Causal mechanisms in policy process research: Are we taking them seriously? Should we?

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Department of Social Sciences


For nearly 20 years, the four edited volumes of Theories of the Policy Process (TPP) have reviewed and chronicled the key frameworks and theories of the policy process. With the growing sophistication and the ever increasing number of empirical applications of each approach, the volume’s editors have called for policy process scholars to take causality seriously. We argue that the growing interest in causal mechanisms in other areas of political sciences and in social sciences generally may contribute to the next generation of policy process research. A textual analysis of TPP’s 4th edition reveals a ‘lumpiness’ in the use of causality and mechanisms across seven popular approaches: the Multiple Streams Approach, the Advocacy Coalition Framework, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, Institutional Analysis and Design, Policy Diffusion, Policy Feedback Theory, and Narrative Framework Theory.

Publication Title

Making Policies Work: First-and Second-order Mechanisms in Policy Design