The Three Ages of Public Policy: Theories of Policy Change and Variation Reconsidered

29 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 Jun 2015

See all articles by Peter John

Peter John

Department of Political Economy, KCL; University College London - School of Public Policy

Date Written: June 29, 2015

Abstract

In this paper, the development of field of public policy is represented as three distinct ages of theory building and testing. The first was the classic period of studies of decision-making and rationality; the second was an age of synthesis when theories of decision-making were blended into accounts of agenda setting; and the third --- which is starting to take shape --- is the age of comparative political economy when models and methods that have been applied to international relations and comparative politics are increasingly addressing public policy. The paper's argument offers a challenge to public policy scholars to use models and methods from political economy and to integrate them with classic and synthetic approaches so that knowledge and theory building is cumulative. The paper contains a review of the development of public policy theory in the 1990s; it provides an account of the current period as one of normal science; and it then reviews some recent work in comparative political economy as examples of the new kind of research taking place.

Keywords: public policy, policy change, political economy

Suggested Citation

John, Peter, The Three Ages of Public Policy: Theories of Policy Change and Variation Reconsidered (June 29, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2286711 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2286711

Peter John (Contact Author)

Department of Political Economy, KCL ( email )

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London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

University College London - School of Public Policy ( email )

29/30 Tavistock Square
London, WC1H 9QU
United Kingdom

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