Health inequalities researchers have long advocated for governments to adopt policy instruments that address structural determinants of health rather than targeting individual behaviours. The assumption behind this position is that such instruments might challenge a core neoliberal principle of individualism embedded in the prevailing health policy paradigm. We critique this assumption by highlighting the discursive construction of policy instruments, and their discursive effects. Using the UK’s Tackling Obesity policy as a case study, we demonstrate how instruments designed to target structural determinants of health (such as food advertisement regulation) can actively sustain – rather than challenge, the dominant policy paradigm. We call this phenomenon ‘upstream individualism’, exploring how it relates to tensions in the research-policy relationship, and its relevance beyond health policy. We argue that instruments can shape policy change and continuity, including at a paradigm level, and that ‘upstream individualism’ provides a useful basis for theorising these power dynamics. This article contributes to the constructivist public policy literature by noting how policy instruments meant to challenge the discursive construction of individualism within public health can ultimately reinforce it.
Why and how do policymakers initially sceptical of policy innovations from abroad eventually transfer them to their own countries? Focusing on Chile’s reforms to combat business cartels in 2009 and 2016, this article answers that question. Policy diffusion and transfer literatures maintain that coercion, competition, learning or emulation could account for foreign inspirations in policymaking. However, these literatures overplay the role of coercion and emulation in policy transfer to countries in the global south, and have difficulty distinguishing between different mechanisms in empirical studies. To address these limitations, I suggest analysing three intermediate causal steps in policy transfer: first, policymakers’ motivations in initiating policy reforms, second, their reflections on how the foreign-inspired model responds to the policy problem at hand, and third, their reflections on the fit between the foreign model and domestic conditions. Through process-tracing of two anti-cartel reforms in Chile, I find that policymakers introduced foreign-inspired policy measures to combat business cartels through a process of learning from other countries and international organisations, rather than coercion or emulation. Learning was evident in three ways. First, in the initiation of the reform, as policymakers responded to a clearly identified policy problem; second, in policymakers’ careful reflection on how the foreign-inspired model responded to these problems; and third, in the adjustments made to fit the foreign model to domestic conditions. The analysis demonstrates the utility of analysing intermediate causal steps in policy transfer, and of paying more attention to local actors and political processes.
The role of charity in the provision of public services is of substantial academic and practitioner interest, and charitable initiative within the English and Welsh National Health Service (NHS) has recently received considerable attention. This study provides rich insights into the role that NHS-linked charities present themselves as playing within the NHS. The dataset analysed is a novel construction of 3,250 detailed expenditure lines from 676 sets of charity accounts. Qualitative content analysis of itemised descriptions of expenditure allows us to explore how these charities portray their activities. We distinguish between expenditures that can be framed as supplementary to government funding (such as amenities and comforts) and items that suggest charitable effort is substituting for government support (such as funding for clinical equipment). We also consider the claims being made through these representations, and suggest that the distinctiveness of the charity and NHS spheres are currently under question. We argue that, through their representational practices, charities are both shaping and blurring the expected roles of government and charity. Acceptance of the benefits that charitable initiative does provide, in terms of innovation, pluralism and participation, must be tempered with the realisation that charitable funds are playing a role in service provision that is not guided by clear policy, and that this has the potential to widen existing inequalities within a key public service.
It is often asserted that the representation of women in leadership positions within public service organisations is likely to result in improved outcomes for other women within those organisations. However, there has been little systematic research devoted to understanding whether this argument holds for the nonprofit organisations that now provide many public services. To cast light on this important issue, this article presents an analysis of the representation of women in leadership roles and the gender pay gap in Welsh housing associations – registered societies responsible for providing more than half of the social housing within Wales. The findings show that nonprofit service providers led by women in the most senior organisational positions may be more likely to have a lower gender pay gap, confirming arguments about the importance of actively representing female interests. At the same time, it seems that representation in the upper echelons in general is not likely to influence gender pay equality, which raises questions about whether a glass ceiling may be present, as has been observed in state-led public service provision. These findings suggest a need for more in-depth, multi-method research which systematically evaluates the way in which female leaders actively represent women’s interests in the myriad organisations that provide public services. This article has important implications given a renewed period of austerity in the public sector, which, as in the past, may threaten further progress on equality for those women who provide and receive public services.
Although studies have found a lasting negative impact of the communist legacy on political attitudes in the post-communist region, the effect of this legacy on gender attitudes is less well researched. While post-communist countries share a history of women-friendly policies under communism, their socio-political paths diverged after the transition. We ask: do communist gender regimes have a lasting effect on gender role attitudes? We answer this question by comparing the attitudes of cohorts socialised under communism with the attitudes of the post-transition generation using Life in Transition III survey data. We find a distinct legacy effect on attitudes. Non-European Union communist cohorts have more progressive attitudes than the post-transition cohort. In the European Union, the attitudinal gender egalitarianism of the post-transition cohort is indistinguishable from the attitudes of communist cohorts, likely due to this cohort also experiencing gender equality promotion during socialisation. The findings support the need to continue gender equality promotion.
Using a data set of 1.1 million speeches drawn from UK House of Commons debates during 1997–2017 and a combination of automated and manual content analysis, this study addresses three interrelated questions. First, to what extent are minoritised women constitutively represented in parliamentary debates? Second, which MPs do so? Third, how do MPs’ race and gender affect how they represent minoritised women? I find that minoritised women are mentioned exceptionally rarely in parliamentary debates. Furthermore, descriptive representatives are not only substantially more likely to mention minoritised women than other MPs, but they also improve the quality of representation by doing so in relation to a wider range of issues. Yet, paradoxically, white men’s descriptive over-representation means that they account for the vast majority of mentions of minoritised women. More broadly, I foreground the distinction between constitutive and substantive representation, highlighting the importance of distinguishing between speaking about and on behalf of.
The concept of ‘women’s interests’ has received a large amount of scholarly attention. In particular, the problematic assumption underpinning this concept – that women share interests – has been an object of much consideration. Yet, while scholarship on the substantive representation of women has today moved free of this assumption, three other assumptions have not been scrutinised to the same degree. These are: (1) that political interests are attached to social groups; (2) that women and men have different interests; and (3) that there are only two genders. This article argues that these three assumptions are problematic for feminist scholarship on substantive representation, which warrants replacing the attached ‘women’s interests’ with an alternative interest: the unattached ‘gender equality interests’. In addition, the article sets forth three distinct ways for future studies to operationalise the substantive representation of gender equality.
This article provides an important international empirical application of the multiple-streams framework with some theoretical additions that make a novel contribution to the existing scholarship in this field. Using a modified multiple-streams approach (MSA) that extends Kingdon’s original agenda setting model to the decision-making stage, we analyse and explain an empirical puzzle in the context of the environmental regulation of coal-fired power plants, considered central to India’s economic development. The puzzle involves both the content – a stringency comparable to those in more developed economies – and the timing – within a year of a new national government coming to power with the promise of reviving economic growth. Our findings show how a top bureaucrat exploited the agenda window opening in the problem stream to couple the three streams, resulting in the notification of draft environmental standards. The political entrepreneurship of the same bureaucrat led to the adoption of final standards in the same form as the draft in the decision window created by developments during the period leading to the Paris climate summit. The operationalisation of the modified MSA to our empirical case generated new theoretical insights. First, we expand on the original formulation of decision stage dynamics and argue that the decision window could also open due to independent activity in any of the three streams. Second, we argue that transnational politics could act as an additional factor in the ripening of the political stream at the decision stage.
Fear and agency are complex, interrelated and gendered phenomena for the madres buscadoras, the women searching for the disappeared in Mexico. These women operate in a context of unrelenting, multisided violence. At the same time, they choose to engage in activism that puts them at heightened risk of violence at the nexus of criminal organisations, state corruption and insecurity. This article investigates how the madres navigate contexts of gendered violence in Veracruz, Mexico, to engage in expressions of complex gendered agency. It makes the argument that we can understand why the fear of violence does not necessarily lead to demobilisation or inaction when we locate their activism within a hierarchy of fears. By recognising that the fear of never knowing about their missing loved ones outweighs the fears of violence that they are exposed to on a day-to-day basis, we gain insight into why they choose ‘fight’, rather than ‘flight’.
This article presents an investigation into the lives and lived experiences of women who joined politics through quotas. In particular, it explores the transformative potential of a quota policy through the ‘subject position’ of women politicians in Nepal, especially those who had no prior background in politics before being elected to their first political positions. Using Bourdieu’s theory of capital, I reveal how political quotas have strengthened women’s overall capital, allowing them to improve their position in both their families and society. Quotas have created new roles for women. The power and prestige attached to these new roles have not only offered some immediate changes to these women’s lives, but also led to changing perceptions of women in politics, shifting the discourse from a view of women’s participation in politics as an exception to one of it as an entitlement. This article is based on a qualitative study carried out with women politicians in Nepal.