Category Archives: Governance

Policy & Politics event in the US: sponsored panel on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk

Nikos Zarariadis
Nikos Zarariadis

Policy & Politics sponsored an international symposium on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk in February 2016 convened by Editorial Advisory Board member Professor Nikolaos Zahariadis from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, US (pictured below) and Professor Tom Birkland  from North Carolina State University, US. You can read more about it in their article below.

While ambiguity is a fact of public life, scholarship on its implications for public policy is not yet well developed. The gap is particularly deep during periods of crisis because of rapid and turbulent change and the lack of adequate information and limited information processing capacities. We have a good understanding of the strategic use of ambiguity but do not fully comprehend its implications for creating winners and losers in public policy.

On February 28, 2016, Tom Birkland and Nikolaos Zahariadis convened a two-day symposium on ambiguity and its effects during crises. The symposium explored the implications of ambiguity on policy making as conceptualized through the multiple streams approach (MSA) during man-made crises and natural disasters. The approach draws inspiration from March and Olsen’s garbage can model of organizational choice and John Kingdon’s agenda setting framework. MSA contends there is a “right” (and “wrong”) time to propose solutions to pressing public problems. The likelihood of any one idea becoming official government policy has as much to do with when Continue reading Policy & Politics event in the US: sponsored panel on Ambiguity and Crisis: Disasters, Governance and Social Risk

Devolution to English cities is not sustainable without greater transparency and legitimacy in decision making

Sarah Ayres
Sarah Ayres

by Sarah Ayres, Chair, Political Studies Research Commission, Examine the role of ‘informal governance’ on devolution to England’s cities

That is the conclusion of the Political Studies Association’s Research Commission to examine the role of ‘informal governance’ on devolution to England’s cities. The Commission is chaired by Dr Sarah Ayres (University of Bristol), Board Member of the Regional Studies Association and Co-editor of Policy & Politics and has involved the following Commissioners – Paul Buddery (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Dr Jo Casebourne (Institute for Government), Tessa Coombes (University of Bristol), Ed Cox (Institute for Public Policy Research) and Mark Sandford (House of Commons Library).

The Commission is launching its report at a round table event at the Institute for Government on 3rd March 2016. The report offers some reflections on the process of decision making around the devolution deals to date. It draws on the shared learning and experiences of key actors involved to identify elements that have worked well and also potential areas for improvement. It concludes that the devolution agenda offers a real opportunity to empower local areas, boost economic productivity and improve public services. Yet, there is a danger that the initiative will falter in the absence of greater clarity around process and enhanced local ownership of decision making. Continue reading Devolution to English cities is not sustainable without greater transparency and legitimacy in decision making

The media and public accountability: mirror or spark?

Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs
Thomas Schillemans & Sandra Jacobs

by Thomas Schillemans and Sandra Jacobs

Europe currently faces the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Many European states are confronted with large numbers of migrants in need of immediate care, food and shelter. Responsible public agencies, such as the UK’s Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) in the Netherlands, face exceptionally complex challenges. A challenge that is aggravated by the fact that they are constantly criticized in the media and by politicians when things go wrong.

In our Policy & Politics article entitled Media and public accountability: typology and exploration, we explore the ways in which mass media are involved in public accountability processes by looking at examples of public sector organisations in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

In the Netherlands, for instance, COA was blamed for concocting unpleasant surprises for local governments when the organization decided to immediately direct large numbers of asylum seekers to their municipalities. A Dutch mayor called the situation ‘chaotic’: “The COA lost control of the temporary housing of refugees”, he said. COA was held accountable and had to explain its behaviour to politicians and Continue reading The media and public accountability: mirror or spark?

Social democracy after the Third Way: restoration or renewal?

Matthew Flinders
Matthew Flinders

By Matthew Flinders. This was originally published on the Oxford University Press blog.

An invitation from the British Library to give the first in a new public lecture series called “Enduring Ideas” was never a request I was going to decline. But what “enduring idea” might I focus on and what exactly would I want to say that had not already been said about an important idea that warranted such reflection? The selected concept was “democracy” and the argument sought to set out and unravel a set of problems that could – either collectively or individually – be taken to explain the apparent rise in democratic disaffection.

Such is the world we live in that a lecture is no longer a lecture but rapidly becomes a multi-media “artefact” and the beginning of a global discussion. I suppose this is probably not quite true of all lectures, I’ve been to quite a few that really do need to be forgotten, but I’m pleased to say that the intellectual ecosystem seems to have exploded in all sorts of ways that I could never have imagined. Continue reading Social democracy after the Third Way: restoration or renewal?

Does political control increase bureaucracies’ responsiveness to public pressures?

Saar Alon-Barkat & Sharon Gilad
Saar Alon-Barkat & Sharon Gilad

Nowadays, probably more than ever, bureaucratic organizations and senior civil servants are directly exposed to public pressures, including media coverage, public protest and shifts in public opinion. In our recent article in Policy & Politics entitled Political Control or legitimacy deficit? Bureaucracies’ symbolic response to bottom-up public pressures, we explore what makes a bureaucracy more or less attentive and responsive to bottom-up public pressures – a question that stems from our broader concern with the responsiveness of government institutions.

In our article, we suggest two possible explanations for bureaucracies’ attentiveness to public pressures. On the one hand, one might expect higher levels of political control to render bureaucracies more attentive to public pressures in order to preempt intervention by politicians who are reliant on public support. On the other hand, regulation scholars have suggested that autonomous bureaucratic organizations (such as independent regulatory agencies), which are subjected to lower degrees of political control, are nonetheless eager to display their attentiveness Continue reading Does political control increase bureaucracies’ responsiveness to public pressures?

Democracy without the State, by Mark Purcell

This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, https://pathtothepossible.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/democracy-without-the-state/ and is reused with kind permission.

Mark Purcell giving his keynote at the conference last month
Mark Purcell giving his keynote at the conference last month

Below is the text of the talk I just gave at the Policy & Politics conference in Bristol (England). As you can see, I was very conscious of the audience, which I was not quite sure I had a handle on, but which turned out, I think, to be a group of people who think a lot about government and policy, but do so very critically and intelligently. So my message, that we need to get serious about thinking democracy without the State, was in a sense a message “from beyond,” but one they were able to hear and engage with, even if they did not fully accept it. Also important to know is that the theme of the conference was “Democracy, Inequality, and Power.”

[The paragraphs in brackets were part of the talk, but they were offered as asides. Those with a “***SKIP***” tag were in fact left out.]

DEMOCRACY AGAINST, BEYOND, AND WITHOUT THE STATE

Introduction

When you find yourself on a list of plenary speakers like this one, in which all the others have really deep track records of academic achievement, you ask yourself what the heck you are doing here and what you can contribute. I don’t have their record, I am not a social scientist, I don’t study inequality, I am not even British.

I guess what I am is someone who has thought about and written some on democracy, on the idea and practices of democracy. So I thought what I would do today is offer a contribution along those lines. What I plan to do, we’ll see how it goes, is to introduce into the conference what I anticipate will be a minor current of thought. Continue reading Democracy without the State, by Mark Purcell

Can democracy survive?

IMG_3928by Tessa Coombes, PhD Researcher at Bristol University

For the final plenary session of the conference Prof. Andrew Gamble, from Cambridge University, took us back to the issue of democracy and its ability to survive and even thrive. We were reminded that for the first time in the modern state system authoritarian regimes are in retreat and representative democracy, in some form or other, is on the rise.

Representative liberal democracies have been described as the least admirable form of governance not least because of their inability to take difficult decisions and their short term thinking. Despite this, in the 20th century, representative democracy came to be seen as an ideal state. But it now seems we are in a time of transition, where there is a real disengagement and disillusionment with mainstream politics, where the choice is narrowing and where people are indifferent to their right to vote. This crisis of representative politics reflects a crisis of trust in our politics and politicians. Once more, despite this process, representative democracy Continue reading Can democracy survive?