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Policy & Politics Highlights

Summer collection 1 May - 31 July 2019

The Lessons of Policy Learning: types, triggers and pathologies [Open Access]
Authors: Claire A Dunlop and Claudio M Radaelli

'Claire Dunlop and Claudio M. Radaelli’s positioning piece explores what lessons we can distil from the raft of literature on policy learning to date. They unveil the politics of who is doing the learning, and for what purposes, and provide a valuable political analysis of the machinations involved in designing policy. This, in turn, produces some important guidance for social actors on when and how to try to change the nature of the policy game, or lobby for a re-design of the process. This lesson is often forgotten because social actors fight for a given policy objective, not for the parameters that define who does what and how in the policy process.'

Understanding the transfer of policy failure: bricolage, experimentalism and translation
Author: Diane Stone 

'Diane Stone’s article reassesses some of the literature on policy transfer and policy diffusion. By providing a strong analytical focus on the messy interpretative processes where, in the example of international policy transfer, importing countries translate and amend transferred policies, she debunks the myth of more orthodox policy transfer studies which portray a more or less rational and linear process of policy success being exported directly from one country to another. She concludes that policy ‘translation’ is a better conceptual framework for comprehending the learning and policy innovations that come with the trial and error inherent in policymaking.'

Can The Governance Paradigm Survive The Rise of Populism?
Author: Gerry Stoker

'In it, Stoker argues that the governance paradigm that came to the fore from the 1980s onwards reflected a sense that the conditions for governing in contemporary democratic states were undergoing some profound changes. It encouraged the use of new policy tools: networks and markets. For its advocates, its style of working was not only more effective, but more democratic because it allowed a wider range of people direct influence over making decisions.Then along came populism – in multiple guises – in the 21st century which saw the task of governing in very different terms to that of the practitioners of governance. For them, networks and markets take power away from the people and get in the way of its chosen leadership carrying out the will of the people. Right- and left-wing populist parties express variations of these views, as do more mainstream politicians with a populist outlook; whether that’s Trump calling for the “draining of the swamp” or Gove complaining “we have had enough of experts”.

In a perceptive inference, he contends that paradigms for governing do not inherently last for ever. The rejection of the governance paradigm by populists is partly pragmatic (it does not work for me and my interests) but also ethical and moral. Populists fear that current governing practices lead to rule by special interest, corruption, putting profits before people and so on.

He concludes that what is needed is a recognition of the partial truth in that accusation, and a greater willingness to reform and place limits on this comfortable form of governing for political and administrative elites. What is also needed, he says, is mainstream political leadership that is willing and able to make the moral as well as the practical arguments, in robust debate, for policy choices instead of ducking issues, blaming others and making impossible-to-keep promises.'

See also: Volume 45, Number 4, October 2017 our free sample issue on Superdiversity, Policy and Governance in Europe: Multi-scalar Perspectives. Guest edited by Jenny Phillimore, Nando Sigona and Katherine Tonkiss.

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