Practical Lessons from Policy Theories: a new agenda

Weible workshop 2Professors Chris Weible and Paul Cairney were the successful applicants for our 2019 special issue call for proposals. This blog post summarises a recent workshop held in Colorado on their topic Practical Lessons from Policy Theories by way of presaging some of the key research themes they will pursue in their special issue.

Policy theories provide profound lessons for people trying to understand and engage with the policy process. As policy scholars we often take them for granted, but for non-specialists they can represent a new way of thinking. So, sharing these insights helps scholars and practitioners. Explaining our theories clearly gives us a new way to take stock of policy theory: how does it help us think about and act within the policy process?

That’s why we asked a group of experts to describe the ‘state of the art’ in their field and the practical lessons that they offer. Continue reading

Sneak preview of October 2015 edition!

Sarah Brown

by our Journal Manager, Sarah Brown

Here’s a sneak preview of our October edition which will be published at the end of this month. Read on to scan this post for links to the articles in this forthcoming edition. If you have difficulty accessing the full text, it may be because your institution doesn’t subscribe to Policy & Politics. If that’s the case, do try our free trial or recommend the journal to your librarian.


Bob Jessop
Bob Jessop

Opening with a tour d’horizon entitled Crises, crisis-management and state restructuring: what future for the state?, Bob Jessop provides an insightful critical overview of what constitutes ‘the state’. In exploring a range of challenges to the state, some of which ‘condense’ into crises, he offers some thoughts on the future of the state, its management of crises and its challenges.


Peter Taylor-Gooby
Peter Taylor-Gooby

Continuing with the theme of the state, but with a specific focus on welfare, Peter Taylor-Gooby argues powerfully about the critical need for a welfare state, particularly in the context of harsh spending cuts which affect the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. In his article Making the Case for the Welfare State, he argues for more inclusive discourses around welfare, so reframing the way people think about work, reward and welfare.


Craig Berry
Craig Berry

Craig Berry’s article also addresses the issue of welfare. In Citizenship in a financialised society: financial inclusion and the state before and after the crash, he unpacks the ‘financial inclusion’ agenda which has been extensively promoted by successive UK governments. This agenda, he argues, can ‘empower’ individuals to play an enhanced role in ensuring their own financial security without relying on the state. However, in his subsequent critical analysis, he reveals its more covert aspects, such as the increased hidden risks that ‘financial inclusion’ exposes individuals to, in order to secure macroeconomic growth at all costs.

Allan Cochrane
Allan Cochrane

There is further exploration of the role of the state, this time in relation to the markets, in Allan Cochrane and Bob Colenutt’s piece on Governing the Ungovernable: spatial policy, markets and volume house-building in a growth region. They deconstruct the global rhetoric promoting the role of private markets in the provision of new housing and how it masks a more complex reality. They offer perceptive critical reflections on the consequences of policies that sanction ‘light touch’ state involvement in a housing development market shaped by the priorities of powerful corporate actors.

Deborah Wilson
Deborah Wilson

Exploring a wide-ranging array of other policy issues, this edition of Policy & Politics also includes an article by Gary Bridge and Deborah Wilson called Towards an interactive sociological rational choice approach to theorising class dimensions of school choice. By exploring the value of two established perspectives on decision-making, they develop a third framework for explaining how school choices are made by parents in the UK. They argue that using this new framework could result in policy benefits such as reducing social class differentials between schools and subsequent educational outcomes.

Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews
Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews

In a similar vein, Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews proffer a new approach for analysing middle class service use in their article on Bourdieu and the Big Society: empowering the powerful in public service provision? Building on Bourdieu’s theory of practice to theorise middle-class use of public services, they proffer a new theoretical framework and evidence how engagement with the state is a classed practice, producing benefits for those already empowered. They conclude with a call to action to policy scholars and practitioners to fully understand how advantage comes about, so that it can be challenged if it is unfair and leads to detrimental outcomes.

Jitske Verkerk, Geert Teisman and Arwin van Buuren
Jitske Verkerk, Geert Teisman and Arwin van Buuren

On a different topic, Jitske Verkerk, Geert Teisman and Arwin van Buuren explore the challenges of a complex, multi-governance setting in their article on Synchronising climate adaptation processes in a multilevel governance setting: exploring synchronisation of governance levels in the Dutch Delta. They analyse how the concept of synchronisation helps actors to connect multilevel governance processes that all have their own development, logic and self-organising dynamics. Using a case study based on the Dutch Delta, they demonstrate how the concept of synchronisation helps to understand the self-organising coordinative capacity within multilevel governance processes and produce a coherent adaptation strategy.

Keerty Nakray

Last but not least, Keerty Nakray explores the concept of gender budgeting and the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India in her article on Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India. In a thorough analysis of the Indian gender budget statement of 2005, Nakray demonstrates how incomplete the process was. It failed to take into account all the gender budget procedures that needed to be implemented in order to achieve tangible gender equality outcomes, despite being viewed as a progressive development by the transnational feminist movement. She highlights that gender budgets should be further consolidated within central administrative mechanisms to result in more gender sensitive approaches to governance.

That was rather a whistle-stop tour through this month’s edition packed with impactful research findings. I do hope it’ll encourage you to click through to read the articles themselves.

I hope you enjoy the issue. Feedback always welcome!

Policy & Politics July 2015 Special Issue: Scale and Scaling of Interactive Governance

David Sweeting
David Sweeting

by David Sweeting, Associate Editor, Policy & Politics

A truly international edition of Policy & Politics is now available electronically and in print. Comprising authors based in Europe, the US, Australia, Hong Kong, and Brazil, the contributions in this Special Issue illuminate issues pertaining to collaboration and networks, all under the banner of ‘scale and scaling of interactive governance’. Edited by Chris Ansell and Jacob Torfing – both plenary speakers at the 2014 Policy & Politics conference – the contributions in the volume individually and collectively live up to the journal’s aim to advance knowledge in social and public policy.

In the words of the guest editors the articles investigate ‘the scalar dimensions of collaborative governance and explore the challenges of Continue reading

Inspired by the Issue: John Hudson

John Hudson
John Hudson

By John Hudson, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy, University of York, UK

In the middle of a lengthy discussion of health reforms in his autobiography,  A Journey, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair bemoaned the nature of social scientific research, saying ‘I used to pore over the latest offerings from various highly reputable academic or scholarly quarters, and find nothing of any real practical help’. With his former party once again leaderless and in apparent turmoil following a second successive crushing election defeat, those bidding to follow in Blair’s footsteps as the Labour Party’s next leader will find much food for thought should they pore over the current issue of Policy & Politics.

Looking across Europe, but with a particular focus on the Danish Social Democrats, Christoph Arndt and Kees van Kerbergen explore what they describe as the ‘ill-fated political experience’ of the Third Way approach that Blair once championed. As well as documenting the rise and fall of what once seemed a winning political Continue reading

Latest issue out now – here’s a sneak preview…

The latest issue of Policy & Politics is now available on shelves and online.

Our April issue opens with an article on The Politics of Climate Change based on the inspirational Policy & Politics Annual Lecture given by the world renowned sociologist, Lord Anthony Giddens. During the lecture, which attracted over 800 people, Lord Giddens presented a clear and pressing case for the need for urgent action to address climate change. He outlined a paradoxical trend where many will do little to address climate change until there are palpable and visible impacts – by which time it will be too late. Lord Giddens persuasively called for a renewed, digitally-enhanced global activism, to stimulate and to change attitudes to climate change risks, to promote alternative technologies, and to mobilise pressure on governments to take rapid action to reduce carbon emissions, thus saving the earth from impending catastrophe. You can also view the film of the lecture at

Bearing in mind the profile that the issue of housing has taken on in the election campaign, Danny Dorling’s is a particularly prescient article. In a typically provocative Continue reading

Inspired by the Issue

by Christine Cheyne, Member of the Policy & Politics Editorial Advisory Board and Associate Professor, School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, New Zealand

I’m always drawn to ‘edge-y’ articles – or writing that decenters, provokes and challenges – and this issue does not disappoint.  The article by Andrew Ryder, Gypsies and Travellers a Big or Divided Society, offers a fresh perspective on the localism debate that has characterised recent UK public policy.  Although much less a feature of other jurisdictions, the localism debate in the UK that has some resonance for readers in many parts of the world as it highlights long-standing tensions in democratic theory between statism and localism.  These tensions, I would argue, have been exploited by higher levels of government in many parts of the world (including my own country, New Zealand) since the 2008 global financial crisis.  Ryder shows with his case study of the treatment of Gypsy and Traveller site provision under the new localist planning system that even though overt state intervention is resiled from, localism can be a new form of control of local politics and can exacerbate inequalities and social exclusion which might otherwise be mitigated through central planning guidance or redistributive policies. Ryder asserts Habermas’s deliberative democratic ideal in making a case for a ‘new centralism’, an inclusive governance that recognizes a role for a central state to protect vulnerable minorities, but which also insists on participatory and deliberative democratic processes so that localism doesn’t become (or increase) NIMBY-ism.

Provoking some further intellectual discomfort, climate change is a profoundly complex public policy challenge to which meaningful responses continue to be lacking.  While the focus is often, appropriately, on younger age groups and the implications for their lifestyles, Wistow et al. draw attention to the realities for a particularly vulnerable group in our society, the dependent elderly, who are less visibly but, arguably, more seriously disadvantaged by extreme weather events associated with climate change that can damage and destroy built infrastructure. With an ageing population dependent on electricity supply, not just for domestic heating (or cooling), but also for provision of medical care such as hoists, oxygen supplies and dialysis, contemplating the adverse consequences of disruption from extreme weather events is sobering. Wistow et al. provide detailed data from interviews and focus groups about the risks and options to address them. Even if 50 is the new 30, readers will be challenged to think about the implications for the ageing/dependent groups – if not ourselves then our older family members from whom we are often living at some distance.   Localism has much yet to deliver both for our most vulnerable groups but for all of us experiencing climate change. Getting the balance between central and local leadership and community participation is critical.

You can read the whole January 2015 issue of Policy & Politics here.

Latest issue of Policy & Politics now available: 43.1

43-1Policy & Politics, Volume 43, issue 1, is now available in print and online. David Sweeting introduces the issue.

The latest issue of Policy & Politics showcases some of the most creative and innovative work that is going on in the field, covering a variety of topics. As ever, the contributions combine theoretical insight with empirical analysis, and offer a wide geographical spread. The issue also contains our first ‘research provocation’ piece.

The opening article, authored by co-editor Matthew Flinders and Katharine Dommett, draws on Chris Hood’s original piece in the 1980 volume of the journal to critique the coalition government’s policy on the reform of state architecture. They conclude that rather than a simple case of abolition, the approach Continue reading

Inspired by the Issue: Pension Pitfalls and the Politics of Presence

Felicity Matthews
Felicity Matthews

by Fliss Matthews, University of Sheffield

As Associate Editor of Policy & Politics, I value the opportunity to be exposed to a diverse range of cutting edge scholarship and to learn from so many experts in their field.  I look forward to receiving the quarterly email update to confirm that our latest issue has gone to press, and to reading all of the published articles over a coffee or three (academics and coffee go hand-in-hand, right?).

In October’s issue two articles in particular leapt out as having direct relevance for my own research interests regarding public policy and representation, and together the two articles provide a clear empirical justification for the advancement of further research along with an innovative framework through which to proceed.  The first article in question is Liam Foster’s sobering analysis of the impact of austerity on women, specifically the effect on pension Continue reading

Policy & Politics October 2014 issue

42_4TOCThe October 2014 issue of Policy & Politics is now available in print and for download. The issue is an eclectic mix of the latest research and analysis covering a range of important policy process and analysis issues.

Rhys Andrews, James Downe and Valeria Guarneros-Meza open the issue with an analysis of the impact of Local Area Agreements on social cohesion. They find that Local Strategic Partnerships with a Local Area Agreement for social cohesion experienced a better rate of improvement in community cohesiveness than those without, and that tougher targets resulted in stronger improvement. Hooking in to wider debates about target and public service performance, they conclude that ‘the evidence we present seems to indicate that performance contracts with tough targets for improving outcomes may be an especially effective way of making agencies responsible for dealing with wicked problems work together’.

John Hudson and Bo-Yung Kim explore policy transfer through interviews with officials in South Korea. Their analysis, drawing on notions of ‘policy tourism’, suggests that ‘lesson drawing’ and ‘policy transfer’ are labels that are perhaps too strong for what happens in practice. Rather, it may be more apposite to instead consider the existence of a less direct and more general process of ‘policy learning’.

Drawing on literature pertaining to policy paradigms, Florian Kern, Caroline Kuzemko and Catherine Mitchell analyse policy change in the energy sector. Their paper offers a critique of institutionalist approaches, and they argue that researchers might benefit from expanding their focus to include insights from the sociotechnical transitions literature to better account for paradigm change.

Karen Johnston Miller and Duncan McTavish focus on representative bureaucracy, and particularly the representation of women. Using a four-fold typology of representative bureaucracy, they put forward a set of institutional strategies for the representation of women in public bureaucracies.

A gendered analysis is also constructed by Liam Foster. His paper suggests the need to put women at the centre of discussions about pension provision, especially in a context of financial and economic crisis.

A thought-provoking contribution on Sign Language Peoples (SLPs) is offered by Sarah Batterbury. This piece uses a perspective that incorporates ‘language justice’ within social justice, and calls for a democratisation of the policy process in order to give better outcomes for this group.

Karl Atkin, Sangeeta Chattoo and Marilyn Crawshaw consider culturally competent care. Their article, informed by literature on cultural competence, ethnic identity, and the social consequences of cancer and infertility, offers a nuanced understanding of the interactions of health care professional and patients, and is highly relevant to practice.

Neil Lunt, Daniel Horsfall, Richard Smith, Mark Exworthy, Johanna Hanefeld, and Russell Mannion examine the issue of medical tourism. In particular, they focus on three ‘myths’ by exploring primary and secondary data on the subject.

In the coming weeks we will be posting blogs on the above articles from the authors themselves.

July 2014 issue of Policy & Politics

Policy and Politics coverThe July issue of Policy & Politics is out now. You can access the full issue here.

The latest issue of Policy & Politics is now available for download or in print. This issue has five articles that relate directly to the themes of poverty and social inclusion. Jonathan Greene’s article explores the way that poverty is ‘managed’ through an examination of homelessness in London between 1979 and 1993. Drawing on social movement theory and relating his analysis to collective action, he thinks though these findings for current homeless politics. Alain Noel and Florence Larocque discuss the issue of poverty through a similarly retrospective lens. Their analysis of data between 2001 and 2006 relates to the responses of the EU-15 and the open method of co-ordination. With some caveats, they highlight the ‘enduring power of national institutions’ in this field. Paul Copeland and Mary Daly also concentrate on the EU, and critique its target to reduce poverty and social inclusion in Europe by 20 million. Continue reading