decision-making grants an advantage to 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 respective policy preferences.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

6. Decision-Making

Abstract
Who decides on the design and adoption of public policy? How is the decision-making process structured? When speaking about decision-making, most of us would think of members of parliament debating draft legislation introduced by the government. These parliamentary debates that criticize or support the policy proposal and the discussion of alternative suggestions are often instigated by the opposition, i.e. parliamentary groups of parties holding a minority of seats. Though debates are often long and controversial, alternative proposals are rarely picked up by the majority parties and the government. Rather, these debates serve the objective of sending signals to the electorate that the current minority parties also have policy solutions to offer.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

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 even less desirable than the previous state. Implementation research has demonstrated that it is anything but a straightforward task to put public policies into practice. In this chapter, the central focus is on what has been called ‘post-decisional’ politics (Jordan 1997). We will approach the implementation of public policy from different analytical angles, including a clarification of which actors implement public policy and a presentation of the major theoretical perspectives on implementation activities. We then propose categories for assessing the degree to which a policy can be implemented effectively and identify factors that might hamper or facilitate implementation.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

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 a 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, re-initiate the policy-making process with the objective of improving existing policy arrangements, as argued by Lasswell (1956). 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 policy-making fully, 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 providing ideas about research design for evaluating policies. 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

9. Governance: A Synoptic Perspective on Policy-Making

Abstract
The term ‘governance’ has had an impressive career from the early 1990s onwards. It has developed into the catchword for an ever-growing number of studies in the social sciences. At the same time, it is used as a ‘magic formula’ – often in terms of ‘good governance’ – in political speeches and documents, at both the domestic and international levels. However, as is often the case with new concepts, there is no consensus regarding its meaning and specific applicability (Kooiman et al. 2008: 2). The definition of the term varies considerably across different subfields and research strands of the social sciences (see Pierre and Peters 2000: 7; Kohler-Koch and Rittberger 2006; Levi-Faur 2012). This lack of a common meaning can be traced to the fact that the concept is used not only in an analytical way, but also in a normative sense (Doornbos 2001).
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

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; i.e. 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 international 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

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 patterns and sources of policy change. Policy change is again an issue that cuts across the different stages of the policy cycle and therefore allows us to combine different analytical concepts and theoretical perspectives. The causes of policy change can be found in the outcomes of the processes taking place at individual stages such as agenda-setting, implementation problems or (negative) evaluation outcomes. In addition, the theories discussed in the context of decision-making may be equally helpful in scrutinizing the events of policy change. The institutional characteristics of polities again prove to be important for facilitating or impeding policy change. However, there also exists a specific set of policy process theories that specifically aim at explaining the occurrence of policy change. In the second step, we will turn to cross-national policy convergence, where we address the question of 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, the third step focuses on the causes and conditions that trigger cross-national policy convergence.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun

12. Conclusions: Theoretical Insights and Practical Advice

Abstract
In this chapter we pursue four goals. The first is to summarize the main insights gained from the analysis of the various themes in policy analysis and to bring together the individual threads covered by this book. The second goal is to highlight the merit of comparative research on public policy. The next two sections adopt a different perspective and seek to offer practical advice. In this context, the third goal we strive to attain in this chapter is to offer you guidance on how you can find research questions for your own analyses. The fourth goal is to make a bridge into the practical application of the analytical skills conveyed in this book and to offer some guidance on doing policy analysis.
Christoph Knill, Jale Tosun
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