Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Public policy analysis

Public policy analysis

Peter Knoepfel
Corinne Larrue
Frédéric Varone
Michael Hill
Copyright Date: 2007
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Public policy analysis
    Book Description:

    This book is an English version of a successful text* on public policy analysis originally written for policy practitioners in Switzerland and France. It presents a model for the analysis of public policy and includes examples of its application in everyday political-administrative situations. This English version introduces supplementary illustrations and examples from the United Kingdom. Structured and written accessibly for readers who may not have an academic background in the social sciences, Public Policy Analysis applies key ideas from sociology, political science, administrative science and law to develop an analytical framework that can be used to carry out empirical studies on different public policies. British scholars, practitioners and students are introduced all too rarely to ideas from the Francophone world, and this book will contribute to remedying that. It will be particularly relevant for students and practitioners of public administration.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-230-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Preface to the English edition
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    The recent evolution of western democracies is characterised by the myriad challenges currently facing public sector actors. These include:

    the reduction of budget deficits and structural debt;

    the maintenance of political control over the economy in the face of the increasing influence of globalisation processes;

    the fulfilment of increased public expectations with respect to the levels of services provided;

    the increasing competition between public authorities at local, regional and international level;

    the management of the redistribution conflicts associated with the long-term exclusion of certain social groups;

    the need for the more professional management of (increasingly) scarce public resources;

    the democratic...

  6. Part I Theoretical framework

    • ONE Theoretical perspectives on policy analysis
      (pp. 3-16)

      Policy analysis consists in the “study of the action of public authorities within society” (Mény and Thoenig, 1989, p 9). In terms of disciplines, a number of academic sectors have been and are associated with it. It was adopted as early as 1979 by Wildavsky (1979, p 15) in his plea for the development of this approach: “Policy analysis is an applied subfield whose contents cannot be determined by disciplinary boundaries but by whatever appears appropriate to the circumstances of the time and the nature of the problem”. Similarly, Muller (1990, p 3) mentions that “policy analysis is located at...

  7. Part II Keys to the analysis

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      In this second section, we present the prerequisites of our policy analysis model. We also define the concepts necessary to our analysis.

      More precisely, our approach focuses on the individual and collective behaviour of the actors involved in the different stages of a policy. Thus, we assume that the content and institutional characteristics of a public action (the variable to be explained) are the product of the interaction between the political-administrative authorities, on the one hand, and the social groups that cause and/or support the negative effects of the collective problem that the public action seeks to resolve (explanatory variables),...

    • TWO Public policy
      (pp. 21-38)

      All policies aim to resolve a public problem that is identified as such on the governmental agenda. Thus, they represent the response of the political-administrative system to a social reality that is deemed politically unacceptable.

      It should be noted here that it is the symptoms of a social problem that constitute the starting point for the realisation of its existence and of a debate on the need for a policy (for example, decline in the state of forests, drug-associated delinquency, high unemployment). At the initial stage of all public intervention, the actual causes of the collective problem have not yet...

    • THREE Policy actors
      (pp. 39-62)

      We take policy to mean a series of decisions or activities resulting from structured and recurrent interactions between different actors, both public and private, who are involved in various different ways in the emergence, identification and resolution of a problem defined politically as a public one.

      In this chapter, we focus on the types of actors concerned by policy, while following chapters will deal with the resources to which these actors have access in order to represent their interests (Chapter Four), on the one hand, and with the institutional context that influences their individual and collective behaviour (Chapter Five), on...

    • FOUR Policy resources
      (pp. 63-90)

      In this chapter, we present the resources that motivate public and private actors to assert their values and interests in the course of the different stages in the policy life cycle. In the traditional policy analyses, resources are generally considered as specific elements of politicaladministrative programmes (PAPs), or as means of action specific to actors’ efforts to resolve a collective problem.

      In reality, a policy is not created or realised in a void. From the outset, the available resources exert a significant influence on the intermediate and final results of a policy. Even before the first intervention plans have been...

    • FIVE Institutional rules
      (pp. 91-110)

      In Chapter Two we outlined the reasons why we believe it necessary to analyse the institutional rules that frame the interaction of policy actors. In this chapter we discuss how analysts working in the social sciences have explored the influence of institutional rules on individual behaviour and on public policies. We then present the definitions of institutions proposed by the different neo-institutionalist schools, as well as the various hypotheses that have been formulated to explain these institutional changes. Having completed this review of the literature, we then operationalise the concept of institutions so that it is directly applicable to the...

  8. Part III Analysis model

    • SIX Analysis model
      (pp. 113-124)

      Based on the keys to the analysis presented in the previous section, we interpret a public policy as a set of decisions and activities resulting from the interaction betweenpublicandprivate actors,whose behaviour is influenced by theresourcesat their disposal, thegeneral institutional rules(that is, the rules concerning the overall functioning of the political system) and specific institutional rules (that is, the rules specific to the area of intervention under scrutiny).

      The adoption of such an approach leads us to differentiate our analysis variables as follows:

      the specific scope and content – both substantive and institutional and...

    • SEVEN Political agenda setting
      (pp. 125-150)

      If, as defined in Chapter Two, public policies consist of a group of activities and decisions taken by different actors with a view to resolving a problem that is politically defined as public in nature, it is important first and foremost to look into the actual concept of ‘public problem’.

      In this chapter, we discuss the processes whereby asocialproblem is identified and then ‘thematicised’ as apublicproblem as well as the different characteristics ofagenda setting.According to our analytical model, the political definition of the public problem (PD) constitutes, in effect, the first product that the...

    • EIGHT Policy programming
      (pp. 151-186)

      The first product to be explained as part of the programming stage of a public policy is thepolitical-administrative programme(PAP). The PAP defines the legal bases for the objectives, intervention instruments and operational arrangements of the public action. This group of elements also incorporates decisions on the administrative process and organisation of the implementation of the policy, that is, thepoliticaladministrative arrangement(PAA) that is understood here as the second product to be explained. The PAP then partly (pre)defines the intermediary acts of the policy, that is, the decisions concerning theaction plans(APs) that define the priorities of...

    • NINE Policy implementation
      (pp. 187-220)

      The analysis of policy implementation involves the researcher and practitioner in what often constitutes the most complex and rich part of a public policy process. In effect, this phase of the ‘policy life cycle’ brings about a direct relationship between the public actors of the political-administrative arrangement (PAA), the target groups, the end beneficiaries and third-party groups (positively and negatively affected third parties). In this analysis considerable attention is given to target groups. Where the distinctions between target groups, beneficiary groups and third parties are less clear, or not applicable to the argument, the loose expression ‘affected groups’ is used...

    • TEN Evaluating policy effects
      (pp. 221-250)

      A policy aims to resolve a social problem that has been defined as politically relevant to the public arena (see Chapter Seven). Once it has been programmed and implemented (see Chapters Eight and Nine), a policy is – or should be – subject to systematic evaluation. During this final stage of the policy life cycle, the analyst focuses on the effects generated by the state measures. In concrete terms, this means establishing the benefits and costs of policy, including where applicable whether groups have effectively modified their behaviour. In summary, policy evaluation involves the empirical testing of the validity of the causality...

    • ELEVEN Research and working hypotheses
      (pp. 251-272)

      This chapter recapitulates the main analytical dimensions previously identified for the definition of the six products of a public policy found in political-administrative and social reality (see Chapters Seven to Ten). In this context, particular emphasis is placed on the complementary nature of the substantive and institutional content of these products. Based on this synoptic view, we will now present three possible ‘access points’ for the formulation of working hypotheses to be tested in the course of an empirical analysis of the explanatory factors behind these six policy products. In doing this, we make direct reference to the logic of...

    • TWELVE Conclusion
      (pp. 273-288)

      This review of the arguments and cases discussed throughout the book is primarily intended to prompt researchers and practitioners working in the area of policy analysis and management to revisit the arguments presented, develop them further, complement them with other theoretical approaches and apply them in actual analysis situations. Thus, we present some reflections on the strengths (Section 12.1) and weaknesses (Section 12.2) of our theoretical concepts and their application in concrete cases. Finally, we describe two possible future directions for the development of policy analysis (Section 12.3), that is, governance and institutional regimes.

      Based on our experience in teaching...

  9. References
    (pp. 289-314)
  10. Index
    (pp. 315-317)