Category Archives: Public Policy

Fear and Loathing in Today’s Politics

PierceJonathan J Pierce

In the past year, rioters have stormed the US Capitol building trying to overthrow a presidential election, protestors have marched against police brutality in support of Black Lives Matter, governments have spent trillions of dollars on bailing out the economy, people are protesting mask mandates and lockdowns, and white supremacy and anti-fascist movements are growing daily and seeking a revolution. This is all occurring while the world faces the largest public health crisis in over a century. People are angry and anxious about today’s politics. Can theories and frameworks of public policy explain the influence of emotions? My conclusion based on my recent research published in Policy & Politics is no. Continue reading Fear and Loathing in Today’s Politics

The dynamic role of governments in adopting policy innovations in China

Huang & WiebrechtBiao Huang and Felix Wiebrecht

Policy innovations and experiments have been considered a cornerstone of China’s economic rise in the past decades. However, the adoption of innovations by local governments is not always mandated by the central government, as one may expect in the case of a strong, centralised, and authoritarian state like China. Instead, higher-level governments often take a laissez-faire approach and merely sponsor some innovations without actively getting involved in the process of adoption. In our recent article in Policy & Politics, we aim to answer the question of why higher-level governments intervene proactively in local innovations in some cases but only offer their backing in others. Continue reading The dynamic role of governments in adopting policy innovations in China

How do Street-Level Bureaucrats categorise citizens to decide who should receive services?

Lotta and KirschbaumGabriela Lotta and Charles Kirschbaum 

Street-level bureaucrats (SLB) are those workers who have direct contact with citizens while delivering services to them, for example teachers, police, counsellors, and health workers. They are very important both for the state and for citizens for several reasons. for example, they are the “face” of the state for many citizens, they are the “last mile” individuals in the policy implementation process and in the hierarchy of the organisation, and they also have significant power to allocate resources. Consequently many research studies, including ours, analyse street-level bureaucrats’ behaviour and how they interact with citizens. In our recent research article in Policy & Politics on How street-level bureaucrats use Conceptual Systems to categorise clients, we observe one specific aspect of SLBs’ work: how they classify types of citizens to decide who should receive each kind of service. We analyse this phenomenon by observing teachers. Continue reading How do Street-Level Bureaucrats categorise citizens to decide who should receive services?

Blog from the winner of our Policy & Politics 2021 postgraduate student prize for achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Power, Politics and the Policy Process’ unit of the Masters in Public Policy at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Doug CooleyDoug Cooley

I’m Doug Cooley, and have just finished a one-year Masters in Public Policy at the University of Bristol, home to the Policy & Politics journal. I hope to use this MPP as a basis to conduct future academic or practical policy work. During the year, I have focussed my research on various theoretical concepts, including policy transfer, and power structures in the policy process, applying these concepts to neoliberal mechanisms in the Global Financial System, and to the UK’s local governance structures. I am delighted to have won the Policy & Politics prize for achieving the highest overall mark on the unit ‘Power, Politics and the Policy Process’ as part of the MPP programme.

In this post, I highlight a piece of my work which explores the link between policy transfer, which I define as replication of policy instruments between polities, and institutional isomorphism, or the convergence of organisational structures and governance mechanisms. The relative lack of literature on the link is surprising, given how intuitively similar these ideas are, and the different normative connotations of the two concepts. Policy transfer emphasises the benefits of learning between polities, whereas institutional isomorphism is seen as a constraining influence on innovation. Continue reading Blog from the winner of our Policy & Politics 2021 postgraduate student prize for achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Power, Politics and the Policy Process’ unit of the Masters in Public Policy at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Blog from the winner of our Policy & Politics 2021 undergraduate prize to the student achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Lara Gordge

My name is Lara and I’m currently about to enter my final year of the BSc Social Policy with Criminology undergraduate degree at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (home of the Policy & Politics journal). Winning the student prize for the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit came as quite a surprise, but I’m thrilled and honoured to have been chosen. All of my peers are brilliant thinkers and so very talented, so to win has given me a lot of confidence in my academic ability.

One of the main things I loved about the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit was the ability to write about such a broad variety of topics. One of the essays I enjoyed the most focused on two key questions around power within policymaking in the realm of behavioural economics – who is given the authority to make decisions on behalf of the greater good, and why are those decisions considered the right ones to make? Continue reading Blog from the winner of our Policy & Politics 2021 undergraduate prize to the student achieving the highest overall mark on the ‘Understanding Public Policy’ unit at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol

Announcement of 2021 Policy & Politics student prize winners from the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (home of Policy & Politics)

Doug Cooley
Doug Cooley, prize winner

Sarah Brown,
Journal Manager, Policy & Politics

Policy & Politics is a top ranked international journal based at the School for Policy Studies. It has been publishing leading edge research on public policy and politics for 49 years and is keen to engage with young researchers early in their careers: starting with you! 

So, in collaboration with our teaching staff, we’re delighted to announce two student prizes in 2021 at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Continue reading Announcement of 2021 Policy & Politics student prize winners from the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (home of Policy & Politics)

Understanding third sector ecosystems development in stateless nations

McMullin et alCaitlin McMullin, Michael J. Roy & Maeve Curtin

Over the past few decades, numerous large scale studies have considered the differences in third sector development between different countries, based on welfare policy, sources of funding and size of the sector. However, these studies categorise countries at the nation-state level, which obscures significant differences in third sector ecosystems within countries characterised by federal or devolved administrations. Quebec and Scotland have frequently been compared in relation to their sovereignty movements, but in our recent paper in Policy & Politics, we posit that these similarities go further, in shaping the structure and ideology of the third sector that put them at odds with their national/ ‘parent’ state contexts.

In our article we therefore ask: How can we understand the development of parallel models of the third sector in Scotland and Quebec that diverge from the dominant discourses and structures of the UK and Canadian models? We apply a framework of institutional logics (or the rules, norms of behaviour, identities and values that shape organisations’ and individuals’ understanding of their social world) in order to explore this key question. Continue reading Understanding third sector ecosystems development in stateless nations

Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations for Public Policy, Politics and Social Policy from Policy & Politics

All articles featured in this blog post are free to access until 31 October 2021

KoebeleIntroducing Elizabeth Koebele: our new Digital Associate Editor for Policy & Politics, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Nevada, Reno.

I am thrilled to have begun serving as Digital Associate Editor for Policy & Politics in January 2021. I have spent the last few months taking over this position from my colleague, Oscar Berglund, who now serves as one of the journal’s co-editors. As many of us are beginning to plan for our policy and politics-focused courses next semester, I figured what better way to celebrate joining the P&P team than to share with you some of my favorite Policy & Politics articles that make a great fit on a variety of syllabi? I hope this saves you time and effort in mining our recent articles, while also ensuring your course materials reflect the latest research from the frontiers of the discipline.

My initial suggestions are structured around two general topics that I hope many of you find yourself teaching or studying: one focused on knowledge, and one focused on actors/influence. I’m also sharing my top picks for readings on an increasingly popular policy topic: policy diffusion/transfer. In each case, I’ve recommended three articles that represent some of the most significant research we’ve published recently. Please let me know what you think when you’re compiling your reading lists for the start of the academic year. I’d value your feedback and suggestions for future topics to cover! Continue reading Updating your course reading lists? Check out our essential reading recommendations for Public Policy, Politics and Social Policy from Policy & Politics

Why evidence-based policy is political 

SimonsArno Simons

The idea that public policy should be informed by scientific knowledge has great appeal. There is a growing understanding among politicians, the media and the public that decision making—especially on complex issues such as climate change and biodiversity—must include a scientific evaluation of the underlying problems and the available solutions. The reasoning is that, without science, public policies are most likely doomed to be irrational or ideological or both. To dissociate themselves from such “bad policy making” and to express their commitment to science in the policy process, policy makers and analysts have come to adopt the slogan “evidence-based policy” (EBP). Continue reading Why evidence-based policy is political 

What Do We Know About How Policies Spread?

MallinsonDaniel J. Mallinson

Since the 1960s, political scientists from across the globe have been studying how and why policies spread. This substantial body of research begs the question, what have we learned? My project aims to answer that question, at least in part. It finds both substantial growth in the literature and gaps that remain to be filled.

I conducted a meta-review of policy diffusion studies that focus on the American states. By casting a wide net using Google Scholar and Web of Science, I identified all (to my knowledge) studies published between 1990 and 2018 that referred to “policy diffusion” and “berry and berry.” Berry and Berry are important because their 1990 study of state lotteries introduced the unified model of policy diffusion. Essentially, this model combined the internal characteristics of states with influences external to the states to explain policy adoption. Over time, scholars also recognized that the attributes of the policy innovations themselves condition how far and how quickly they spread. Continue reading What Do We Know About How Policies Spread?