Policy Feedback and Policy Change

51 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 8 Sep 2010

See all articles by Alan M. Jacobs

Alan M. Jacobs

University of British Columbia (UBC)

R. Kent Weaver

Brookings Institution

Date Written: 2010


The concept of policy feedback has become central to the study of policymaking. This paper seeks to advance the analysis of policy feedback in four principal ways. First, we argue that, despite a strong emphasis in the literature positive feedback, negative feedback effects are likely to be highly common and to have important implications for policy development. Second, we call into question the common notion of positive feedback as primarily stability-inducing and negative feedback as a driver of change. Third, we highlight the important ways in which feedback mechanisms and their effects are conditional on other features of the political and social context. Fourth, we argue that explanations that integrate negative with positive feedback effects – and that understand those effects as conditional – can help to explain both incremental and dramatic policy change. We contend that both negative and positive feedback effects can - under particular political and technical conditions - explain the transformation of policy regimes.

Keywords: policy feedback, positive feedback, negative feedback, path dependence, public policy, political institutions, pensions, health care

Suggested Citation

Jacobs, Alan M. and Weaver, R. Kent, Policy Feedback and Policy Change (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642636

Alan M. Jacobs (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) ( email )

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Vancouver, British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4
604-822-6830 (Phone)

R. Kent Weaver

Brookings Institution ( email )

1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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