Since the beginning of the s, historical institutionalism has emerged as one of the most influential theoretical perspectives in social policy studies. Although their work is insightful, most institutionalist scholars tend to relegate policy ideas to the back of their theoretical constructions dealing with welfare state development. The objective of this paper is to show how institutionalist scholarship can pay greater attention to ideational processes without abandoning its core assumptions about the structuring impact of political institutions and policy legacies on welfare state development. If institutions truly influence policy-making, policy ideas matter in and beyond the agenda-setting process. Related to existing policy legacies, perceived problems mesh with policy alternatives grounded in a specific paradigm. When stressing the need to reform, and promoting new alternatives, policy entrepreneurs draw on existing ideological repertoires to frame these alternatives. The ability to successfully frame policy alternatives can become a decisive aspect of the policy process. A discussion of recent European and North American policy debates illustrates these claims.Since the beginning of the s, historical institutionalism has emerged as one of the most influential theoretical perspectives in political analysis and policy studies. This is especially true in the field of social policy research, where students of welfare state politics have frequently cited and debated the contributions of Paul Pierson ( ) and Theda Skocpol ( ), among others. Historical institutionalism is based on the assumption that a historically constructed set of institutional constraints and policy feedbacks structures the behaviour of political actors and interest groups during the policy-making process (Immergut ). Although their work is insightful, most institutionalist scholars tend to relegate policy ideas to the back of their theoretical constructions dealing with welfare state politics (Merrien ). Certainly, a number of institutionalist authors studying the welfare state deal with policy
Seeking to amend historical institutionalism, this article draws on the political science literature on ideas and the sociological literature on framing to discuss three ways in which ideational processes impact policy change. First, such processes help to construct the problems and issues that enter the policy agenda. Second, ideational processes shape the assumptions that affect the content of reform proposals. Third, these processes can become discursive weapons that participate in the construction of reform imperatives. Overall, ideational processes impact the ways policy actors perceive their interests and the environment in which they mobilize. Yet, such processes are not the only catalyst of policy change, and institutional constraints impact the politics of ideas and policy change. This claim is further articulated in the final section, which shows how national institutions and repertoires remain central to the politics of policy change despite the undeniable role of transnational actors and processes, which interact with such institutions and repertoires.
Despite the recent proliferation of literature on nationalism and on social policy, little has been written to explore the possible interaction between the two. This article explores two essential aspects of the relationship between substate nationalism and welfare-state development in Canada (Québec), the United Kingdom (Scotland), and Belgium (Flanders). First, the article shows how the processes of identity formation/consolidation and territorial mobilization inherent to substate nationalism often involve a social policy dimension. Second, it analyzes the ways in which substate nationalism has affected welfare-state development in recent decades. Substate nationalism can impact social policy making in at least two ways: by reshaping the policy agenda at both the state and the substate levels and by reinforcing regional policy autonomy, which is depicted as an alternative to centralist schemes. To explain significant variations between the three empirical cases, the article underlines specific institutional, ideological, and socioeconomic factors.
In recent years, social scientists such as Kathleen Thelen and Jacob Hacker have introduced new concepts to assist in the understanding of institutional change. Fostering some of these concepts, this article proceeds to augment the theoretical debate on institutional change in social science and policy research. A discussion of Social Security development in the United States advances the article's main objective: to uncover the relationship between ideational processes and policy development. Copyright (c) 2007 Southwestern Social Science Association.
This article introduces to policy studies the concept of valence, which we define as the emotional quality of an idea that makes it more or less attractive. We argue that valence explains why some ideas are more successful than others, sometimes gaining paradigmatic status. A policy idea is attractive when its valence matches the mood of a target population. Skilled policy entrepreneurs use ideas with high valence to frame policy issues and generate support for their policy proposals. The usefulness of the concept of valence is illustrated with the case of sustainability, an idea that has expanded from the realm of environmental policy to dominate discussions in such diverse policy areas as pension reform, public finance, labor markets, and energy security. As the valence of sustainability has increased, policy entrepreneurs have used the idea to reframe problems in these various policy areas and promote reforms.
John Kingdon's multiple-streams framework has been widely used since the publication of his book Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies in 1984. The popularity of this agendasetting framework in comparative policy analysis is especially interesting because the book focused exclusively on the United States. It is not clear, however, that a framework developed exclusively on the basis of the examination of a single, somewhat idiosyncratic national case should be able to generate insights useful in comparative research. This article discusses the nature of the multiplestreams framework and its impact on comparative policy analysis, before outlining its contribution to key debates in the field.
Traditional theories of welfare state development divide into two camps: societal accounts and institutional accounts. The aim of the present article is to amend and enrich the institutional approach to US social policy by reconsidering key aspects of the genesis of the American welfare state: 1) showing that concepts such as ‘policy feedback’ and ‘path dependence’ need to be extended to encompass the effect of private social policies; and 2) taking policy paradigms and agenda setting more seriously than is the norm in institutional scholarship. The empirical analysis is divided into two parts. The first part explores the activities of the American Association for Labor Legislation (AALL) in the decade beginning in 1910 and the genesis of Social Security in the 1930s, while the second part examines the effect of the private benefit developments on policy choices between 1935 and 1965.
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