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Political Science
POLS 3670
Jordi Diez

Public Policy & Admin Lecture What is Policy - Public policy refers to what governments do or do not do - Policy is essentially the decisions that governments make - The action or inaction of a government to solve a problem or an interrelated set of problems Approaches to the Study of Policy - The study of PP is generally divided into two main approaches: - Policy Analysis - Positivist in orientation - Formal evaluation of policy impacts - Policy Studies - Influenced by post-positivism - Examines presuppositions and the broader process The Policy Cycle - Agenda setting - Policy formulation - Decision making - Policy implementation - Policy evaluation Advantages & Disadvantages of the Policy Cycle - Advantages - Facilitates the study of policy - Contributes to theory building - It can be at various levels of government - Allows for the identification of actors - Disadvantages - Suggests that politicians approach policy in a systematic way - too neat & easy - Assumes linear progression - Not applicable to all government institutions - SCC: only deals with whatever makes it to the docket - No causation - Aren’t always explanations for why certain things happen, ex. why some policies don’t pass - No differentiation of policy areas Approaches to the Study of Public Policy - Public choice - Structural approaches - Pluralism - Corporatism - (Neo)Institutionalism Public Choice - General Aspects - Influenced by behaviouralism: 1950s-60s the idea that you can actually predict behaviour, politics could be scientific. 40 years later we know this is not true - Identified with the right-end of the political spectrum - We’re all rational agents – more for less - Look at agency (individuals), not structure - Propositions - All actors are self-maximizers - being human means wanting more for less - influence policy through rational behaviour - non-state actors vote for parties that will give more for less - state actors respond by giving people what they want in order to stay in power - Rent-seeking behaviour - To extract a resource from the state without contributing, to get a break from the state - Inexorable expansion of the state - Institutions needed to control this dynamic - Has contributed to explaining certain phenomena, such as the business-economic cycle - Shortcomings - Failed election promises - Not everyone votes for what is best for them - Uneducated voting Structuralism - An approach that belongs to a main view in the social sciences: debate of agency vs. structure - Some variants, especially when political sociology is included - Structuralism is usually identified with people on the left of political spectrum - Looks beyond politics and looks at how power is distributed in society - Neo-Marxism - Grounded in political economy - Have to look at economics to understand policy - Capitalism at the core of its explanations - Distributes wealth unequally which favours certain groups and results in the development of very powerful groups in society - These groups change over time, years ago it was land owners today it would be bankers or corporations - Policy is the result of the influence of powerful social groups - The state is the most important actor in the policy process - The state acts only to appease those powerful groups - A main contribution to the study of PP is the inclusion of the international dimension of the policy process - Shortcomings - Sometimes the underdog is able to influence policy Pluralism - Main approach in public policy in the US - Policy as the result of competition among groups in society - Society is divided into groups that compete to try and influence policy - Shares some characteristics with structuralism that looks at powerful groups, pluralism looks at all groups - The state reacts to the demands that society places on it, responds to the articulation of the interests by various groups - Resources important in explaining group formation - Not only material interests, could be identity issues etc - Ability of people to come together and pool resources will determine how likely they are to influence policy - In capitalist systems, some have argued that business groups have a larger influence on policy because of the resources they are able to pool - Has contributed significantly by incorporating a social dimension - Forced us to look outside the state and look at how power resources are distributed in society - Shortcomings - Individuals that make up the state have certain preferences and therefore will try to push for certain things - State actors have a lot of influence on policy and there is competition within bureaucracies - The separation between state & non-state actors that pluralism paints is way too stark - In countries of the global south, international pressures influence domestic policy - Neglects the international dimension - Ideas and values sometimes have an influence, it’s not only about resources - Not very well fitted to study systems that are very dissimilar from the US - Very well developed think tanks in the US, many other societies don’t operate that way Corporatism - Needed to study how policy is made in countries outside the US, mostly in Europe, Latin America & some Asian countries - Essentially how state interacts with society in the making of policy - European Tradition - Influenced by a view of society as a body (corpus) - Societies function better when we divide society into functioning parts of the body - Divide society into groups – corporate groups, business groups, unions etc. - Mediators to interact with society depending on the function they perform - State-centered vs. society-centered corporatism - Policy as a result of the interaction between the state and corporate groups - Significant contribution to the study of public policy in European and Latin American countries - Shortcomings - Not all countries operate under corporatist logic - Undermines the influence that non-corporate groups have on policy - Underestimates the various relationships established between corporate groups and parties in power based on their ideological makeup - Tendency to focus on economic and social policy and certain economic groups - Doesn’t really look at other dynamics Institutionalism - Institutionalism/Neo-institutionalism/Statism - Primary role of institutions in policymaking - Institutions shape human behaviour and condition policy - Choices that individuals and groups make acquire certain patterns of behaviour - Need to look at patterns of institutions to understand how policy is made - Patterns of behaviour also refer to informal ways in which people act – norms - There are at least six variants of institutionalism (historic, rational, social, etc.) - Some take very long periods of time to look at how groups in society influence policy - Historic looks at patterns of behaviour and norms of institutions that are formed over very long periods of time - Rational institutionalists believe that institutions could be considered rational agents - Institutions will try to pursue their own interests as if they were rational actors - Institutions more than formal institutions: they also refer to norms and rules of behaviour - Certain patterns that become institutionalized - Informal institutions tend to play a very important role in the formation of society - ex. patriarchy The State and Policymaking - States in countries of the global south are a lot weaker than those in the global north - Although this varies across them The Importance of the State - Looking at the State - The study of the state as an essential tool to policymaking in the Global South - Central not only to studying politics, but also to economic development - elimination of poverty etc. focused on what the state could do - Influenced by Keynsian economics: Governments spend money during recessions but save money during times of economic prosperity. States intervene in times of crisis to pump the economy to create activity and get out of the recession - Increased importance during the 1980s - The Debt Crisis and the Neoliberal response - Debate about what was the appropriate role of the state in economic activity and the state then became more important in the global south - Shift in economic thinking during the 1980s, started to advocate for a smaller state and a liberal way of running these economies - A variety of economists hired by the IMF and World Bank that poverty and underdevelopment in the global south was the direct result of a bloated, big state - A big state does not always equal a strong one - Mechanical application of Public Choice: Assumptions and Consequences - We’re rational and want more from governments, so those who want to stay in power will create inexorable expansion of the state - Peter Evans: The need to study the state within broader dynamics of state-society relations: Embedded States - States can’t be studied just as units because of the way they were formed in the south was very different than the north - Need to look at non-state actors and the structures from which they emerged Characteristic of the State - It’s components can be tangible, but the ideas of the state can’t be tangible - State has become to dominant idea overtime for how humans are to organize politics - Idea of the state is usually identified with Max Weber - Dominant way of how people should organize and govern themselves - Monopoly over the use of force - Legitimate use of force - According to Max Weber, a state has to be able to control all violence within a territory. Applies even to private spaces - Has been a struggle for a lot of emerging states, ex. Afghanistan - Institutions - Contemporary democratic states have to have institutions that divide power among them - Institutionalization - To how the state operates - Ex. elections in democratic states - Control over territory - Even very strong states have trouble controlling all of their territory (ex. Canada – Arctic) - Sovereignty - Should be able to govern itself without outside intervention - Autonomy - Ability of the state to operate without outsider interference - Autonomous from social forces, able to carry out its decisions - In global south the state is permeated by social forces that block decisions - Ex. Countries in the global south wanting to implement taxes, but the big players place pressure on them not to otherwise they will take business elsewhere Capabilities of the State (Joe Migdal) - Regulative capacity: the ability of a state to regulate social relationship with rules and orders - Creating and implementing laws effectively - Ex. Restraining order – making sure a relationship is regulated - Regulate how individuals behave among themselves outside the state - Extractive capacity: the ability to extract resources from society for its own functioning - Ex. Taxation - Penetrating capacity: the ability to have access to all social and physical spaces - States sometimes don’t have access to certain spaces because they’re controlled by organized crime - Appropriative capacity: The ability to appropriate or use resources in determined ways - Ex. access to national resources The Formation of the State in the Global South - Joe Migdal’s Assessment: Strong societies – Weak states - Much weaker capacities than the Global North - Migdal’s reading of the process of state formation: - Capitalist development was central to the formation of states in the Global South - Colonialism was pushed by the idea of extracting resources from the countries of the Global South - Three interrelated processes - Change in land tenure agreements - Decided to organize land and focus that land on that economic activities that would give you more extraction of resources - Change in taxation - From barter to taxation - Infrastructure and transportation - Mostly rail - These processes meant that there was a strong relationships between motherlands (colonial powers) and land elites which led to weak states and strong societies - States are formed in societies that are very strong, especially those that control economic activity - These weak states can then not function without outside pressures State Strength and Policymaking - The extent to which a state possesses the various characteristics and exercises its capabilities will determine a state strength - While state strength in the Global South varies, it is widely agreed that states in the south are generally weaker than in the North Informal Institutions - Institutions: Rules and procedures that structure social interaction by constraining and enabling actors’ behaviour - Informal institutions: Socially shared rules, usually unwritten, that are created, communicated and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels - There may be some type of sanction for not complying with an informal institution - Corruption is one of the most common informal institutions, especially in the global south Why study informal institutions? - Institutions shape actors’ incentives, expectations and behaviour - Much of the theory and research on public policy is produced by scholars in the US and Europe - A lot of research on formal institutions, but informal institutions may be more important in the policy process - By only studying Parliaments, constitutions, etc. we may miss much of what is really happening in the policy process - don’t take informal institutions into account to the extent that they should Informal institutions can be - Dysfunctional, they undermine formal rules and democratic institutions - Functional, they provid
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