Category Archives: walkinthepark

It feels like they win when they lose – hegemonic accommodation and institutional entrepreneurs

I re-read

Levy, D. and Scully, M. 2007. The Institutional Entrepreneur as Modern Prince: The Strategic Face of Power in Contested Fields. Organization Studies, 28(07): 971–991.

while slogging around Alex Park with my backpack full of books and weights this morning.  I had forgotten just how damn good it is, and how damn useful it will be For The Thesis.

I could quote for ages – especially on ‘The Modern Prince’ , but a) time b) your attention c) copyright. So for now, this – the notion of ‘hegemonic accommodation’ – a cousin of Marcuse’s ‘repressive tolerance’.  There’s useful stuff in this for me thinking about the big voluntary scheme that the Howard Government used as a fig-leaf (one it inherited from Keating, and duly expanded), also known as ‘the Greenhouse Challenge.’  The analogy with the Access Campaign is fairly weak – the NGOs in the Australian case were aiming for a carbon tax, and got rolled, not co-opted…

The interaction between the strategies of institutional entrepreneurs and defenders frequently gives rise to a characteristic pattern of limited accommodation while preserving, or even reinforcing, the essentials of field power structures. Pragmatic entrepreneurs, seeking to legitimize their claims, frequently use insider language and practices to drive change (Meyerson and Scully 1995) and ‘embed calls for change within accepted models’ (Clemens and Cook 1999: 459).
(Levy and Scully, 2007: 984)

In agreeing to establish a forum for consultation, industry not only enhanced its legitimacy but also gained financially from the marketing value of this information and from expanded insurance coverage.
(Levy and Scully, 2007: 985)

Though the Access Campaign is generally credited with having ‘won’ the struggle to allow low-cost generic drugs in developing countries, this institutional settlement was also a hegemonic accommodation.
(Levy and Scully, 2007: 985)

Indeed, pharmaceutical companies quickly moved to claim credit for expanded drug access and embraced the discourse of corporate social responsibility. The power of even the most skillful institutional entrepreneurs is constrained by the nesting of issue-level fields within wider, well-entrenched institutions. Institutional entrepreneurship has been characterized using salient episodes and discontinuities but is an ongoing, situated process.
(Levy and Scully, 2007: 985)

How the sun also rises- on solar energy, institutional shifts and industry creation

Day three of my policy of writing about each paper/book I read under three categories (in escalating importance

a) highlight interesting theory/facts
b) relate the reading to other (academic) reading, and
c) how it helps me move forward on my Thesis, (Handing Over M-phatically   August/September ’17)   (aka “THOMAS”).

Today’s article (and yes, having to WRITE and even occasionally think has slowed down my reading already) is another corker, this time on the long slow (global) rise of solar.

Bohnsack, R. Pinske, J. and Waelpoel. A. 2016. The institutional evolution process of the global solar industry: The role of public and private actors in creating institutional shifts. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, Vol. 20, pp.16-32.

The article itself

The core contribution of the article is this –

“The study’s main contribution is in revealing that the development of the solar industry can be portrayed as a relay run, in which different actors, at different times, created the momentum for the industry’s evolution due to institutional shifts. We analyse this institutional evolution process by questioning which actors were responsible for the most significant institutional shifts that have moved the solar industry forward. Based on a study of the global solar industry, over the period of 1982–2012, the findings suggest that the main institutional shifts were the result of the interplay between different public and private actors that used various entrepreneurial mechanisms to drive the institutional evolution process.”

(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 17 )

There’s stuff on cognitive legitimacy, the work that companies do to lower prices and maintain quality (and so create expectations) and what government do (and do not) do to create “stimuli-based institutional shifts“.  Market creation etc. There’s a very neat brief history of the solar industry pre-1982 (think calculators and satellites) too.

After trawling through a lot newspaper articles and building a nifty timeline, the authors create a three part periodisation, and show how that ‘relay race’ has been run from Japan to Germany to China  (Australia, with it’s clever people but endless brain drain, doesn’t cop a mention). They conclude that

“While technological breakthroughs have been pertinent to the creation of the industry, our analysis shows that the industry’s institutional evolution has also been determined by institutional shifts. While companies seem to have employed a mechanism based on knowledge diffusion to create institutional shifts, governments used a stimuli-based mechanism instead. What differed in the process of creating institutional shifts was not only who the actors were that acted as institutional entrepreneurs, but also what role they played in this process.
(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 31)

And this perspective, they hope, will  allow everyone to

“go beyond the traditional dichotomy in transition studies of whether the forces that transform an industry come from outside, from new entrants that disrupt established industries, or from within, from incumbents (Bergek et al., 2013). Whereas previous studies have examined how incumbents use institutional approaches to resist change in their industry (Smink et al., 2015)”
(Bohnsack et al. 2016: 31)

Loads of mouth-watering references, most of them for the post-THOMAS world…


Aldrich, H.E., Fiol, C.M., 1994. Fools rush in? The institutional context of industry creation. Acad. Manage. Rev. 19, 645–670.

Battilana, J., Leca, B., Boxenbaum, E., 2009. How actors change institutions: towards a theory of institutional entrepreneurship. Acad. Manage. Ann. 3,65–107.

Bohnsack, R., Kolk, A., Pinkse, J., 2015. Catching recurring waves: low-emission vehicles, international policy developments and firm innovation strategies. Technol. Forecasting Social Change 98, 71–87.

Hoffman, A.J., 1999. Institutional evolution and change: environmentalism and the U.S. chemical industry. Acad. Manage. J. 42, 351–371.

Lawrence, T.B., Phillips, N., 2004. From Moby Dick to Free Willy: macro-cultural discourse and institutional entrepreneurship in emerging institutional fields. Organization 11, 689–711

Lawrence, T.B., Suddaby, R., 2006. Institutions and institutional work. In: Clegg, S.R., Hardy, C.,

Munir, K.A., Phillips, N., 2005. The birth of the ‘Kodak Moment’: Institutional entrepreneurship and the adoption of new technologies. Organiz. Stud. 26,1665–1687.Oliver, C., 1992.

Pinkse, J., Groot, K., 2015. Sustainable entrepreneurship and corporate political activity: overcoming market barriers in the clean energy sector. Entrepreneur. Theory Practice 39, 633–654.

Pinkse, J., van den Buuse, D., 2012. The development and commercialization of solar PV technology in the oil industry. Energy Policy 40, 11–20.


How relates to other reading.
Well, there is the whole stuff around path creation/market creation of course.
Lamertz et al on “institutional redesign”
Also heresthetics and sociology of expectations stuff…

How it helps me move forward on THOMAS.
This notion of institutional shifts and institutional work (IW).  Here you see industry’s doing knowledge-based IW governments doing stimuli-based IW.  In my case study, you’d turn that on its head and look at the state and corporations doing what could be called offensive institutional work (I’ve written about it a bit already, here).

Concern trolling, gaslighting, lying and other corporate strategies versus transition…

Day two of my new policy about writing what I read.

a) highlight interesting theory/facts
b) relate the reading to other (academic) reading, and
c) how it helps me move forward on my Thesis, (Handing Over M-phatically   August/September (’17)   (Thomas).

This paper below came via my supervisor and it is bloody fantastic.

Smink, M., Hekkert, M. and Negro, S. 2015. Keeping sustainable innovation on a leash? Exploring incumbents’ institutional strategies. Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 24, pp.86-101.

I did not know that this – what the big guys do when faced with upstarts – is a relatively understudied field.  And it makes me want ‘in’  (things are up in the air a bit with the analytic framework to cop with the piles of ‘facts’ I’ve gathered – more on that another time.)

Smink et al. are looking at what the big boys have done in the Netherlands when LED lighting and bio-fuels came along and had the potential to screw with profits and the cushy life  (these are ‘competence destroying innovations‘, in that they don’t easily fit within existing production lines etc. (Compare competence enhancing innovations)

So, there’s stuff on “institutional strategies”,  and “defensive institutional work” which a cynic would say is polite academese for ‘fixing the rules of the game‘…

Several authors show that incumbents have been able to (partially) capture the Dutch energy transition initiatives, which has reduced the potential for change (Avelino, 2009; Kern and Smith, 2008; Scrase and Smith, 2009; Voß et al., 2009).
(Smink et al. 2015: 88)

Institutional work is, quoting Lawrence and Suddaby (2016) “the purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions’ (p. 215).” Think Lewis Powell, in 1971 (see previous post)

What rules am I talking about? Well…

The effects of standards can be significant. Strict quality or safety standards can raise the production cost of a particular product or even exclude it from the market: technical standards thus shape the respective market (Bekkers and Martinelli, 2010).
(Smink et al. 2015: 90)

And how, well the usual ways –

Firms can attempt to influence public policy by engaging with policy makers and the general public through various channels. Specific information and messages are conveyed via lobbying, research reports and position papers, as well as via grassroots mobilization, various forms of advertising, contact with the media and educational activities. Furthermore, firms can engage with other market actors in the setting of technical standards.
(Smink et al. 2015: 90)

But there is some very very cool detail on the mechanics of this in the body of the article itself, based on interviews with insiders –

Here is the outright lie/smear from the title

In meetings with the Minister of Environment, the incumbent repeatedly claimed that the entrepreneur’s LED light was not ready for the market. During Taskforce Lighting meetings (issued by the ministry to increase energy efficiency), the incumbent brought along scientists who supported this claim. The minister only learned that this ‘authoritative’ statement was false when the entrepreneur actually demonstrated the functioning of the LED light in person during a meeting (entrepreneur 1, 2010).
(Smink et al. 2015: 92)

I will write separately on the whole “proof of concept” of new technologies – remind me to do so… Why, because the new disruptive technology (LEDs) might hurt profits, and the big boys weren’t yet in a position to exploit it.

Meanwhile, biofuels were also a pain. What to do? Well, try to pop the hype (and just for the record, biofuels are not my mitigation technology of choice).

Moreover, at the time the Dutch government had to transpose the Biofuel Directive into national law, the Dutch oil industry provided a study that concluded that CO2 reduction could be obtained more efficiently by co-firing biomass than by blending biofuels (de Volkskrant, 2003a, 2003b).
(Smink et al. 2015: 94)

And of course, you better take ownership of the ‘advisory panels’….

In response to the food versus fuel debate, the VNPI emphasized to ‘take it easy with the development of biofuels’ (policy maker 1, 2011). Their arguments concerned the availability of sustainable biomass and the availability of a certification scheme (policy maker 1, 2011; policy maker 2, 2012). Platform member 1 (2010) points to the enormous and persistent efforts of the oil industry to supply Dutch policy makers with information showing that not enough sustainable biomass was available. These efforts are said to take place in direct contact with the minister (policy maker 2, 2012) and within the Cramer Committee and the Corbey Committee (policy maker 1, 2011) that had been installed by the Dutch minister to investigate sustainability questions related to biomass. In 2008, the Netherlands indeed lowered the prescribed blending target for 2010 from 5.75% to 4% (Agentschap NL, 2012).
(Smink et al. 2015: 94)

Smink et al have some great observations. On concern trolling, catch the brass neck of the incumbents in this

Third, incumbents tailor their arguments to general policy goals: they express their interests in terms of socially legitimate goals. For instance, the lighting incumbent makes negative statements about competitors’ products, based on the premise that consumers should be protected against products that do not meet efficiency or other standards. Although this is a praiseworthy aim, it is not a logical task for an actor with related and conflicting commercial interests. Similarly, the oil incumbent states that it is very important that biofuels used for blending are produced from sustainable biomass. In itself, this is a legitimate argument. However, this criterion slows down the development of the biofuel market, due to the certification system that has to be put in place.
(Smink et al. 2015: 96)

Heaps of stuff I should (re) read

Farla J, Markard J, Raven R, Coenen L. 2012. Sustainability transitions in the making: a closer look at actors, strategies and resources. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 79(6): 991–998.

Geels FW, Schot J. 2007. Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways. Research Policy 36(3): 399–417.

Lawrence TB, Suddaby R. 2006. Institutions and institutional work. In Handbook of Organization Studies, Clegg SR, Hardy C, Lawrence TB, Nord WR (eds). Sage: London; 215–254.

Maguire S, Hardy C. 2009. Discourse and deinstitutionalization: the decline of DDT. Academy of Management Journal 52(1): 148–178.

Voß J-P, Smith A, Grin J. 2009. Designing long-term policy: rethinking transition management. Policy Sciences 42(4): 275–302.

Usefulness for my thesis? If I go down the institutional work/regime resistance route, the this paper is going to be very very important.  Coal industry and its relationship with the state, versus all forms of environmental regulation, support for renewables.  Who does what institutional work, when?  etc etc

Watch this space.

Two Lewises and the America Empire. Oh, and resonance machines…

So, new policy.  Stuff that gets read while I walk around the park with a backpack full of books and weights [walk in the park], gets written up before I am allowed to do any more reading.  And the job is to try to

a) highlight interesting theory/facts
b) relate the reading to other (academic) reading, and
c) how it helps me move forward on my Thesis, (Handing Over M-phatically   August/September (’17)   (Thomas).

Therefore, in theory (hah!) I won’t be reading stuff that doesn’t have a more-than-tangential-relationship to THOMAS.

This morning I read

Lapham, L. 2004. Tentacles of Rage: The Republican propaganda mill, a brief history. Harpers Magazine, September, pp.31-41.

Lewis Lapham is writing about how the Republicans managed to shift ‘common sense’ to the ‘right’.  It basically argues that the “neoliberal” revolution didn’t start with Thatcher, Reagan getting elected but the (Lewis) Powell Memorandum in 1971.  Lapham argues that in the late 60s the elites were shook up by all the hippies and anti-war activity (there’s a lovely scene at the end of the Elliot Gould moving ‘Going Straight’, which I’d use if I were writing an essay.  Maybe I will).

And according to Lapham the growth of the interlocking mutually reinforcing thinktanks can be “traced to the recognition on the part of the country’s corporate gentry in the late 1960s that they lacked the intellectual means to comprehend, much less quell or combat, the social and political turmoil then engulfing the whole of American society.”

And, with the Powell Memorandum (the clue is in the name – Confidential Memorandum: Attack on the American Free Enterprise System, i.e. a call to arms by a guy who later became a Supreme Court justice) and some deep-pocketed millionaires and billionaires (including today’s betes-noirs the Koch Brothers) various outfits like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute etc were brought into existence. Lapham is good on the mechanics of this, and also on the coalition with the Christian right, in an electoral pact that continues even with the thrice married and until recently pro-choice Donald Trump (see this excellent piece for more on that).

My favourite piece was Lapham observing that “In the glut of paper I could find no unifying or fundamental principle except a certain belief that money was good for rich people and bad for poor people. it was the only point on which all the authorities agreed, and no matter where the words wee coming from a report on federal housing, an essay on the payment of Social Security, articles on he sorrow of the slums or the wonder of the U.S. navy) the authors invariably found the same abiding lesson in the tale  money ennobles rich people,making them strong as well as wise; money corrupts poor people, making them stupid as well as weak. “

There are two criticisms of the piece that I’ve found.

Less seriously, one of lesser known apparatchiks had a go at Lapham, and pointed out that “liberal philanthropy outspends conservative by 25 to 1”. But of course he was comparing apples and oranges, in that most liberal philanthropy is NOT funding policy-attack-doggery but this or that social program.  More seriously, well, this from wikipedia ;

Lapham wrote a September 2004 column for Harper’s in which he included a brief account of the Republican National Convention as if the event had already happened and he had witnessed it, “reflecting on the content and sharing with readers a question that occurred to him as he listened”,[4] as Jennifer Senior wrote in the New York Times Book Review. But the magazine arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes before the convention had actually taken place, as Senior says “forcing Lapham to admit that the scene was a fiction”. The columnist apologized, “but pointed out political conventions are drearily scripted anyway – he basically knew what was going to be said”. Senior continues, “By this logic, though, I could have chosen not to read Pretensions to Empire before reviewing it, since I already knew Lapham’s sensibility, just as he claims to know the Republicans.”[4] Indeed, Senior’s reading of Pretensions to Empire was called into question by her claim that the convention essay was “conspicuously” missing from Pretensions to Empire, when, in fact, an edited version of that essay opens the book. The New York Times published a correction and Senior described her error as “an honest mistake”.[5]

Relate the reading to other (academic) reading/literature


Connection to THOMAS

Potentially useful on the shaping of ‘common sense’/setting limits on the art of the possible, seeding ideas/instruments into the policy stream, denial in the problem stream etc.

The key differences in Australia from what Lapham/Connolly/Barley etc describe  is that the pockets of the philanthropists just aren’t that deep, the number of think-tanks is significantly smaller,and the ‘right’ has not been able to hook up with the religious, because the white people who came were not leaving because Britain was insufficiently religiously intolerant for them…  The soil simply not as fertile for the evangelical/capitalist resonance machine….


#Awalkinthepark – think tanks, discursive institutionalism institutional logic

Right, so here are four more things (a couple of them very short)

Ladl, S. 2011. Think Tanks, Discursive Institutionalism and Policy Change. In Papanagnou, G. (ed) Social Science and Policy Challenges: Democracy, Values and Capacities. UNESCO Publishing. Pp. 205-220.

Tolbert, P. and Zucker, P. 1999. The Institutionalization of Institutional Theory. In Clegg S. and Hardy, C. Studying Organizations. London: Sage. pp. 171-184.

Sarma S. 2013. Review of Thornton, P. Ocasio, W. and Lounsbury, M. 2012. The Institutional Logic Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure and Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Organization Studies, Vol 34, (1), pp.133-136

Anon. 2016. Wikipedia: Institutional Logic.

Ladi does a good job on using Schmidt’s Discursive Institutionalism to look at the power of the think tanks, especially their Janus-faced nature – turned to both policy makers (“coordinative discourse”) and to the great unwashed (“communicative discourse”).
On the great Schmidt-Bell debate, she’s cautiously critical of some of Schmidt’s claims, arguing that

“part of Schmidt’s critique of some of the tools of historical institutionalism is too harsh and should be reconsidered. Specifically, Schmidt (2008) claims that in order to explain change the historical institutionalist tradition relies too much on concepts such as critical junctures, which are unexplainable moments in time when change is triggered, often as a result of exogenous factors. Discursive institutionalism is expected to shed light on the agency during those critical junctures through the study of ideas and discourse. Although agency is a significant parameter in explaining change, another parameter is time, and critical junctures are an integral part of time. The limitation of discursive institutionalism to explain all kind of change is acknowledged because it is accepted that events outside people’s control happen, and actions have unintended consequences (Schmidt, 2010).
(Ladi, 2011: 207-8)

She’s good on advocacy coalitions and policy learning (such as it is).

An important aspect of policy learning is its collective nature. For learning to lead to change, it has to be collective and to include a large number of people across and within organizations who believe in policy change. Learning applies more easily to individuals than organizations, and thus the analysis of its impact upon policies is not always straightforward (Hannan and Freeman, 1989).
(Ladi, 2011: 209-10)

I was going to accuse her of being too starry-eyed about think tanks (she writes things like “Think tanks are there to provide this rethink when necessary. The main objective of think tanks is to bring knowledge and policy-making together by informing and if possible influencing the policy process” (p211) but then she gets down to brass tacks;

Most think tanks state that they conduct independent research in order to inform the public and the government on how to improve public policy. Their rhetoric often says that their work is for the common good and for educating the public. Nevertheless, their concern about their image and reputation limits the spectrum of their policy proposals. Even more, the extent to which think tanks can determine their own research agendas and their own arguments is doubtful because they are dependent on contracts and public and private funding (Stone, 2007). For instance, Jacobs and Page (2005), in a study about influence upon US foreign policy, conclude that internationally oriented businesses are the most important source of influence, followed by experts who may themselves be influenced by businesses.
(Ladi, 2011: 211)

“think tanks neither act as neutral bridges between academia and politics nor always function having public good as a compass.
(Ladi, 2011: 212)


She’s good on instrumental v. symbolic uses of knowledge (without getting to Foucault-y) which she then (p.214) links to Schmidt’s coordinative and communicative discourses.

Boswell (2009) argues that there are two types of knowledge use, instrumental and symbolic. Instrumental use of knowledge assumes rational policy-making where knowledge is used in order to solve a problem, while the symbolic use of knowledge refers to knowledge as a means of legitimation and strengthening of a policy position.
(Ladi, 2011: 212)

As per Jacques and Dunlap on climate counter-movement book publishing ahead of Rio and Kyoto,

“Additionally, the timing of think tanks’ action is important. It is during critical junctures that think tanks increase their chances of acting as carriers of coordinative and communicative discourse, thus affecting policy change.”
(Ladi, 2011: 214)

I’ll admit to being a little concerned about her claim that the fall of the Berlin Wall was “not an unexpected event” (p.215), but that’s a quibble; this is good stuff!

To read (after thesis)

Boswell, C. 2009. The Political Uses of Expert Knowledge. Cambridge, Cambridge
University Press.
Parmar, I. 2005. Catalysing events, think tanks and American foreign policy shifts: a comparative analysis of the impacts of Pearl Harbor 1941 and 11 September 2001. Government and Opposition, Vol. 40, pp. 1–25.

Tolbert and Zucker do a great job at clarifying

“the links between institutional theory and previous traditions of sociological work on organizational structure, and to provide some context for understanding the receptivity of organizational researchers in the late 1970s to institutional theory as an explanatory framework. The next section reviews the initial exposition of the theory in Meyer and Rowan’s (1977) seminal article…”
(Tolbert and Zucker, 1999:171)

The Meyer and Rowan looks great (it is the one from whence habitualization, objectification and sedimentation comes from), with the point that if you don’t look like everyone else in your eco-system don’t be surprised if you don’t survive-

A second major implication pointed up in Meyer and Rowan’s analysis is that the social evaluation of organizations, and hence organizational survival, can rest on observation of formal structures (that may or may not actually function), rather than on observed outcomes related to actual task performance.
“Thus, organizational success depends of factors other than efficient coordination and control of production activities. Independent of their productive efficiency, organizations which exist in highly elaborated institutional environments and succeed in becoming isomorphic with these environments gain the legitimacy and resources needed to survive (1977: 352).”
This claim sharply contradicted underlying market-oriented, or at least performance oriented assumptions about the functions of formal structure that dominated previous work: (1) that inefficient organizations – in production terms – would be selected out through a process of interorganizational competition; and (2) that correlations between measures of formal structure and such characteristics as size and technology thus resulted from the survival of organizations whose form matched the demands of their production environments.
(Tolbert and Zucker, 1999:172)

So, if organisations don’t look around at what others are doing, then it’s (internal) champions who make change. Or try to. It’s uphill…

Champions are most likely to emerge when there is a large potential ‘market’ for the innovation (e.g. when environmental changes have adversely affected the competitive positions of a number of established organizations.). To be successful, champions must accomplish two major tasks of theorization (Strange and Meyer 1993): creation of a definition of a generic organizational problem, a definition that includes specification of the set or category of organizational actors characterized by the problem; and justification of a particular formal structural arrangement as a solution to the problem on logical or empirical grounds (see also Galaskiewicz 1985). The first task involves generating pubic recognition of a consistent pattern of dissatisfaction or organizational failing that is characteristic of some array of organizations; the second task involves developing theories that provide a diagnosis of the source of dissatisfaction or failings, theories that are compatible with a particular structure as a solution or treatment.
(Tolbert and Zucker, 1999:177)

There’s good stuff in that too about “permanently failing organizations” (I can think of a few). Meyer and Zucker wrote a book in 1989 with just that title.

Sarma’s review makes me want to read the book, or at least Thornton and Ocasio Instituional logic in Greenwood Oliver et Sage handbook of orgnaizational institutionalism. We’ll close out with Wikipedia…

Thornton and Ocasio (1999: 804) define institutional logics

as the socially constructed, historical patterns of material practices, assumptions, values, beliefs, and rules by which individuals produce and reproduce their material subsistence, organize time and space, and provide meaning to their social reality.[3]

But they are messy/competing, natch.

Multiple logics can create diversity in practice by enabling variety in cognitive orientation and contestation over which practices are appropriate. As a result, such multiplicity can create enormous ambiguity, leading to logic blending, the creation of new logics, and the continued emergence of new practice variants.

And this one looks good (if depressing)

Zilber, T. B. (2002). “Institutionalization as an Interplay between Actions, Meanings, and Actors: The Case of a Rape Crisis Center in Israel.” Academy of Management Journal, 45(1), 234-254.

#Awalkinthepark – discursive institutionalism yet again

Four  papers here, the fourth of which doesn’t quite ‘fit’, but never mind…

The TL;DR is that Discursive Institutionalism is a pretty powerful (too powerful?) way of looking at policy change/lack of change.

Schmidt, V. 2010. Taking ideas and discourse seriously: explaining change through discursive institutionalism as the fourth ‘new institutionalism’. European Political Science Review, Vol. 2 (1), pp1-25.

Carstensen, M. and Schmidt, V. 2016. Power through, over and in ideas; conceptualizing ideational power in discursive institutionalism. Journal of European Public Policy, Vol. 23, (3), pp.318-337.

Marsh, D. 2009. Keeping Ideas in their Place: In Praise of Thin Constructivism. Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 44, (4), pp.679-696.

Fuenfschilling, Lea ; Truffer, B. 2014. The structuration of socio-technical regimes—Conceptual foundations from institutional theory. Research Policy, Vol.43, (4), pp.772-791.

I think I may have squeezed the DI lemon dry. On the upside, I am now – through sheer repetition rather than any intelligence on my part – familiar with its terminology (coordinative discourse, communicative discourse etc etc).

FWIW, this article is the best single explanation of DI I’ve read

Discursive institutionalism is an umbrella concept for the vast range of works in political science that take account of the substantive content of ideas and the interactive processes by which ideas are conveyed and exchanged through discourse. On the substantive dimension of ideas and discourse, DI scholars consider ideas about ‘what is and what ought to be’ at different levels of generality (Schmidt, 2008; Mehta, 2010), going from policy ideas (e.g., Kingdon, 1984; Hall, 1989) to programmatic ideas or paradigms (Hall, 1993; Berman, 1998) to deeper philosophical ideas (Campbell, 2004). They also consider different types of ideas, including cognitive ideas justified in terms of interest-based logics and necessity (e.g., Jobert, 1989; Hall, 1993; Schmidt, 2002: Ch. 5) and normative ideas legitimated through appeal to values and appropriateness (e.g., March and Olsen, 1989; Schmidt, 2000). And they consider the representation of ideas through discourse, including frames, narratives, myths, collective memories, stories, scripts, and more (e.g., Roe, 1994; Hajer, 2003).
(Schmidt, 2010: 3)

She explains the difficulties that Rational Choice Institutionalist theorists have with the power of ideas –

The problem for RI scholars, then, and the reason most of them quickly abandoned the pursuit of ideas, is that they could not continue to maintain the artificial separation of ‘objective’ interests from ‘subjective’ ideas about interests, that is, beliefs and desires. Such subjective interests threatened to overwhelm the objective ones which are at the basis of the rationalists’ thin model of rationality, by undermining the ‘fixed’ nature of preferences and the notion of outcomes as a function of pre-existing preferences. And without fixed preferences as well as neutral institutional incentive structures, RI scholars lose the parsimony of the approach and everything that follows from it, including the ability to mathematically model games rational actors play as opposed to those ‘real actors play’ (see Scharpf, 1997; Rothstein, 2005: Ch. 1). This helps explain why the foray into ideas for most dyed-in-the-wool RI scholars was short-lived
(Schmidt, 2010: 7)

There’s nice stuff on Historical institutionalism (the subject of a debate between Schmidt and Stephen Bell, covered in previous blog posts)

Historical institutionalism focuses on how institutions, understood as sets of regularized practices with rule-like qualities, structure action and outcomes. It emphasizes not just the operation and development of institutions but also the path-dependencies and unintended consequences that result from such historical development (Steinmo et al., 1992; Hall and Taylor, 1996: 938; Thelen, 1999; Pierson, 2000). HI has been more open to the turn to ideas than RI. This is because whereas RI has certain ontological and epistemological presuppositions about agency that clash with those of DI, HI lacks agency, for which HI scholars often turn to RI or SI (see Hall and Taylor, 1996: 940–941) and, increasingly, to DI. Moreover, critiques of HI – such as those that emphasize its historical determinism where it focuses on critical junctures (e.g., Collier and Collier, 1991) leading to path dependence (Mahoney, 2000; Pierson, 2000), along with its inability to explain institutional change endogenously, even if more recent HI scholars have succeeded in describing incremental change, through layering, conversion, and drift (Thelen, 2004; Streeck and Thelen, 2005) – have left an opening to DI.
(Schmidt, 2010: 10)

 Schmidt does a similar explanation on sociological institutionalism –

Sociological institutionalist focuses on the forms and procedures of organizational life stemming from culturally specific practices, with institutions cast as the norms, cognitive frames, scripts, and meaning systems that guide human action according to a ‘logic of appropriateness’ (March and Olsen, 1989; DiMaggio and Powell, 1991; Scott, 1995). In SI, therefore, one cannot talk about a turn to ideas as such, since ideas have always been at the basis of the approach – as norms, frames, and meaning systems. The differences between SI and DI, therefore, are often quite fuzzy, and depend upon whether scholars see ideas more as culturally determined, static ideational structures and institutions – as macro-patterns consisting of ‘action without agents’ (Hall and Taylor, 1996: 954) or, worse, structures without agents (see Checkel, 1998: 335) – or whether they take a more dynamic approach to ideas.
(Schmidt, 2010: 13)

 I will admit to being mystified by this though –

Importantly, the constructivist DI scholars go beyond the SI scholars who put ideas into cultural context to put them into their ‘meaning’ context as well, that is, by treating ideas as empirical subjects to be studied in their own right (e.g., Kjaer and Pedersen, 2001; Hay, 2006). And such meaning contexts constitute very different kinds of institutions from those of RI, HI, and SI.
(Schmidt, 2010: 14)

Schmidt is not starry-eyed about the ‘power’ of discourse though –

Deliberation on its own, in other words, does not necessarily ensure a more ‘democratic’ outcome. Power and position do matter. The question is how to define power and position in such a way as to also take account of the power of ideas and discourse. The problem with RI and HI is that they tend to reify questions of power and position by assuming that power is a function of position and that agents’ strategic interests derive primarily from their power and position. DI holds instead that power cannot be defined by (objective) position alone, since ideas and values infuse the exercise of power and (subjective) perceptions of position (Lukes, 2005).
(Schmidt, 2010: 18)

 There’s another dig at HI on page 19-

HI accounts of capitalism (in particular where they combine with RI) do not just make things appear inevitable, they make them seem inexorable when they argue for divergence to two varieties of capitalism based on the differing path-dependent logics of coordination of liberal market economies and coordinated market economies (e.g., Hall and Soskice, 2001). HI scholars who propound this binary view of capitalism tend to be opposed to neo-liberal capitalism, and are engaged in a normative discursive strategy focused on getting people to accept the validity of two ways, not one, of being capitalist.
(Schmidt, 2010: 19)

Lovely diagram on page 20 –

2010 schmidt diagrams ri hi si di

She admits that things can go wrong with DI, and sets out a compelling set of questions;

Where DI can go wrong is when it considers ideas and discourse to the exclusion of issues of power (read RI instrumental rationality) and position (read HI institutional structures), when it assumes that DI deliberation necessarily trumps RI manipulation, or when it over-determines the role of ideas and discourse by forgetting that ‘stuff happens’ or that historical institutions and cultural frames affect the ways in which ideas are expressed and discourse conveyed. We should not forget that ideas and discourse that seek to promote change often have little effect on the crystallized ideas about rationalist interests and cultural norms or on the frozen landscapes of rationalist incentives, historical paths, and cultural frames. The research agenda for DI, therefore, should not just be to seek to convince political scientists theoretically that ideas and discourse matter – by now all neo-institutionalists seem to have accepted this to some degree – but to show empirically how, when, where, and why ideas and discourse matter for institutional change, and when they do not.
(Schmidt, 2010: 21, emphasis added)

To read

Culpepper, P.D. (2005), ‘Institutional change in contemporary capitalism: coordinated financial systems since 1990’, World Politics 57(2): 173–199.

Fung, A. and E.O. Wright (2003), ‘Countervailing power in empowered participatory governance’, in A. Fung and E.O. Wright (eds), Deepening Democracy, New York: Verso, pp. 259–290.

Lupia, A. and D.M.McCubbins (1998), The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mahoney, J. (2000), ‘Path dependence in historical sociology’, Theory and Society 29(4): 507–548.

And maybe

Yee, A.S. (1997), ‘Thick rationality and the missing ‘brute fact:’ the limits of rationalist incorporation of norms and ideas’, Journal of Politics 59(4): 1001–1039.

Carstensen and Schmidt (2016) are up for defining “ideational power”. It is

“the capacity of actors (whether individual or collective) to influence other actors’ normative and cognitive beliefs through the use of ideational elements”
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 318)

(aka Jedi Mind Tricks)

Based on insights from the discursive institutionalist literature they suggest three different types –

power through ideas, understood as the capacity of actors to persuade other actors to accept and adopt their views through the use of ideational elements;

power over ideas, meaning the imposition of ideas and the power to resist the inclusion of alternative ideas into the policymaking arena;

and power in ideas, which takes place through the establishing of hegemony or institutions imposing constraints on what ideas are considered.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 318)

(ties in with Lukes, and also agenda denial)

So, ideational power  has three features worth noting. First

“characterized by a conception of power which is exerted through the constitution of intersubjective meaning structures that agents both draw on to give meaning to their material and social circumstances and battle over to affect what ideas and discourses are deemed viable.”
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 322)

[I think this means people drink from the same well, but some people get to decide what goes in the well in the first place, or can put more of their own stuff in it]

Second it is both a top-down and a bottom up process, that is it

takes seriously not only the discursive struggles taking place among policy actors at the top of the hierarchy to affect their particular vision of the world, but also those related to the effort of policy actors at the bottom as much as at the top of the power hierarchy to translate their ideas into language accessible to the general public
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 322)

And finally it is thought of in terms of who is doing what (‘agency-oriented terms’) rather than ‘structural and institutional understandings.’ (Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 322)

Next up, power through ideas – (aka ‘reality distortion fields)

Rather than viewing power as making someone do what they would otherwise not have done based on force, threats, institutional position, material resources, etc., the ideational power actors exert is based on their capacity to induce other actors to do something through reasoning or argument. It is not necessarily – or rather, it rarely is – a completely ‘rational’ process in the sense that the most powerful necessarily are the ones with the ‘best’ argument. Instead, the persuasiveness of an idea depends on both the cognitive and normative arguments that can be mustered in its support.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 323-4)

And of course, my friends the think tanks are well up for this, in both direction of elites and Joe and Jane Public –

In the process of persuasion, moreover, we need to distinguish between the policy sphere, in which policy actors (consisting of experts and advocacy networks, organized interests, civil servants and public officials) engage in a ‘coordinative’ discourse of ideational generation and contestation, and the political sphere, in which political actors (consisting of politicians, spin doctors, campaign managers, government spokespersons, party activists) engage in a ‘communicative’ discourse of translation, discussion, deliberation and, again, contestation with the public (including not just the general public but also informed publics of opinion-makers, the media, organized interests, community leaders and activists) (Schmidt 2002, 2006, 2008).
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 325)

In terms of “power over ideas” they want to emphasize three general forms-

… the first is exerted by actors with the power to impose their ideas; the second, by normally powerless actors who seek to shame other actors into conformity with their ideas or norms; and the third, by actors who have the capacity to resist even considering alternative ideas.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 326)

i.e. the really powerful can stick their fingers in their ears and say “la la la. NOT LISTENING.”

Although many of the ‘market efficiency’-oriented ideas no longer dominate public discourse about financial markets and how they function…  the regulation of financial markets continues to be based on ideas that are directly borrowed from neoliberal conceptions of financial markets (Mugge 2013).
An important reason why seems to be that actors with stakes in the upholding of pre-crisis ideas remain able to largely ignore alternative conceptions of how to regulate financial markets (see also Moschella and Tsingou 2013).
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 328)

Here is a crucial bit-

… power over ideas is particularly important for fending off pressures for change. During a period of crisis, for example, it matters hugely who has the authoritative capacity to interpret events as anomalous and thus as a challenge to the reigning paradigm. In battles for authority characteristic of periods of crisis (Hall 1993), power over ideas enables actors to ignore alternative idea sets and thus keep them from receiving serious consideration by elites and public alike. Power over ideas may not only be instrumental for actors in avoiding change, it may also be useful for implementing changes to the existing institutional setup in a more evolutionary way, perhaps by pushing institutions towards greater purity and conformity with their policy paradigm.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 328, emphasis added)

Agenda denial etc.  Thatcher and “there is no alternative” and all that

Finally, power in ideas.  Well, make it seem invisible, it’s better than a fight, isn’t it?

power in ideas concerns the ways that agents seek to depoliticize ideas to the degree where they recede into the background, meaning that they become so accepted that their very existence may be forgotten, even as they may come to structure peoples’ thoughts about the economy, polity and society. This may, for example, happen as policy programmes become taken-for-granted in terms of their methods, instruments and goals such that they, too, fade into the background.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 329)

In their conclusion they argue for “carving out ideational power as a specific category of political power for three reasons.

Going beyond the “ideas matter” of DI, they say that, first up

developing a more explicitly ideational understanding of power is helpful for analysing the battles going on between policy actors, within elites and between them and the masses, as well as to distinguish them from the relations that are not relations of power.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 333)


developing a specific category of ideational power is helpful for analysing how different dimensions of ideational power may combine and intertwine in concrete empirical cases.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 333)

Thirdly, we may be able to put faces on where the ideas come from…(to riff on Marge Piercy). It may help to

identify and criticize the actors who have a central impact on which issues are considered problems and which solutions are thought viable. As argued by Hayward and Lukes (2008: 5), ‘Analyzing power relations is an inherently evaluative and critical enterprise, one to which questions of freedom, domination, and hierarchy are – and should be – central.’. Hopefully, developing a clearer and more explicit vocabulary for talking about ideational power will enhance the ability of discursive institutionalists to track the agents, whether collective or individual, who have the ideational capacities to affect the context in which interests are defended and to assign them responsibility accordingly.
(Carstensen and Schmidt, 2016: 333)

To read
Beland, D. (2009) ‘Ideas, institutions, and policy change’, Journal of European Public Policy 16(5): 701–18.

Carstensen, M.B. (2011a) ‘Paradigm man vs the bricoleur: bricolage as an alternative vision of agency in ideational change’, European Political Science Review 3(1): 147–67.

Carstensen, M.B. (2011b) ‘Ideas are not as stable as political scientists want them to be: a theory of incremental ideational change’, Political Studies 59(3): 596–615.

Culpepper, P. (2008) ‘The politics of common knowledge: ideas and institutional change’, International Organization 62(1): 1–33.

Przeworski, A. and Wallerstein, M. (1988) ‘Structural dependence of the state on capital’, American Political Science Review 82(1): 11–29.

Tsingou, E. (2014) ‘Club governance and the making of global financial rules’, Review of International Political Economy, doi:10.1080/09692290.2014.890952

Young, K. (2013) ‘Financial industry groups’ adaptation to the post-crisis regulatory environment: changing approaches to the policy cycle’, Regulation & Governance 7(4): 460–80.

Aussie (oi oi oi!) academic David Marsh wants the pendulum not to swing too far towards ideas-

After acknowledging the growing focus on ideas in Political Science and giving two cheers for that development, this paper warns against the concomitant rejection of the importance of materialist factors in explaining stability and change. The argument is illustrated by a focus on recent literature on globalisation and the global financial crisis.
(Marsh, 2009: 679)

He argues

… the relationship between the material and the ideational, like that between structure and agency, is dialectical, that is interactive and iterative.
(Marsh, 2009: 697)

And makes a distinction between thin and thick constructivism –

“thick constructivism prioritises ideational factors and constitutive logics and thin constructivism prioritises material factors and causal logics.”
(Marsh, 2009: 684)

There’s stuff on what ‘agents’ think

To Sikkink, ideas transform agent’s perceptions of their interests and, thus, affect institutional structures and outcomes. Hall distinguishes between first, second and third order change; with third order change involving a paradigm shift, for example, the change from Keynesianism to monetarism which Hall, and indeed Blyth, see as having occurred between 1976 and 1981 in the UK.
(Marsh, 2009: 682-83)

The orders of change – relates to the stuff in both DI (policies, programmes, philosophies) and ACF (superficial, deep, core)?  Better look into this…

The rest of it is less useful for me (at present), but that’s fine.

Here’s a great article title –
Hay, C. 2005. ‘Making Hay . . . or Clutching at Ontological Straws? Notes on Realism, ‘As-If- Realism’ and Actualism.’ Politics 25(1): 39–45. But the abstract (see next) suggests it would possibly be a bit above my pay-grade.  Here it is –

Stuart McAnulla provides an eloquent defence of a particular variant of critical realism, suggesting that it provides a more appropriate set of ontological foundations for the kind of critical political analysis I espouse than the ontological actualism he attributes to me. In this rejoinder, whilst welcoming McAnulla’s important intervention in the debate, I defend myself against his charge of actualism (if the attribution of an ontology to an author can be regarded as a charge), whilst indicating how the ‘as-if-realism’ that perhaps better reflects my ontological assumptions is perfectly compatible with critical political analysis. In so doing I caution against ontological evangelism, the notion that only ‘real’ entities can be causal, and the appeal to structures (like patriarchy) as causes. I conclude by reflecting on the complex and seldom discussed relationship between experience and ontology.



Fuenfschilling and Truffer want to use institutional theory alongside socio-technical transitions theory (see also Andrews-Speed, P. 2016. Applying institutional theory to the low-carbon energy transition.  Energy Research & Social Science, Vol. 13, pp.216-225.)

As in, aren’t there a lot of bricks in  the imbrications?

Based on insights from evolutionary economics, science and technology studies and sociology, various approaches have been developed that analyze and conceptualize change from a socio-technical systems perspective.1 The systems concept emphasizes the interdependence and co-evolution of material and social structures, such as policies, culture, technologies or markets, which over time evolve into a stable configuration that enables the fulfillment of a societal function like water or energy provision.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:772)

They seek (and succeed, imho) in offering

a conceptual foundation for assessing structures and degrees of structuration within socio-technical systems by drawing on concepts of institutional theory. In institutional theory, structure is often used as an umbrella term for things that influence an actor’s cognition and behavior as well as the diffusion of practices, e.g. regulations, norms, values, culture, actors or practices. Since structural influences represent one of institutional theory’s core interests, it offers valuable insight for elaborating some of the core concepts of the MLP, such as the regime.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:774)

Alongside this they use the institutional logics concept.

Institutional logics represent examples of the “deep-structural rules that coordinate and guide actor’s perceptions and actions” (Geels, 2012, p. 3). We show that how actors make sense of and act upon reality is contingent on pre-vailing institutional logics, i.e. on coherent arrangements of beliefs, norms, values and practices that stem from dominant societal institutions.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:774)

Institutional logics are

“the socially constructed, historical patterns of material practices, assumptions, values, beliefs, and rules by which individuals produce and reproduce their material subsistence, organize time and space, and provide meaning to their social reality”(Thornton and Ocasio, 1999, p. 804).
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775)

There’s great stuff on institutionalisation (which I will use for thinking about culture change [and lack of it] in social movements)

Tolbert and Zucker (1999) define three main stages in the process of institutionalization: habitualization, objectification and sedimentation. The three stages represent an institution’s increase in exteriority, i.e. the degree to which it is experienced by actors as part of an objective, external reality and as a ‘coercive fact’(Berger and Luckmann, 1966; Tolbert and Zucker, 1999).
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775)

Habitulaization is-

the phase wherein an innovation is created by a small number of actors in response to a recurring problem and as such achieves some sort of habitualized form. This process is mostly an uncoordinated activity; there is no consensus about the usefulness of the innovation, no explicit theory or knowledge base for it, no associated values or legitimated users. These structures thus tendto be very unstable and impermanent, often disappearing with theactor’s that established them in the first place.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775)

Objectification is-

the next phase of institutionalization. It ‘involves the development of some degree of social consensus among organizational decision-makers concerning the value of a structure, and the increasing adoption by organizations on the basis of that consensus” (Tolbert and Zucker, 1999, p. 182). This step implicates extensive institutional work by actors, such as problem and solution framing, persuasion, theorizing, making alliances, and mobilizing resources. It is successful, if a collective rationality about the innovation has been generated. Normally, the actors who adopt the innovation are becoming more heterogeneous, discourse is high and variance of the innovation decreases.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775)

Sedimentation is –

“a process that fundamentally rests on the historical continuity of structure, and especially on its survival across generations of organizational members. Sedimentation is characterized both by the virtually complete spread of structures across the group of actors theorized as appropriate adopters, and by the perpetuation of structures over a lengthy period of time.” (Tolbert and Zucker,1999, p. 184). The structure has become normative or even taken for granted, discourse about it has settled down, change in design is rare and failures rather low.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775 (emphasis added)

So, path dependency, historical embedding, invulnerability to social intervention etc etc.  Elephants don’t tap dance, the smugosphere reins.

Look, the game is the game, ‘kay?

They “define the ends and shape the means by which interests are deter-mined and pursued. Institutional factors determine that actors in one type of setting, called firms, pursue profits; that actors in another setting, called agencies, seek larger budgets; that actors in a third setting, called political parties, seek votes; and that actors in an even stranger setting, research universities, pursue publications.” (Scott, 1987, p. 508).
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:775)

And you can wriggle on the hook if you like (and are big enough) –

Actors are constrained, but also enabled by institutional structures, which, in return, are socially constructed by them. This process has been labelled institutional work and is defined as “the  purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions” (Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006, p. 215).In short, a change in institutional logics is likely to include the deinstitutionalization of existing logic elements coupled with the institutionalization of new elements.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:776)

But you’re on the hook.

Then there’s a case study about the Australian water supply landscape.  Some interesting factoids for me –

A severe drought between ca.2003 and 2010 confronted Australia with the reality of climate change and shaped the awareness for water problems even more. Agriculture and other industries were hit hard and storage levels of the dams in the eastern seaboard states and in South and West-ern Australia were unprecedented low. After this drought, Australia has repeatedly been struck by heavy floods. These extreme weather events triggered various reactions and again intensified the dis-course about water issues in politics, economy and civil society alike.
(Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014:780)

Ultimately, this is exceptionally useful both for The Thesis and for my off-the-clock thinking about how unlikely change in social movements is, (and why I should not even bother because I do not have the skills or the patience…  #carpethediems)

#Awalkinthepark – Policy Theories and how to mash them up.

Making sense of it all?  How do we mash-up public policy theories, improve them. What should we worry about as we do this?

Cairney, P. 2013. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: How Do We Combine the Insights of Multiple Theories in Public Policy Studies? Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 41, (1), pp.1-21.

Petridou, E. 2014. Theories of the Policy Process: Contemporary Scholarship and Future Directions. Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 42, (1), pp.S12-32.

Howlett, M. McConnell, A. and Perl, A. 2016. Moving Policy Theory Forward: Connecting Multiple Stream and Advocacy Coalition Frameworks to Policy Cycle Models of Analysis. Australian Journal of Public Administration, in press.

Cairney, who is very good at this sort of thing, points out that combining multiple theories in policy studies could be a Very Good Idea but warns  there are “important ontological, epistemological, methodological, and practical issues that need to be addressed to ensure disciplinary advance.”
(Cairney, 2013: 1)

You can’t, sadly, bish-bosh-she’ll-be-right…  For one thing,

“key terms—such as “evolution,” “punctuated equilibrium,” or “policy entrepreneur”—… may have different meanings and refer to different phenomena within different intellectual traditions.”
(Cairney, 2013: 3)

His article looks at synthesis (combining the lot), complementary approaches (they sit alongside) and contradictory (there’s a Highlander style contest- “there can be only one).

I really really liked this, and it gives significant space to the pros and cons and ins and outs of these three approaches.

“Entrepreneur” may be used to explain policy innovations linked to exceptional individuals, but we can have little confidence that different studies are talking about the same thing and building their research on common foundations (see Christopoulos & Ingold, 2011; Mintrom & Norman, 2009). Such terminological problems may be magnified if we seek to identify similar processes in the natural and social worlds (where, for example, the idea of agency may be profoundly different).
(Cairney, 2013:7)

Parsimony comes with a price-

Treating states as unified actors may produce parsimonious explanation but only at the expense of more nuanced explanations based on organizational procedures, the decision-making environment, and the need for policymakers to bargain within government (pp. 253–54).  Of Allison 1971
(Cairney, 2013:8)

“Complementary” approaches (cheery cherry-picking /bricolage) comes with a price, too..

In most cases, advocates of this approach use a more manageable, and superficial, proxy for theoretical comparison. They produce an empirical case study, often based on documentary analysis supplemented by elite interviews, then set up a summary of several theories, and use those theories to identify a series of perspectives.

In this context, we can use the exercise to draw attention to the assumptions of a dominant understanding of the research problem, but we cannot expect to do justice to the empirical research agenda associated with each theory. The analogy of a “toolkit” for explanation may be apt as it gives us the image of someone who can draw on a wide range of theories but perhaps as a “jack of all trades and master of none” (although the analogy soon becomes contentious, as the flexible theorist may describe himself or herself as someone who knows which jobs require which tools—Ostrom, 2006, p. 8).
(Cairney, 2013:9)

And Cairney makes a point that should not be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention –

For example, Meier (2009) suggests, provocatively, that the popularity of theories depends on the academic abilities and standing of their proponents (compare with Fischer, 2003, p. 111 on the relationship between research findings and trust in the researchers). To this, we can add a more general point about the fashionability of some concepts, and the rise and fall of attention to them, which does not seem to relate to the rise and fall of their value or the weight of the evidence produced (much like the rise and fall of issues on the political agenda).
(Cairney, 2013:12)

And some scholars have a near monopoly on certain information (e.g. they’re the ones who did the elite interviews).  So

“it makes sense to encourage scholars to present multiple empirical narratives or multiple interpretations of the information that they have gathered.”
(Cairney, 2013:14)

After all, the world is very very complicated (and complex) and everyone has a limit to what they can do and know, so we need

“to manage the need to conduct specialist research in some areas and rely on others to provide knowledge of other areas, by seeking the best way to communicate those findings and learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives. We are also subject to factors that promote further academic specialization, such as: increasingly sophisticated research that requires specialization in a small number of fields and, therefore, a reliance on others to conduct research in other fields; and many “career incentives” associated with promotions procedures and the evaluation of academic work (Poteete et al., 2010, pp. 15–17, 20–21).We need some way to decide if the information provided by others is worthy of our attention (and, in a specialized and interdisciplinary world, a means to ensure that we understand the information provided by others).
(Cairney, 2013:15)

Without getting stuck in “fruitless debates” (p15)

Cairney has some choice things to say about the chest-beating and lamp-post pissing (my terms) that can go on at conferences and in journals –

This issue seems more serious when high-ranking peer-reviewed journals encourage fruitless debates in which the authors talk over each other and give each other straw men titles (including the term “positivist,” which is often used to discredit the work of some scholars without considering the substance of their research or arguments) instead of trying to engage on their terms.
(Cairney, 2013:15)

And wants people, within reason, to be open about not just research methods and hypotheses but also their empirical findings

To read for the thesis
Christopoulos, Dimitrios, and Kariin Ingold. 2011. “Distinguishing between Political Brokerage and Political Entrepreneurship.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 10: 36–42.

To read after the thesis
Allison, Graham. 1969. “Conceptual Models and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” American Political Science Review 63 (3): 689–718.

Parker, Charles, Eric Stern, Eric Paglia, and Christer Brown. 2009. “Preventable Catastrophe?” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 17 (4): 206–20.

Petridou has done an admirable job of summarising recent (2011-2) thinking on various policy theories.

Interestingly in Advocacy Coalition Frameworks “coalition defection” is understudied (p.S14) – Guy Pearse’s 2005 thesis on how the greenhouse mafia enforced discipline is worth another look.

Then there is the question of resource coalitions and venue shopping

The issue of coalition resources, a hitherto less developed aspect of the framework, is investigated by Nohrstedt (2011), who suggests some resources are more important than others thus pointing out the need for thinking vertically when it comes to resource salience. Nohrstedt also highlights the instrumentality of policy entrepreneurs in venue shopping and their part in achieving policy change. Policy entrepreneurs in the form of policy brokers and the role in policy change are investigated by Ingold and Varone (2011).
(Petridou, 2014:S14)

There’s also good stuff on Social Construction and Design-

Normative aspects of policymaking were addressed by the social construction of target population and policy design framework, originally by Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram (1993). Policymakers manipulate, respond to, and perpetuate social constructions of target groups; that is, portions of the population receiving benefits or being burdened by costs, partially because it reinforces the policymakers’ gains of political capital (Ingram, Schneider, & deLeon, 2007). A positively constructed group, for example the military, is deserving of benefits, whereas a welfare queen (single mother, usually of color) is unequivocally undeserving of benefits.
(Petridou, 2014:S17)

And as with ACF, they have found it takes a decade to shift perceptions.

On Punctuated Equilibrium she observes that

In order to rid the framework from the pitfalls of the metaphor, Prindle (2012) suggests renaming it “punctuated incrementalism”; indeed Howlett and Migone (2011) find incrementalism to be very much a salient component of PET.
(Petridou, 2014:2S19)

There’s very useful stuff on Multiple Streams Framework (Kingdon)

As per Cairney 2013 above, the term entrepreneur has gotten smudgy

The policy entrepreneur emerged as a complementary component of broader theories of policy change including the ones reviewed in this article (Mintrom & Norman, 2009). PE has suffered from conceptual imprecision because the term “entrepreneur” has traveled across disciplines, because it has been used with many modifiers (policy, public, political etc.), and also because PE is as much about the individual actor (entrepreneur) as it is for the process (entrepreneurship).
(Petridou, 2014:S22)


Strategies are the focus of Brouwer and Biermann (2011). How do policy entrepreneurs manage commons resources? Brouwer and Biermann (2011) identify four types of strategies in their research of Dutch water management: attention and support seeking strategies, linking strategies, relational management strategies, and arena (venue) strategies. They argue that use of these strategies by policy entrepreneurs at the right timing could influence the development of policy streams.
(Petridou, 2014:S22 emphasis added)

She then turns to ‘Evolving Trends’ and mentions ‘Institutional grammar’ and then ‘Narrative Policy Framework’.  This might sit alongside/within/above some kind of discursive institutionalism, perhaps?  Dunno.

The Narrative Policy Framework is an evolving theory of the policy process investigating the empirical role of policy narratives in the policy process and whether policy narratives influence policy outcomes. Policy narratives are strategic stories with a plot, villains and good guys, and a moral lesson (Jones & McBeth, 2010; Shanahan, McBeth, &Hathaway, 2011). They can also include adjuvant components such as a plot and a causal mechanism (CM), and narrative strategies, such as the distributions of costs and benefits and policy beliefs
(Shanahan, Jones, McBeth, & Lane, 2013).
(Petridou, 2014:2S24)

There is some dead useful looking stuff (#notforthesis)  on “Collective Learning Framework”

In two recent articles, Gerlak and Heikkila (2011) and Heikkila and Gerlak (2013) build a conceptual approach to define and understand learning at the collective level, a concept which remains fuzzy despite the amount of literature devoted to it. First, Gerlak and Heikkila (2011) used the extreme case of the Everglades restoration program to define the different aspects of learning in policy making and unpack the factors which inform it. Their 2013 work refines this approach. Heikkila and Gerlak (2013) address three main challenges: first, they define and distinguish between the process of learning and the products of learning; second, they investigate the differences between individual and group learning; and third, they identify factors fostering or inhibiting learning.
(Petridou, 2014:2S25)

And finally, stuff on “Beyond subsystems: Policy Regimes”

Not quite sure where this fits;  Aren’t these just instrument coalitions?

The regimes approach centers on the interplay between policies and politics (May & Jochim, 2013) rather than being a tool aimed at measuring (policy) change. Moving beyond subsystems, policy regimes are conceptualized as “the governing arrangements for addressing policy problems” and may include “institutional arrangements, interest alignments, and shared ideas” (May & Jochim, 2013, p. 428). Ideas are the glue that holds the regimes together, much like beliefs are the glue of subsystems. The policy regimes perspective starts with the policy problem; as a descriptive lens it works backwards to map the governing arrangements for addressing this problem. As an analytical lens, the policy regimes proposes that the stronger the regime, the greater the levels of policy legitimacy, coherence, and durability.
(Petridou, 2014:2S25)

To read for the thesis
Brouwer, Stijn, and Frank Biermann. 2011. “Towards Adaptive Management: Examining the Strategies of Policy Entrepreneurs in Dutch Water Management.” Ecology and Society 16 (4): 5.

Howlett, Michael, and Andrea Migone. 2011. Charles Lindblom Is Alive and Well and Living in Punctuated Equilibrium Land.” Policy and Society 30: 53–62.

Ingold, Karin, and Frédéric Varone. 2011. “Treating Policy Brokers Seriously: Evidence from the Climate Policy.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 22: 319–46.

Ingram, Helen, Anne L. Schneider, and Peter deLeon. 2007. “Social Construction and Policy Design.” In Theories of the Policy Process, ed. Paul A. Sabatier. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 93–126.

Jones, Michael D., and Mark K. McBeth. 2010. “A Narrative Policy Framework: Clear Enough to Be Wrong?” Policy Studies Journal 38 (2): 329–53.

Nohrstedt, Daniel. 2011. “Shifting Resources and Venues Producing Policy Change in Contested Subsystems: A Case Study of Swedish Signals Intelligence Policy.” Policy Studies Journal 39 (3): 461–84.

Prindle, David F. 2012. “Importing Concepts from Biology into Political Science: The Case of Punctuated Equilibrium.” Policy Studies Journal 40 (1): 21–43.

Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Mark K. McBeth, and Paul L. Hathaway. 2011. “Narrative Policy Framework: The Influence of Media Policy Narratives on Public Opinion.” Politics and Policy 39 (3): 373–400.

Shanahan, Elizabeth A., Michael D. Jones, Mark K. McBeth, and Ross R. Lane. 2013. “An Angel in the Wind: How Heroic Policy Narratives Shape Policy Realities.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (3): 453–84.

To read after the thesis

Gerlak, Andrea K., and Tanya Heikkila. 2011. “Building a Theory of Learning in Collaboratives: Evidence from the Everglades Restoration Program.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21: 619–44.

Heikkila, Tanya, and Andrea K. Gerlak. 2013. “Building a Conceptual Approach to Collective Learning: Lessons for Public Policy Scholars.” Policy Studies Journal 31 (3): 485–513.

Lubell, Mark. 2013. “Governing Institutional Complexity: The Ecology of Games Framework.” Policy Studies Journal 41 (3): 538–60.

Schneider, Anne, and Helen Ingram. 1993. Social Construction of Target Populations: Implications for Politics and Policy.” American Political Science Review 87 (2): 334–47.

And finally (though I should probably link it to another MSF extension paper that I read on the 26th April), Howlett et al.  This is another corker, aimed at combining insights from multiple streams and advocacy coalitions into policy cycle models of analysis (as you’d guess from the title.)

It hasn’t been published in dead tree format, so the pages refer to the pre-publication version, numbered 1 to 15….

So, they are setting out to do some combining (synthesising or complementarity, as per Cairney, 2013)

A pivotal feature of policy studies since the mid-1980s has been the development and use of several different analytical frameworks to help capture the main characteristics and dynamics of policy processes (Pump 2011). These frameworks are oriented toward moving beyond the particularities of policy-making processes in such a way as to guide investigators and help both students and practitioners make sense of the complex set of socio-political activities that constitute policy-making as well as its outputs and outcomes (Althaus et al. 2013; Cairney 2013; Howlett et al. 2009). However in their present state, these models contain contradictory elements and their use has led to many studies and scholars focusing upon or promoting one model over another in a process of ‘dueling analytical frameworks’.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 1)

They point out that both policy-making and so analysis of policy-making is  all very messy and complicated (Bismarck’s sausages would be a GREAT name for a policy wonkery blog, imho).

Their article argues that if models are to advance thinking about policy-making, then both MSF and ACF approaches

“need revision if they are to apply to the post-agenda setting and post-formulation activities involved in policy development and implementation. Specifically, this article argues that a reconciliation of streams, advocacy coalition, and cycles models only becomes possible once it is recognized that neither the multiple streams model nor the ACF, as presently constituted, can deliver fully functional frameworks capable of understanding the entirety of policy-making activity and behaviour.”
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 2-3)

“Cycle” models have been around a long time, despite detractors

(e.g. Colebatch 2006; Sabatier 1991) who have argued that it presents an idealized image of sequential policy-making activity rarely encountered in practice,
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 3)

Yeah. Ibn Khaldun has published bugger all lately…

There’s a nice contrast of the relative strengths of the two approaches

Whereas Kingdon’s units of analysis for discovering the causes of stasis and change on the policy agenda were the heterogeneous forces and factors that converged upon Congress, Sabatier and his colleagues focused on political actors as the drivers of policy development. But rather than rely on the classic vehicle of pluralist group interaction as a mode of collective action (Truman 1971), or the amorphous issue network concept that had been proposed by Heclo (1977), Sabatier and Jenkins Smith created the ACF, an analytical structure in which like-minded actors formed competitive teams within each policy subsystem…. Although helpful in specifying who was involved in policy-making and how they interacted, however, the strength of the ACF formulation came at the expense of ignoring the decision-making process and reverting to a pre- Lasswellian ‘black box’ in which the inputs formulated by a successful coalition somehow were melded together to produce policy outcomes.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 5)

There’s good stuff (as per Mukherjee and Howlett) on the idea of adding two new streams – a “policy process stream” and  a “program stream” to the existing model.  To my untutored eye, these are helpful rather than gaudy/gratuitous.

The policy process stream when the three problem, politics, and policy streams coalesce temporarily in the typical ‘policy window’ fashion that he described. This intersection creates a new policy process stream that becomes the main or central pathway upon which other streams subsequently converge. In turn, critical junctures are created that set up the future impetus for policy deliberations and establish the initial conditions, which animate subsequent policy process advances (or retreats) essentially becoming the ‘choice’ stream mooted by Cohen, March, and Olsen.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 8 – emphasis added)

The program stream;

At this point the ‘policy’ stream separates from the main flow, which is comprised of the process, politics, and problem streams, and is now joined by a program stream composed of the actors and interests working to calibrate new program instruments (and integrating or alternating them with established ones) to generate new outputs.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 9)

FWIW, I think they’re right when they claim

The research possibilities involved in working with this new framework are enormous, once we begin to see the value in adapting and combining the core insights of stages, streams, and coalition approaches, rather than seeing them as mutually exclusive. A new synthesis allows us to meld together analytical approaches that focus on different stages of policy processes, the interplay of multiple forces that shape these processes, and the competition between different sets of actors (and beliefs) as they vie for influence.
(Howlett, et al., 2016: 9)

And it looks squiggly beautiful…

howlett et al 2016

To read for the thesis

Voß, J.-P. and A. Simons. 2014. ‘Instrument Constituencies and the Supply Side of Policy Innovation: The Social Life of Emissions Trading.’ Environmental Politics 23(5):735–754.

Wilder, M. and M. Howlett. 2014. ‘The Politics of Policy Anomalies: Bricolage and the Hermeneutics of Paradigms.’ Critical Policy Studies 8(2):183–202.