Proposed script for video on Issue Lifecycles Literature

Comments please on this draft script for a video on Issue Lifecycles Literature (see here for the Issue Attention Cycles one)  You can also email me at


First, a public health warning.  I am not yet clear enough on the distinction(s) between issue attention cycles and issue lifecycles to make this video.  I’m doing it, therefore, to get Shot. Down. In. Flames.    Then, if I survive the crash, I will make a – better- sequel.  How’s that for dialectic and iterative?

Issue attention cycles follow attention – which fluctuates because critical events/focussing events/triggering events are usually infrequent and unpredictable, cannot be easily exploited and after a time lose their impact  (dog bites man is not a news story).  And journalists get tired of writing the same stories, readers of reading them.  So when a new shiny issue comes along…

But the issue is now on the agendas of three key groups

a) civil society – social movement organisations and scientists, and maybe some hacks

b) corporations, an industry and their allies, who keep a watching brief

c) the state – the bureaucracy and the politicians.  The latter need to be seen to be responsive, and the latter will want an ongoing policy process as a fig-leaf in case the issue blows up in their face again.  They can’t afford to have been seen to be doing nothing…

So the issue has its own, slower, dynamic. As Flanagan and Uyarra, (2016: 182) point out – “Policy dynamics will interact with other relevant dynamics – electoral, budget and planning cycles, economic cycles, organisational life cycles – each with their own logic and imperatives

It will bimble along, as advocacy coalitions slowly form, policy-subsystems get owned, problem, politics and policy streams trickle each on their merry way.

There will be flare-ups – issue entrepreneurs get lucky, smart or both.  New disasters happen, followed by marches or petitions.    Reports that were commissioned do indeed get written, and not ALL of them can be released at 5pm on a Friday afternoon just before Christmas….

Politicians are sometimes forced by coalition partners in knife-edge minority governments to NOT keep punting an issue into the long grass.

Meanwhile, corporations are thinking about which stakeholders to use as human shields, and perhaps even cleaning up their act, if that is the smarter and cheaper thing to do. And don’t be forgetting – corporations and industries always have a LOT on their plates – As Clark et al (2015: 5) put it. “Issue life cycle literature addresses two important aspects of how issues are managed : the cumulative effects of a single issue over time and the cumulative effect of multiple issues affecting the same firm over time.

In all this, remember, the existence of a policy process enables politicians etc to say that matters are indeed ‘in hand’ and that there’s “nothing to see here”.

Some issues just fade away – “solved” unintentionally by technological, demographic or social changes.  Others flare up occasionally a bit like herpes.  Others become chronic, and slowly fatal.  Like drug-resistant tuberculosis;  Well, HELLO climate change.

One thought on “Proposed script for video on Issue Lifecycles Literature

Add yours

  1. excerpt: ‘In all this, remember, the existence of a policy process enables politicians etc to say that matters are indeed ‘in hand’ and that there’s “nothing to see here”.’

    Agreed. Agreed. Agreed.
    This deserves to be highlighted.
    It’s a key function.

    My Canadian province could export consultants who specialize in creating process for this purpose.

    It’s been the dominant PR tool of my province’s conservative gov’t’s from the late 80s and is also now becoming the go to method/story for over the past year under our first NDP (centre-left/labour) gov’t.

    ENGO’s repeatedly coopted into process. And mostly got the issue out of the press.

    Here’s the latest corporatist process on our tarsands:

    And in this case, the ENGOs and independent enviro’s were working it up behind the scenes well in advance. Politics in petro-states have a way of making political tactics extreme.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: