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Advancing Comparative Policy Process Research: Insights and Lessons from the Advocacy Coalition Framework Research Program

Policy Analysis
Policy Change
Policy-Making
Daniel Nohrstedt
Uppsala Universitet
Daniel Nohrstedt
Uppsala Universitet

Abstract

Available theories about policy change generally assume that public policies remain stable over time and that major changes require some external disruption or shock, such as an unexpected crisis or disaster. Research on such triggering events commonly attributes the explanation for crisis-induced change to the strategic mobilization of political resources and attempts to exploit venues by stakeholders pursuing preexisting beliefs and interests. This paper develops an alternative explanatory logic, suggesting that policy change in the wake of disruption is less deliberate and more ad hoc than commonly assumed in the literature. Contrary to the emphasis in the public policy literature on powering dynamics, this paper elaborates the role of puzzling dynamics in response to uncertainty and portrays learning and change as a spontaneous and less deliberate process taking place within provisional and evolving multi-level governance architectures. These are temporary actor constellations in which lessons evolve gradually through deliberation, feedback, and readjustment. The paper probes the plausibility of these dynamics by selected empirical examples and ends with suggestions for future research on policy change in the wake of disruptive external shocks.