Framing unpopular policies and creating policy winners – the role of heresthetics

Drew_FaheyJoseph Drew and
Glenn Fahey

This blog post was originally published on the Discover Society – Policy and Politics blog on 5 June 2018.

Policy-makers sometimes find themselves in desperate predicaments when attempting to become policy winners – especially when they have previously sustained resounding losses on a given issue. In such situations, rhetorical efforts may have failed to persuade audiences and, yet, the status quo position may also be untenable. In our recent Policy & Politics article on ‘Framing unpopular policies and creating winners – the role of heresthetics’ (free to access until 30 June), we show how policy-makers in these kinds of desperate predicaments can still win, somewhat against the odds, by employing the art of political manipulation (the term for this is ‘heresthetic’, coined by the late William H. Riker). Specifically, we draw attention to the ‘dimension’ heresthetic – arguing that by changing the way an unpopular policy is framed, one can tap into latent attitudes conducive to one’s cause and thus structure the world so that one can win. We call practitioners of this art of heresthetic ‘herestheticians’Continue reading Framing unpopular policies and creating policy winners – the role of heresthetics

How majoritarianism endures in the structures of the UK’s devolved institutions

FelicityProfileFelicity Matthews, Co-Editor of Policy & Politics

This blog post was originally published on the Democratic Audit UK website on 11 May 2018.

This year, the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998 celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Few would disagree that the passage of these acts, which established the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales, was an important watershed in the United Kingdom’s majoritarian tradition. This milestone anniversary provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the extent to which devolution has delivered the ‘new politics’ that was widely anticipated; and in my recently published article in The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, I examine the extent to which devolution has ‘made a difference’ by systematically comparing the institutional architecture of the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales with that of Westminster.  Continue reading How majoritarianism endures in the structures of the UK’s devolved institutions

Are we to blame? Academics and the rise of populism

Matt FlindersMatthew Flinders

This blog post was originally published on the Oxford University Press Blog on 6 May 2018.

One of the great things about being on sabbatical is that you actually get a little time to hide away and do something that professors generally have very little opportunity to do – read books. As a result I have spent the last couple of months gorging myself on the scholarly fruits that have been piling-up on my desk for some time, in some cases years. I’ve read books on ‘slow scholarship’ (Berg and Seeber, 2016) and ‘How to be an academic super-hero’ (Hay, 2017); books on ‘radical approaches to political science’ (Eisfeld, 2012); brilliant books on The festival of insignificance (Kundera, 2015) and In Defence of Wonder (Tallis, 2012); and even novels on university life, such as Stoner (Williams, 2012). What fun it is to soak yourself in the literature! To swim from genre to genre, from topic to topic with a little more freedom to explore beyond your micro-specialism than is ever usually possible and, through this, to garner new insights.  Continue reading Are we to blame? Academics and the rise of populism

Diagnosing and assessing public policies: tips from the institutional analysis and development framework

Heikkila_AnderssonTanya Heikkila and
Krister Andersson

This blog is based on our recent article on policy design and the added value of the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework in the 2018 special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories.

Policy design is hard work. Policymakers often struggle to reach agreement on whether or how to create or adapt policies in response to issues that involve complex or multi-faceted problems (or solutions), or where deep-seated value disagreements over problems or solutions exist.  This raises the question: How can policymakers or analysts navigate and design effective policies around complex collective problems?  Continue reading Diagnosing and assessing public policies: tips from the institutional analysis and development framework

Using information processing theory to build a smarter government

Koski_WorkmanChris Koski and
Samuel Workman

Many people assume that the main problem faced by governments is an information deficit. However, the opposite is true. A surfeit of information exists and institutions have a hard time managing it.  At the same time, all the information that exists in defining problems may be insufficient. Institutions need to develop a capacity to seek out better quality information too.

In our recent research article in the special issue Practical Lessons from Policy Theories, we analyse studies of national and subnational information processing and policy change to identify potential bottlenecks of information and patterns of policy feedback, identifying lessons from this literature.  Continue reading Using information processing theory to build a smarter government

Narratives as tools for influencing policy change

Crow_JonesDeserai Crow and Michael Jones

Imagine. You are an ecologist. You recently discovered that a chemical that is discharged from a local manufacturing plant is threatening a bird that locals love to watch every spring. Now, imagine that you desperately want your research to be relevant and make a difference to help save these birds. All of your training gives you depth of expertise that few others possess. Your training also gives you the ability to communicate and navigate things such as probabilities, uncertainty, and p-values with ease.

But as NPR’s Robert Krulwich argues, focusing on this very specialized training when you communicate policy problems could lead you in the wrong direction. While being true to the science and best practices of your training, one must also be able to tell a compelling story.  Perhaps combine your scientific findings with the story about the little old ladies who feed the birds in their backyards on spring mornings, emphasizing the beauty and majesty of these avian creatures, their role in the community, and how the toxic chemicals are not just a threat to the birds, but are also a threat to the community’s understanding of itself and its sense of place.  The latest social science is showing that if you tell a good story, your policy communications are likely to be more effective.

This blog is based on our recent article on narrative as a tool for influencing policy change in the 2018 special issue on Practical Lessons from Policy Theories.  Continue reading Narratives as tools for influencing policy change

Strategies for collaborating in fragmented governments

Swann_KimWilliam L. Swann and Seo Young Kim

Whether protecting a watershed, recovering from a natural disaster, or facilitating international trade, governments often need to collaborate to achieve policy goals. But resolving complex problems across fragmented jurisdictional landscapes involves overcoming significant collective action barriers.

Governments, like individuals, have an incentive to free ride on collective efforts and obtain benefits without contributing to the costs of public goods. For example, all governments in a region benefit from air pollution mitigation, but each government has an incentive to enjoy cleaner air without making the sacrifices to produce it. Continue reading Strategies for collaborating in fragmented governments