Theories of policy change and variation reconsidered: a prospectus for the political economy of public policy

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Abstract

Studies of decision-making in public policy may be conceived as three distinct ages of theory building and testing. The first was the classic period of studies of decision-making and rationality; the second was the age of synthesis when theories of decision-making were blended into accounts of agenda setting. The third—which is starting to take shape—is the age of the political economy of public policy, drawing on models and methods that have been applied to the study of international relations and comparative politics, which are increasingly addressing issues in public policy. The paper’s argument offers a challenge to public policy scholars to use theory and approaches from political economy and to integrate them with classic and synthetic approaches. Insights from public policy approaches from the first two ages could also inform the political economy of public policy. The paper contains a review of the development of public policy theory in the 1990s; it provides an account of the recent period as one of relative stability; it then presents work in comparative political economy as examples of research on public policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPOLICY SCIENCES
Early online date27 Sept 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Sept 2017

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