Incrementalism is a model of the policy process advanced by Charles Lindblom, who views rational decision-making as impossible for most issues due to a combination of disagreement over objectives and inadequate knowledge base. Policies are made instead through a pluralistic process of partisan mutual adjustment in which a multiplicity of participants focus on proposals differing only incrementally from the status quo. Significant policy change occurs, if at all, through a gradual accumulation of small changes, a process Lindblom calls seriality. For incrementalism to yield defensible policy outcomes, three conditions must be satisfied, all of which are far from automatic: 1) all, or at least most, social interests must be represented; 2) political resources must be balanced sufficiently among groups that no one actor or coalition dominates; and 3) political parties must be moderate and pragmatic, permitting a convergence to an ever-evolving political center.
While Lindblom sees nonincremental policy departures as extremely rare, subsequent research suggests that major policy departures may occur in response to crises or mass public arousal, through the development of a rationalizing breakthrough after many years of experience with policy implementation, or through a process of punctuated equilibrium. While many scholars and policymakers have argued that policymaking can and should be more rational, or that nonincremental alternatives may at times be superior to incremental ones, implementing nonincremental policy departures poses special problems and often gives way to incrementalism in the administrative process as public attention and support for strong action wanes. Nonincremental policy departures are more likely to be both enduring and effective where long experience with an issue leads to consensus on values and an adequate knowledge base, giving rise to a rationalizing breakthrough.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
The relationship between leadership and public administration would appear to be simple and straightforward: political leaders need administrations to execute their decisions, as without proper execution, even the most essential results of the leadership process will fail to have an impact on society. While the literature of political leadership continues to be more interested in such aspects as goal identification and definition, and the ways and means by which leaders manage to garner and maintain support for their agendas, the crucial importance of implementation in terms of leadership effectiveness has been explicitly acknowledged since the seminal work of James MacGregor Burns in 1978. The implementation process has turned into a research field of its own, which includes examining the different structures and cultures as well as more situational factors that shape the way, and to what extent, public policies are implemented. One established subfield of research in this wider area concerns the concrete nature of the political-administrative relationship, the degree to which both spheres are separated or integrated, and by what strategies and means politicians have sought to expand their control over the bureaucracy.
As public administrations have always been understood to be more than mere executing agencies, a second established string of political research on the nexus between leadership and administration relates to the leadership process in the bureaucracy. Large-scale reforms of the public sector have fundamentally transformed the leadership capacity of different actors within the bureaucracy. One of the cross-nationally observed effects is the extensive dispersion of leadership roles throughout the bureaucracy. These reforms of the public sector have had major implications in terms of democratic responsibility and accountability, and have provided new challenges to the perennial problem of bureaucratic leadership and democratic authority. In the more recent leadership literature, “administrative leadership” has been readily acknowledged as a distinct component of the wider concept of public leadership, alongside political leadership and civic leadership, with a particular set of functions.
Finally, there is a third dimension of the subject: political leaders and leadership scholars alike have more recently discovered the crucial role of administrative resources for the leadership process, both within and beyond the executive branch. Political “chief executives” across the family of advanced democracies have seen the administrative resources available to them grow over the past decades. These new resources, located at the center of the political executive, have been used for enhancing the leverage of political leaders towards other power holders in the system and their outreach capacity in ever more fragmented and mediatized governance contexts. While these dynamics have occasionally been characterized as elements of a universal trend towards “presidentialization,” comparative inquiries suggest that the ways in which the structural and behavioral dimensions of leadership at this level have developed continue to vary strongly between countries and types of government.
Annelise Russell, Maraam Dwidar, and Bryan D. Jones
Scholars across politics and communication have wrangled with questions aimed at better understanding issue salience and attention. For media scholars, they found that mass attention across issues was a function the news media’s power to set the nation’s agenda by focusing attention on a few key public issues. Policy scholars often ignored the media’s role in their effort to understand how and why issues make it onto a limited political agenda. What we have is two disparate definitions describing, on the one hand, media effects on individuals’ issue priorities, and on the other, how the dynamics of attention perpetuate across the political system. We are left with two notions of agenda setting developed independently of one another to describe media and political systems that are anything but independent of one another.
The collective effects of the media on our formal institutions and the mass public are ripe for further, collaborative research. Communications scholars have long understood the agenda setting potential of the news media, but have neglected to extend that understanding beyond its effects on mass public. The link between public opinion and policy is “awesome” and scholarship would benefit from exploring the implications for policy, media, and public opinion.
Both policy and communication studies would benefit from a broadened perspective of media influence. Political communication should consider the role of the mass media beyond just the formation of public opinion. The media as an institution is not effectively captured in a linear model of information signaling because the public agenda cannot be complete without an understanding of the policymaking agenda and the role of political elites. And policy scholars can no longer describe policy process without considering the media as a source of disproportionate allocation of attention and information. The positive and negative feedback cycles that spark or stabilize the political system are intimately connected to policy frames and signals produced by the media.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
The New Political Governance (NPG)—or alternatively the New Public Governance—is best understood as a heuristic model that allows us to empirically consider, compare, and contrast the evolution of democratic governance and public administration beyond the reforms associated with New Public Management. Contributors have focused on NPG as both a product of and a response to the challenges of a complex, pluralist state. Key pressures said to spur NPG include aggressive, 24/7 media; greater demands for transparency; an expansion in government oversight and accountability; an expansion of the advocacy industry; and, an increasingly polarized and volatile electorate. While these pressures are not, unto themselves, new, what is new is the response to them. Four primary elements characterize NPG as a response to these forces: the onset of the permanent campaign; full, or nearly full, integration of the range of activities associated with governing with constant concerns and tactics historically associated with campaigning; the expansion and elevation of the role of partisan political staff; politicization through the personalization of appointments to senior public service positions; and the shift in norms from a neutral, non-partisan public service to an expectation of promiscuous partisanship that demands enthusiasm for the agenda of the government of the day.
The NPG framework has not been without criticism. Theoretically, some have argued for greater precision in the core concepts of NPG (e.g., politicization). Others have questioned whether it is so much the behaviors themselves—expected or undertaken—or the more public context in which they occur that marks the real shift. Finally some have pointed out the lack of integration of exogenous influences in the NPG model. A number of commenters have pointed out the limited empirical evidence that has been provided to support the NPG model.
Anthony R. Zito
New policy instruments have come onto the policy agenda since the 1970s, but there is a real question as to whether the ideas behind the design of such tools are actually all that “new” when you assess the role of the policy instrument in its particular institutional and policy context. Taking Hood’s 1983 categorization of instruments as tools that manipulate society to achieve public goals via nodality (information), authority, treasure (finance), or organization, we can find instances where innovations in these areas pre-date the 1970s. Nevertheless, the mention of these instruments in international organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and national institutions and debates as the means for both improving governance and protecting economic efficiency have increased in light of a number of interacting trends: the rise of neo-liberal and new management ideologies, the increasing perception of a number of wicked problems (e.g., climate change) and nested, politically sensitive problems (e.g., health and welfare policy), a rethinking of the role of the state, and other reasons. A typology is offered for differentiating changes and innovation in policy instruments. There have been some very notable and complex policy instruments that have reshaped politics and public policy in a particular policy sector: a notable example of this is emissions trading systems, which create market conditions to reduce emissions of climate change gases and other by-products. Information and financial instruments have become more prominent as tools used to achieve policy aims by the state, but equally significant is the fact that, in some cases, it is the societal actors themselves that are organizing and supporting the management of an instrument voluntarily. However, this obscures the fact that a much more significant evolution of policy instruments has come in the area that is associated with traditional governing, namely regulation. The reality of this “command and control” instrument is that many historical situations have witnessed a more flexible relationship between the regulator and the regulated than the term suggests. Nevertheless, many OECD political systems have seen a move towards “smart” or flexible regulation. In promoting this new understanding of regulation, it is increasingly important to see regulation as being supplemented by, supported by, and sometimes reinforcing new policy instruments. It is the integration of these “newer” policy instruments into the regulatory framework that represents perhaps the most significant change. Nevertheless, there is some reason to question the real impact new policy instruments have in terms of effectiveness and democratic legitimacy.
Johabed G. Olvera and Claudia N. Avellaneda
As one of the reforms supported by the New Public Management movement, Performance Management Systems (PMSs) have been implemented worldwide, across various policy areas and different levels of government. PMSs require public organizations to establish clear goals, measure indicators of these purposes, report this information, and, ultimately, link this information with strategic decisions aimed at improving agencies’ performances. Therefore, the components of any PMS include: (1) strategic planning; (2) data collection and analysis (performance measurement); and (3) data utilization for decision-making (performance management). However, the degree of adoption and implementation of PMS components varies across both countries and levels of government. Therefore, in understanding the role of PMSs in public administration, it is important to recognize that the drivers explaining the adoption of PMS components may differ from those explaining their implementation. Although the goal of any PMS is to boost government performance, the existent empirical evidence assessing PMS impact on organizational performance reports mixed results, and suggests that the implementation of PMSs may generate some unintended consequences. Moreover, while worldwide there is a steady increase in the adoption of performance metrics, the same cannot be said about the use of these metrics in decision-making or performance management. Research on the drivers of adoption and implementation of PMSs in developing countries is still lacking.
Michael Mintrom and Joannah Luetjens
Policy entrepreneurs are energetic actors who work with others in and around policymaking venues to promote significant policy change. In so doing, they exhibit well-documented regularities both in their personal dispositions and in the strategies they undertake. Policy entrepreneurs are ambitious in pursuit of a cause. They display sociability and exhibit high levels of social acuity. To secure credibility within specific policy circles, they draw on their past accomplishments, their professional connections, and whatever power or prestige they enjoy in their current positions. They are tenacious. In promoting significant policy change, policy entrepreneurs deploy several strategies. These include framing problems and redefining policy solutions, using and expanding networks, creating advocacy teams and coalitions, leading by example, and scaling up advocacy efforts to expand the scope of policy change. Even as they frequently conform to these observed regularities of disposition and strategy, policy entrepreneurs display diversity in their policy interests, where they operate, and how they engage in advocacy efforts. Studies to date have focused on policy entrepreneurs in domestic policy settings. Recent studies have started to explore the actions of policy entrepreneurs at the international level.
We frequently employ analogies such as a leaking roof or finishing last in a ranking to illustrate that there is a serious problem requiring attention. Unfortunately, policy realities are far more complex and less obvious since policymakers do not benefit from objective measures or clear signals akin to having water dripping over their head to indicate the presence of a problem. In fact, they face a plethora of policy actors constantly engaged in defining policy problems for them based on competing frames of references.
The term “policy problems” evokes questions of what makes a social issue a policy problem, but it also raises questions regarding whether problems can actually be solved via a public response and how. Policy problems occupy a crucial role in policy studies, if not for the simple reason that political authorities are unlikely to alter or create policies without the presence of problems. As such, policy problems occupy an important place in popular theoretical frameworks frequently employed in the field of public policy. The formulation of policy problems is at the heart of the punctuated-equilibrium theory since these can result in the creation of new political coalitions seeking transformative policy change. In the social construction of target populations approach, the ways in which the public perceives particular subgroups or subpopulations dictate our understanding of policy problems and the types of instruments to deploy. Frameworks for policy feedback assume that current policies structure the formulation of policy problems along the lines of altering existing policies. In the multiple-streams theoretical framework, policy problems are part of a toolkit used to validate the use of already made solutions by policy entrepreneurs seeking the right opportunity for implementation.
A thorough treatment and analysis of policy problems exist within the policy design literature. Scholars operating within this tradition have emphasized the individual characteristics of policy problems and, as importantly, how these matter when it is time to enact solutions. Characteristics of problems, such as causality and severity, are key elements in the identification and formulation of policy problems and their likelihood to feature prominently in the policy agenda of governmental actors. Additional elements, such as the divisibility of policy problems and the extent to which these problems can be monetarized, matter in assessing the possibility of enacting solutions.
This raises the fundamental question of whether policy problems can actually be resolved. Mature policies are the norm in industrialized countries, and these are increasingly subject to international agreements. Consequently, there are, for example, many more interdependencies, which have led to the reemergence of wicked-problems analyses. However, a substantial number of contributions have associated complexity with wicked problems, raising questions surrounding their intrinsic qualities and the danger of conceptual stretching.
Transboundary haze pollution affects about half of the countries in Southeast Asia with varied intensities on an almost annual basis. Haze not only affects visibility, but also causes widespread health problems, transportation disruptions, and other socioeconomic issues. This haze, and the fires that cause it, has been a key topic for environmental politics research in the region since the late 1990s. This has largely been driven by one overarching objective: how to prevent haze from returning in the following years. However, conditions on the ground (mostly in Indonesia and in the larger Southeast Asian region) have been changing and evolving drastically. This has resulted in a very dynamic research agenda that has to keep up with these changes.
Within the context of environmental politics, fires and haze can be viewed through the broad lens of national interest. There is a strong link between the severity of haze and the burgeoning agribusiness sector in the region: that of oil palm in particular. Oil palm is a very important crop in the region, with Indonesia and Malaysia making up almost 90% of total global palm oil output. Hence, national and business interest theories have often been used as a framework for research in this area, with commercial oil palm plantations often being the unit of analysis. This includes research by this author, using the patronage politics framework. However, this has been called to question lately as these plantations face increasing market pressure to act more sustainably. A new group of actors that have since been highlighted are smallholders, either independent or in contract with larger plantations. There is potentially much to be uncovered with regard to the relationships between smallholders and commercial plantations, and how this affects patterns of fire use and global sustainability issues.
Related to this is the ever-evolving collection of local, regional, and national policies (and related enforcement issues) over land and fire use in Indonesia. One key area of contention is the use of peatlands. Fires on peat produce the thick, sooty smoke that travels across national boundaries, and are notoriously hard to put out. Political research in this area is heavily framed by a tough debate between the scientific community and socioeconomic concerns. While peatlands play an important role in the global climate change balance, at the same time, these peat areas face immense pressure for development fueled by the scarcity of land.
The regional context has also been an important theme for haze research. Haze primarily affects the Southern Southeast Asian subregion. And the major players of the palm oil sector also come from this region. The Indonesian palm oil sector is a vibrant combination of Malaysian, Singaporean, and local companies. And ASEAN has been the hub of cooperation and mitigation activities over haze. Hence, many scholars have searched for answers at the regional level. However, new national developments like Singapore’s Transboundary Haze Pollution Act suggest that countries may be losing confidence with regional efforts, which may be an indicator for future directions for solutions as well.
In a multilevel governance system such as the European Union (EU) policy processes at one level may create challenges and dilemmas at lower levels. Multilevel governance involves a multiplicity of regulatory regimes and succeeding governance ambiguities for national actors. These regulatory challenges and ensuring governance dilemmas increasingly affect contemporary European public administration. These challenges and dilemmas are captured by the term turbulence. The inherent state prerogative to formulate and implement public policy is subject to an emergent and turbulent EU administration. Organized turbulence is captured by the supply of independent and integrated bureaucratic capacities at a “European level.”
Throughout history (1952 onwards) the EU system has faced shifting hostile and uncertain environments, and responded by erecting turbulent organizational solutions of various kinds. Studying turbulence opens an opportunity to rethink governance in turbulent administrative systems such as the public administration of the EU.