T01P07 - Policy-Making in a Context of Contested Paradigms

Topic : Policy Process Theories

Panel Chair : Grace Skogstad - skogstad@chass.utoronto.ca

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

The concept of policy paradigms is one of the most widely used in the policy literature. Amenable to both rationalist and constructivist lenses on policy-making, policy paradigms exist at the nexus between policy ideas in the abstract and the  actionable ideas that guide policy formulation and implementation. Policy paradigms constitute guiding logics upon which policy-makers draw in all stages of the policy process. Questions remain, however, concerning the role played by policy paradigms  when paradigms are contested. When actors are faced with numerous and incommensurate interpretations of policy issues, the predictability and stability normally associated with policy paradigms gives way to considerable uncertainty. Although variables likely to determine policy outcomes in the absence of paradigmatic consensus have been identified in the literature (e.g., influence, resources, legitimacy, lesson drawing and anomalies), a standard approach to analyzing policy-making in contexts of  paradigmatic contestation has yet to be developed. The aim of this panel is to explore the dynamics of policy-making when paradigms are contested in an effort to gain a more systematic understanding of the role played by policy paradigms when they are not decisive in determining the course of policy-making. As policy-making has become more open, consultative and trans-jurisdictional, it is expected that paradigms are increasingly contested and/or not decisive. 

Call for papers

The concept of policy paradigms is one of the most widely used in the policy literature. Policy paradigms constitute guiding logics upon which policy-makers draw in all stages of the policy process. Questions remain, however, concerning the role played by policy paradigms when paradigms are contested. When actors are faced with numerous and incommensurate interpretations of policy issues, the predictability and stability normally associated with policy paradigms gives way to considerable uncertainty. Although variables likely to determine policy outcomes in the absence of paradigmatic consensus have been identified in the literature (e.g., influence, resources, legitimacy, lesson drawing and anomalies), a standard approach to analyzing policy-making in contexts of paradigmatic contestation has yet to be developed. The aim of this panel is to explore the dynamics of policy-making when paradigms are contested in an effort to gain a more systematic understanding of the role played by policy paradigms when they are not decisive in determining the course of policy-making. Papers are invited which contribute to the theoretical and conceptual debates which populate the literature on policy paradigms. Papers may explore empirical cases in which policy paradigms are contested, and investigate if and how policy-paradigms matter when there is lack of consensus among policy-makers as to what the operative paradigm is or should be.

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