Tag Archives: Ishani Mukherjee

#Awalkinthepark – Islands in the Stream #Kingdon  #MultipleStreams

So, these two probably could have been better clumped with the Brunner article (see last post) because they are trying to use/modify the famous “Multiple Streams Framework” of John Kingdon.

Winkel, G. and Leipold, S. 2016. Demolishing Dikes: Multiple Streams and Policy Discourse Analysis. Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 44, (1), pp.108-129.

Mukherjee, I. and Howlett, M. 2015. Who Is a Stream? Epistemic Communities, Instrument Constituencies and Advocacy Coalitions in Public Policy-Making. Politics and Governance, Vol. 3, (2), pp.65-75.

Winkel and Leipold undertake

“a systematic assessment of the MSF’s core elements from the perspective of policy discourse analysis. Through an understanding of “streams” as discursive patterns, and policy discourses as (historical) couplings of the streams, a new and theoretically consistent interpretation of streams and likely connections between them is offered. One specific focus is on Kingdon’s concept of policy entrepreneurship and how it relates to ideas of agency in discourse analysis. Drawing on the recently proposed Discursive Agency Approach, we discuss how concepts such as subject positions in discourses, agent subjectivization via the dialectic interplay of individual characteristics and structural forces, and discursive practices and strategies relate to and can possibly complement the MSF.”

(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:108)

They use Hajer’s work, of course –

Hajer conceives a policy discourse as “an ensemble of ideas, concepts, and categories through which meaning is given to social and physical phenomena, and which is produced and reproduced through an identifiable set of practices” (Hajer, 2005, p. 300). Hence, a policy discourse is, on one hand, an interpretive scheme (a structure) that transforms experiences into “truth” and as such, exerts power by means of a dominant perception of truth. On the other hand, it has a process dimension. It is produced through agents and, consequently, constantly subject to change. This twofold character of a discourse as both structure and practice—and the resulting tension between stability (structures) and dynamic (practices)—is the essence of the policy discourse concept.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:112)

There’s some mention of counter-stories (p. 113) but this is something I am going to have to do (gasp) some thinking about myself…

My observation about the ‘naturalness’ of certain policies swimming to the top of the policy primeval soup in Brunner (2008) is referenced-

Second, the policy stream encompasses the policy primeval soup, in which a continuous evolutionary process occurs through the (re-)combination of free-floating policy ideas and a subsequent selection process that determines which policy ideas survive and which die out. According to Kingdon, this political selection process is guided by rather distinct selection criteria, which he outlines based on his empirical work.
(Winkel and Liepold, 2016:115, my emphasis)

Well, I clearly have some further reading to do…

Winkel and Leipold  point out the costs of trying to change the system from within (besides the 20 years of boredom)

Constructing (or negating) problems and problem solutions against the logic of such hegemonic societal value discourses comes with high political costs, if it is possible at all. A lack of persuasiveness not only weakens the chances of problems and solutions to survive on the agenda but also dilutes the power of those that back a hopeless case.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:116)

Winkel and Leipold want to fill in the terrain around Kingdon’s three ‘streams’

Caused either by a dramatic increase of the water level and turbulences in the stream (i.e., a significant increase in discursive practices through an evolving debate) or by the occurrence of a disturbance or obstacle (an event) that affects the direction of the flow (i.e., the way policymakers talk about issues), a flood (the “critical time” [Kingdon, 2003, p. 88]) dramatically increases the likelihood of stream convergence.

Once the forces of erosion have broken down the dividing dikes, streams can converge; a new policy may be born, requiring new (institutionally sedimented) dikes (see below) in response to the changed flow of the streams. Hence, policy windows are akin to periods of strong erosive potential in one or more of the streams, resulting in the chance to connect these previously divergent streams by processes of avulsion.

The metaphor of flooding and breaking dikes not only connects nicely to Kingdon’s portrayal of policy windows as “waves” coming down the problem or politics stream but also to his concept of a “tipping point” that puts an idea on the agenda.

Once the tipping point is reached, the dike breaks. In this way, the meander and dike metaphor is suitable to explain the occurrence of significant shifts after long periods of relative stability (the equilibrium, see Baumgartner, Jones, & Mortensen’s [2014], seminal work pointing at a similar interrelation of stabilizing institutions and mobilizing practices). In line with the picture of stream erosion, the equilibrium is, however, never static. Rather, it mimics steady gradual change—sometimes reduced to a minimum through institutionalized (concrete) shores.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:118)

They

“conceive the streams as flowing through a discursive terrain structured by heights and valleys. This topography constrains the scope for discursive (stream) erosion: policy discourses (linking problems to solutions) are the valleys that were formed through successful (historical) couplings of distinct streams.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:119)

And that’s where the ‘critical conjunctures’ (to use an historical institutionalism term) come in –

Coming back to the metaphor of meanders and dikes, discourses that stretch across the problem and policy streams are the weak points in the topography—the predetermined channel through which the flood will flow once the dike breaks. These form the “critical junctures” (Kingdon, 2003, p. 87) where the streams can converge. In the neoliberal governance discourse, for instance, a social or physical event presented as a case of state failure and incomplete markets allows connections to related (market) solutions in the policy stream, whereas other presentations cannot achieve such connections using this discursive streambed. Only problematizations that are digestible within the specific logic of this discourse can be connected to the specific policy (solution) stream of this discourse—using the specific valley that this discourse creates.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:119)

So what kind of leviathan/great man/deus ex machina can do this sort of thing?  (Asides from the distinction between tortoises and carpe diemers)?  Well, as Fligstein notes, you need social skills up the wazoo.  Winkel and Leipold add this

certain characteristics of a discourse agent. In a previous publication, we distinguish individual skills (e.g., rhetoric and diplomatic skills, intelligence, diligence, education, knowledge of an issue, commitment, experience) and positional characteristics (e.g., professional position, membership and position within a political organization, credibility, mandate to act/make decisions, material capabilities/ resources, ecological/social situation with which actors are faced, connection to discursive structures) (Leipold and Winkel, 2013). These characteristics largely mirror the skills and resources Kingdon (2003) attributes to policy entrepreneurs. In contrast to Kingdon, however, a policy discourse perspective considers these characteristics not as given but as constituted through an interplay of individual abilities with the structural attributes of a specific subject position in the discourse.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:121)

And the skills you need for agenda setting are not the ones that will help with policy formation and policy implementation and evaluation, now are they?

And anyway, you have to be doing the softening up work beforehand.

Kingdon indicates several examples from a rich repertoire of strategies in which entrepreneurs must engage to achieve successful coupling. In all of these, timing is essential (see also Herweg, 2013; R€ub, 2006). Before a policy window opens, entrepreneurs must already be engaged in preparatory work, the rhetorical “softening up” (Kingdon, 2003, pp. 128, 141) of the political climate for a policy proposal. Logical connections to be made at the time the window opens must be prepared discursively in advance.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:122)

Policy entrepreneurs need to construct story lines, may need to engage in emotionalization and polarization, and strategies of exclusion, which are essential to the process of coupling as they restrain complexity into manageable story lines (Winkel and Leipold, 2016:123).  There’s a need for normative power, and re-a and de-issuing policies.  What’s these?

Re- and de-issuing refers to (first) the de-coupling of a policy problem from a certain policy solution. For instance, in an analysis of policymaking related to the implementation of the U.S. Legal Timber Protection Act (Leipold & Winkel, 2015), we found that the timber trade associations and retailers opposing the new act (which prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and timber products on the U.S. market, and as such increases the obligation to apply due care) aimed to strategically reframe the policy problem away from illegal logging toward a case of government overreach. This (first) de-issuing and (then) re-issuing was launched to subsequently attack the policy solution, that is, the Legal Timber Protection Act.
Re- and re-issuing can also occur across policy domains…
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:123-4).

There’s also ‘discourse shopping’ –

“The strategic reformulation of problems and possible solutions in response to changing political discourses

(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:124)

And finally spillovers across domains –

policy discourses and agents developing similar story lines in different policy domains may actually facilitate interconnection. For instance, the aforementioned neoliberal market governance discourse has produced similar story lines and subject positions in distinct policy domains. As Kingdon points out, spillovers need appropriate category constructions, which is exactly what discourse agents may perform using the repertoire of such a specific policy discourse in different policy domains.
(Winkel and Leipold, 2016:124)

i.e. the universal acid of ‘the market’…

To read
Jones, Michael D., Holly L. Peterson, Jonathan J. Pierce, Nicole Herweg, Amiel Bernal, Holly Lamberta Raney, and Nikolaos Zahariadis. 2016. “A River Runs Through It: A Multiple Streams Meta-Review.” Policy Studies Journal 44 (1): 13–36.
Petridou, Evangelia. 2014. “Theories of the Policy Process: Contemporary Scholarship and Future Directions.” Policy Studies Journal 42: 12–32. doi:10.1111/psj.12054.

 

Mukherjee and Howlett have a similar improve-the-Multiple-Streams-Framework agenda. Specifically, they want to disaggregate the notion of the policy entrepreneur who is able (with some luck) to create a ‘policy window’. Their

article argues that the policy world Kingdon envisioned can be better visualized as one composed of distinct subsets of actors who engage in one specific type of interaction involved in the definition of policy problems: either the articulation of problems, the development of solutions, or their enactment. Rather than involve all subsystem ac-tors, this article argues that three separate sets of actors are involved in these tasks: epistemic communities are engaged in discourses about policy problems; instrument constituencies define policy alternatives and instruments; and advocacy coalitions compete to have their choice of policy alternatives adopted.
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:65)

They observe that

Many attempts at extending the MSF model beyond agenda-setting have been less than successful in matching or describing policy empirics involved in policy formulation and be-yond because they have inherited from Kingdon only very weak depictions of what is a stream and, more to the point, of whom it is composed (Howlett et al., 2015).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:67)

Policy entrepreneurs look powerful when they’ve pushed at open doors, but

They are “‘surfers waiting for the big wave’ not Poseidon-like masters of the seas” (Cairney & Jones, 2015, p. 5).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:68)

Mukherjee and Howlett point to the work of Knaggard, who has

“argued that a single notion of entrepreneurship is misplaced and rather sees the need for at least a second more loosely de-fined type of “problem broker” emerging out of the problem stream to popularize or highlight a specific problem frame. This kind of actor, she argues, has a primary interest in framing policy problems and having policymakers accept these frames, thereby conceptual-ly distinguishing problem framing “as a separate process” from policy entrepreneurship and “enabling a study of actors that frame problems without making policy suggestions”, unlike traditional notions of policy entrepreneurs (Knaggård, 2015, p. 1).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:68)

So, alongside ‘epistemic communities’ (in the problem stream), they import another term –

a second group of actors, “instrument constituencies”, whose focus is much less on problems than on solutions. Instrument constituencies is a term used in the comparative public policy field to describe the set of actors involved in solution articulation, independently of the nature of the problem to be addressed (Voss & Simons, 2014). Such constituencies advocate for particular tools or combinations of tools to address a range of problem areas and hence are active in the “policy” stream King-don identified, one that heightens in activity as policy alternatives and instruments are formulated and combined to address policy aims.
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:70)

As they observe, think tanks (a current obsession of mine),

fall into this category, as they provide policymakers with “basic in-formation about the world and societies they govern, how current policies are working, possible alternatives and their likely costs and consequences” (McGann, Vi-den, & Rafferty, 2014, p. 31).
(Mukherjee and Howlett, 2015:70)

And they bring it all together very very neatly with this figure, which probably will not mean enough to you if you haven’t been able to read the literature (because time, because paywalls).  I will be re-reading this soonish…

policy streams

To read

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, 41(1), 1-21.
Craft, J., & Howlett, M. (2012). Policy formulation, governance shifts and policy influence: Location and content in policy advisory systems. Journal of Public Policy, 32(2), 79-98.
Herweg, N., Huß, C., & Zohlnhöfer, R. (2015). Straightening the three streams: Theorising extensions of the multiple streams framework. European Journal of Political Research, 54(3), 435-449.