POLS 3670 Lecture Notes - Barter, Participatory Democracy, Crystallization

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23 Feb 2014
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
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- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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/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
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