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Better theories


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The Need for Better theories by Paul Sabatier

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Better theories

  2. 2. Objectives• To show the details of the processes involved in public policymaking;• To present the various influential theories that have contributed in shaping the process of public policymaking
  3. 3. Simplifying a Complex World with Theories and Frameworks • The policy process is enormously complex: 1) It involves many varied actors; 2) It takes a long time, sometimes spanning decades; 3) It involves dozens of different programs in any specific policy domain (i.e., pollution) over multiple levels of government (local, state, federal); 4) It involves policy debates that are often quite technical 5) It involves and, sometimes colored by deeply held values and interests
  4. 4. SIMPLIFYING THE POLICY PROCESS• To understand the policy process, analyst must find a way to simplify it through a set of presuppositions• These set of presuppositions help in: – 1) figuring out what to look for and – 2) how to classify or categorize the information
  5. 5. SIMPLIFYING THE POLICY PROCESS• Example: – Institutional Rational Choice tells us to look at institutions, individual actors and how they strategically maneuver institutional rules to pursue self-interested goals.• How do we develop these presuppositions? 1) common sense: via experience we can set up assumptions and expectations 2) science: developing a set of propositions and relationships via a public method of deata collection and analysis and clearly defining the concepts and logically connecting them.
  6. 6. SIMPLIFYING THE POLICY PROCESS• The scientific method is considered superior because it is more open and provides a method that produces propositions that are “clear enough to be proven wrong” (note key term: empirically falsifiable) and is designed to be self-consciously, error seeking, and thus self-correcting.
  7. 7. Terminology• Conceptual Framework: a set of variables and description of how they are related used to account for a phenomena.• Theory: A theory provides a “denser” and more logically coherent set of relationships.• Model: A representation of a specific situation. It is usually much more narrower in scope than a theory but more precise in its assuptions.
  8. 8. What is a good theory?1) scientific (open, clear, well-defined, give rise to falsifiable hypotheses);2) should be subject to recent use and empirical testing;3) Be a positive theory (explain something), not just normative (judging something);4) should address a broad range of factors considered important to political scientists.
  9. 9. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS OF THE POLICY PROCESS• Punctuated-Equilibrium Framework – developed by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones – policy process tends to feature long periods of incremental change punctuated by brief periods of major policy change. – The latter come about when opponents manage to fashion a new “policy image or images” and exploit the multiple policy venues of the U.S. – Originally, developed to explain changes in legislation
  10. 10. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS OF THE POLICY PROCESS (cont’d)• The Advocacy Coalition Framework – developed by Paul Sabatier and Hank C. Jenkins- Smith – focuses on the interaction of advocacy coalitions - each consisting of actors from a variety of institutions who share a set of policy beliefs- within a policy subsystem – Policy change is a product of the competition and interaction between these coalitions.
  11. 11. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS OF THE POLICY PROCESS (cont’d)• Policy Diffusion Framework – developed by Frances Stokes Berry and William D. Berry – developed to explain variation in the adoption of specific policy innovations, such as the lottery, across political jurisdictions – it argues that adoption is a function of both the characteristics of the specific political systems and a variety of diffusion processes.
  12. 12. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS OF THE POLICY PROCESS (cont’d)• The Funnel of Causality and Other Frameworks in Large-N Comparative Studies – explain variation in policy outcomes (e.g. budgetary expenditures) across large number of localities – These began as very simple frameworks dividing up the variance among background socioeconomic conditions, public opinion, and political institutions
  13. 13. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS OF THE POLICY PROCESS (cont’d)• Omitted Frameworks – Arenas of Power – Cultural Theory – Constructivist Framework – Policy Domain Framework
  14. 14. -END-