Policy Paradigms

Peter Hall’s formulation, in his seminal article “Policy Learning, Social Learning and the State”.

In order to  understand how social learning takes place, we also need a more complete account of the role that ideas play in the policy process. After all, the concept of social learning implies that ideas are central to policymaking, even if it says little more than that about the role they play. To construct a more robust formulation, let us begin from Anderson’s fruitful observation that “the deliberation of public policy takes place within a realm of discourse . . . policies are made within some system of ideas and standards which is comprehensible and plausible to the actors involved.”22 More precisely, policymakers customarily work within a framework of ideas and standards that specifies not only the goals of policy and the kind of instruments that can be used to attain them, but also the very nature of the problems they are meant to be addressing. Like a Gestalt, this framework is embedded in the very terminology through which policymakers communicate about their work, and it is influential precisely because so much of it is taken for granted and unamenable to scrutiny as a whole. I am going to call this interpretive framework a policy paradigm.

(Hall, 1993:279)

There are overlaps between this and a policy image (PE) and Deep Core Beliefs/Core Policy Beliefs (ACF) that I haven’t thought about enough yet…

What is the solution to this concern? To me it is easier simply to recognize that ideas matter, that ideas may be weak or strong, that a given policy may be associated with many or just a few ideas, and that actors use ideas, facts, evidence and other things to build support for the policies they support and to plead that analysts would move toward independent observations and measurements of ideas, actors and policies. Paradigm changes are policy revolutions in important and highly visible domains of public policy. Rather than build a theory about paradigms, we should build one about the much more applicable concept of an idea.

(Baumgartner : 2014: 478)

Baumgartner, F. 2014. Ideas, paradigms and confusions. Journal of European Public Policy 21, 3, 475-80.


New (2015) book on Policy Paradigms in Theory and Practice looks rather good!

See also social learning, obviously, policy learning, bounded rationality etc

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