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When Attention Is Enough: Crucial Conditions for Policies to Transfer between Polities

Dan Hansn
Swedish National Defence College
Dan Hansn
Swedish National Defence College
Open Panel

Abstract

Focusing events, such as crises, typically draw attention to malfunctioning policies, and in that sense affect agenda-setting by giving topical interest to new and old ideas for policymakers to take sides with or against. It is well known that not all focusing events lead to swift policy change, which is why they are typically understood as necessary but not sufficient conditions to that effect. This paper takes an interest in situations where attention to a particular policy area indeed is enough to spark off policy designs: crises that serve as vehicles to transfer policies between polities. Crucial conditions are hypothesized to be a homogenous and transnational policy subsystem in which the policy idea is developed, and an issue area where the political-bureaucracy dichotomy is upheld in the sense that the political leadership is mostly preoccupied with lofty policy goals, but pay scant interest in policy designs, until a focusing event urges them to. As a case in point, the study looks into the case of “counter radicalization”, a counterterrorism policy design that has gained much momentum in Europe during the last decade. The study makes an empirical journey from The Netherlands and the focusing event prompted by the murder of van Gogh in 2004, via the Muhammad Cartoons in Denmark 2005, to the immediate reactions of the Stockholm suicide bomber 2010, not aiming at comparison proper, but with the ambition of following the policy diffusion over the continent and probing the role of focusing events in policy transfers.