Policy dynamics and change

The never-ending puzzle

Authored by: Giliberto Capano

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259


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Public policy is a dynamic phenomenon. This means not only that policies are intrinsically processual, but also that as a whole they are not the simple sum of their individual parts (stages, actors, institutions, time, instruments, etc); at the same time their parts are variously interlinked via a dense web of interconnections, the nature, dynamics and effects of which should not be taken for granted. The world of policy dynamics is an incredibly fascinating puzzle of which scholars are constantly striving to discover the basic elements and reliable, regular patterns. It is precisely because of their dynamic nature that policies may appear at one and the same time both stable and changing. However, stability and change are a product of observers’ viewpoints. They depend on which analytical categories are used, and on what observers are actually looking for. The same element of dynamics, or the same time span, in the historical development of a policy may appear either stable or characterized by significant changes. The different theoretical perspectives cannot, however, hide the dynamic nature of public policy, and the difficulties encountered in trying to explain its underlying features. Moreover, those scholars who assume that policies are characterized by long periods of stability have to admit that in the end these same policies change, possibly in a dramatic, radical manner, and they often struggle to explain such structural movements. On the other hand, those who assume that the dynamic character of policy means that it continuously changes, albeit from another point of view, have to deal with a complex, multifaceted, evasive set of questions.

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