[Originally posted on The Policy Press Blog, 23/12/10]
The analysis of continuity and change is a preoccupation for scholars of the policy process. While a range of frameworks have been proposed, it would be fair to say that institutionalist approaches are currently flavour of the month. A long-standing challenge for historical institutionalism, however, is an asymmetry in its explanatory power. While plausible accounts of stability and continuity have been offered – invoking notions such as path dependency and lock in – providing credible accounts of policy change has proved more challenging.
Recent debate has called for a move “beyond continuity”. The idea of agents exploiting ambiguity within institutions has been proposed as one way forward. Another focus of attention is the role of ideas and how they might be deployed strategically by political actors to achieve change. We are even encouraged to look to a new – discursive – institutionalist approach. [Read more...]