The Three Ages of Public Policy: Theories of Policy Change and Variation Reconsidered
29 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 29, 2015
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
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