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- Author or Editor: Adrian Kay x
This article presents an institutionalist perspective on the relationship between policy failure and policy learning. It contributes both to our understanding of different patterns institutional change as well as the conditions for policy learning at the system-wide level. The first section elaborates the concept of policy failure in terms of type, value and timing. Next, how policy failure may trigger a process of deinstitutionalisation and in turn create conditions for subsequent policy learning is described. These contributions to theory are explored through selected evidence from the reform trajectory of Australian health insurance policy from the mid-1970s to late-1990s.
The regulation of drug prices is an excellent example of the type of tensions that are emerging in the UK’s new system of multi-level governance. Both the benefits and regulatory burden of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) are regionally concentrated. However, those regional concentrations are not coterminous. The PPRS as an industrial policy supports jobs primarily in the south east and east of England. However, Wales (along with Scotland and Northern Ireland) bears a relatively greater share of the regulatory burden of the PPRS by virtue of prescribing more medicines. The potential for Welsh autonomy in this area is considered in terms of economic, administrative and political constraints.
This chapter studies the connections between repeated assessments of policy failure, the catalysts of deinstitutionalisation, and subsequent opportunities for system-wide policy learning and reform. Selected evidence from the reform trajectory of Australian health insurance policy from the mid-1970s to late-1990s is used to explore these possible relationships. Here, failure delegitimised health policy institutions, making them increasingly vulnerable and giving them weak learning capacity to reform in anything but a suboptimal way. The result is a cycle of failure and dysfunctional learning. The Australian health insurance case allows one to catalogue at least one pattern of the relationships between policy failure, deinstitutionalisation, and learning. Three core analytical arguments underpin this pattern. First, policy failures create opportunities for learning at a system-wide level, only after institutions have been eroded and exhausted by repeated failure. Second, this first claim holds in both the expert and political inquiry dimensions of policy failure. Third, learning processes are related to the particular sequence of deinstitutionalisation processes; in particular, initial deinstitutionalisation in the expert domain creates the conditions for political learning processes.
For nation-states, the contexts for developing and implementing policy have become more complex and demanding. Yet policy studies have not fully responded to the challenges and opportunities represented by these developments. Governance literature has drawn attention to a globalising and network-based policy world, but politics and the role of the state have been de-emphasised.
This book addresses this imbalance by reconsidering traditional policy-analytic concepts, and re-developing and extending new ones, in a melded approach defined as systemic institutionalism. This links policy with governance and the state and suggests how real-world issues might be substantively addressed.
Policy studies are in a rut. Just as politics in both the global and domestic spheres have been taking more partisan forms, policy studies itself has become more inward looking, and less interested in politics and practice than in the past. The authors suggest that making public policy relevant again, requires an understanding, not just of policy development and selected policy-related themes, but a broader engagement with structure, process and system: as a way of depicting not just the formation of policy, but also its modes of action in the world. Doing this involves building on earlier iterations of policy thought and relating them, not only to the complexity of current policy problems, but also to the immense technological and political changes that have occurred in the twenty-first century.
Systems thinking has been neglected in the policy sciences, to the detriment of both broad understandings of the role of policy, and of policy-making capacity. This chapter remedies this deficiency by tracing the trajectory of systems thinking in the policy sciences, introducing and explaining themes from complexity science in policy-relevant terms, and concluding with practical examples of applications of systems thinking to real-world policy problems. To illustrate: complex adaptive systems are discussed in the context of regulation and control. Two general claims are made for this approach: firstly, systems thinking is likely to be particularly productive where policy problems defy conventional solutions and unintended consequences are rife. In these situations, systems thinking has the ability to move beyond the specifics of each problem to identify and depict underlying complexity; secondly, in the governance era, sites of policy-relevant action are more likely than in the past to lie outside the formal boundaries of government, and to require complex interactions among stakeholders.
Although institutions are central to the study of public policy, the focus upon them has shifted over time. This chapter is concerned with the role of institutions in problem solving and the utility of an evolving institutional theory that has significantly fragmented. It argues that the rise of new institutionalism in particular is symptomatic of the growing complexity in problems and policy making. We review the complex landscape of institutional theory, we reconsider institutions in the context of emergent networks and systems in the governance era, and we reflect upon institutions and the notion of policy shaping in contemporary times. We find that network institutionalism, which draws upon policy network and community approaches, has a particular utility for depicting and explaining complex policy.
State-centred and society-centred explanations in comparative public policy analysis disagree markedly on the extent to which the state has autonomy or is essentially a clearing-house for outside forces. In this chapter, we reconsider the position of the state in policy studies by investigating the interactions and inter-dependency between the state and society rather than making a binary choice between state-centred and society-centred perspectives on governance. The core argument is that policy studies can improve its ability to apprehend the position of the state in dilemmas of contemporary policy-making by acknowledging that the state is, at once, both critical to collective action and reliant on crucial elements of societal support for its policy effectiveness. In such terms, governance is a useful label for the variety of ways in which society is not simply acted upon by the state, but actively shapes the actions of and outcomes of state activity.
This chapter considers policy-making beyond the ‘shadow’ of a powerful state. Cross-border policy-making presents a unique dilemma. From the practice perspective, borders open or close to encourage or prevent transnational flows. They can be reshaped to enhance economic growth, social development outcomes, and/or security. From the analytic perspective, the challenge of framing transnational policy-making in open economy sectors, where actors and ideas operate across and beyond borders to shape agendas, policy content, and modes of governing, is a work in progress. Some see policy studies as a ‘methodological prisoner of the state,’ unable to adapt analysis of state capacity to a globalising world. This chapter separates national policy processes from those at the international and global levels. In the context of multiple and diffuse sources of sovereignty at the global level, where porous boundaries between public and private spheres of governance, the conventional dilemmas of policy studies remain but often look importantly different.