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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

On the Durability of Policy Reforms: A Plausibility Probe

Interest Groups
Policy Change
Joannah Luetjens
University of Utrecht
Joannah Luetjens
University of Utrecht

‘There is nothing more difficult to manage, more dubious to accomplish, nor more doubtful of success… than to initiate a new order of things.’ Machiavelli, 1503

Recent research in political science, public administration, and public policy suggests that the post-enactment success of policy reforms requires further study (Patashnik, 2008; Jacobs and Weaver, 2015; Maltzman and Shipan, 2008). A hard-fought path-breaking reform might later be repealed, amended, underfunded, or expanded beyond what its creators planned. This paper explores what conditions shape the fate of enacted policy reforms and whether commitments are sustained.

This paper first introduces the concept of durability as a measure to trace the trajectory of policy reforms post-enactment. Durability is defined as the capacity of a policy reform to maintain its stability, coherence, and integrity as time passes, pursuing its basic promised objectives amid the inevitable vicissitudes of politics. Existing research on durability typically examines the length of time until policies are eliminated or revised. Based on Howlett and Cashore’s (2009) delineation of policy elements, our concept of durability allows the distinction between superficial responses to changing circumstances and fundamental shifts affecting the heart of the policy reform.

The paper then applies this concept empirically by looking at the durability of the pension reforms in Australia introduced in 1992. This case study both traces the course of the policy post-enactment and the institutional and ideational conditions shaping these changes and continuities over the course of multiple governments and changes of leadership.

Next to dealing with notions of performance and legitimacy, this paper will particularly enrich the discussion on the temporality of success. The paper conceptualises and operationalises the concept of reform durability, explores its usefulness when studying policy reforms post-enactment through a case application, and gives a first insight in the conditions shaping policy durability.
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