Journal Manager, Policy & Politics
This week we pause our special issue blog series on ‘Taking Risks and Breaking New Frontiers in Policy & Politics‘ to showcase some of our just-published articles while they’re hot off the press. In this quarter’s highlights collection, we feature three articles that provide a range of insights from different perspectives on the complexities of policy making.
Our first article is entitled Robust, resilient, agile and improvisatory styles in policymaking: the social organisation of anomaly, risk and policy decay.
With a topical framing, the author of our first article Perri 6, observes that the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a rich opportunity for pundits who call for greater resilience in policymaking. Politicians are urged to be more fluid in their policymaking in response to constant change. Others call on policymakers to develop policy designs that can withstand shocks as a way of managing uncertainty. Through his erudite analysis, the author claims that we need to step back from the idea of policies themselves being resilient, robust, agile or improvisatory to see that policymakers’ decision-making styles drive these choices. He then explains how and why policymakers might adopt these styles, how they can conflict with each other and, crucially, how this can help us to understand their weaknesses and limitations. He concludes that the lesson for governments is that, rather than policymaking being an optimisation problem of picking some hybrid mix with the expectation of consistency, it is more of a viability one, in which some inconsistency and some risk of decay in styles over time must be accepted.
Our second article entitled An organisational approach to meta-governance: structuring reforms through organisational (re-)engineering engages with a similar concern. It starts with the premise that innovation in the public sector has climbed to the top of government agendas to make public administration flexible in the face of societal crises, uncertainties and surprises. The author, Jarle Trondal, argues that policy innovation can be performed capably by organisation designers directing deliberate reforms of the infrastructure of organisations, such as problem solving through organisational re-engineering and highlighting the impact of organisational characteristics on shaping innovation processes. The article concludes that such an organisational approach to meta-governance – structuring reforms through re-engineering – may both explain meta-governance and make it practically relevant for solving societal crises and uncertainties. This article contributes to policy design by focussing on the organisational factors that impact on it, and how it might help support innovation.
Our final article entitled How do policy transfer mechanisms influence policy outcomes in the context of authoritarianism in Vietnam? looks at how policy transfer mechanisms and contexts influence policy outcomes. Using the case of Vietnam, the author Hang Duong, observes that, while reform imperatives urge the government to seek lessons from the West, the context of an Asian authoritarian regime explains the prioritising of experience from similar settings like China and other Asian countries. Through her analysis, Duong explains how the pragmatic calculations of political actors in combination with the context of a one-party authoritarian state have led to policy transfer derived from contrasting meritocratic philosophies and models, resulting in a hybrid of convergence and divergence.
These findings resonate with the arguments about an “Asian way” of policy transfer. This is characterised by adaptive learning and pragmatic considerations. Policy adoption is also commonly partial and selective, and contingent on domestic context and calculations in terms of politics, culture, and socio-economic factors. The article reveals four clear features of policy transfer in Asian authoritarian regimes like Vietnam. Firstly, domestic political actors play a decisive role. Secondly which policies are adopted and to what extent is decided on the principle of not undermining the ideology or the ruling regime. Thirdly, components that may disadvantage endogenous power relations may be rejected with only the most compatible elements being selected. Fourthly, policy transfer is an evolving process rather than a one-off event. In this way, the article shows the nuances of Asian policy transfer and substantiates the call for more focus on policy transfer and its outcomes. In this way, the article provides an analytical framework for examining the influence of policy transfer on policy outcomes, thereby making a valuable contribution to the study of policy transfer in an Asian setting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about three of our most recent articles, which are all free to access until the end of April 2022. Please share them with your colleagues and students and send your feedback to the authors or us via the comments box below. We’d love to hear from you!
Highlights collection – free to access until 30th April 2022
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