Gary L. LarsenJanuary 12, 2005
Theories of the Policy Process
Chapter 1. The Need for Better Theories,
Paul A. Sabatier
Sabatier first sets the stage for the need for better theories by identifying theextreme complexity of the policy process identifying its interacting elements to include(a) hundreds of actors, (b) time spans of a decade or more, (c) multiple programs within agiven policy arena, (d) technical disputes on all aspects, and (e) most policy disputes“involve deeply held values/interests, large amounts of money, and, at some point,authoritative coercion” (p. 4). He posits the necessity of a strategy of science whichemploys (a) verifiable methods and analysis, (b) explicit concepts and propositionsframed to be testable, (c) propositions should be general and focused on questions of relevance, and (d) critical peer review. He goes on to characterize three kinds of propositions: conceptual frameworks, theories, and models on a continuum of increasingcomplexity and narrowing of scope. While Sabatier acknowledges the prototypical“Stages Heuristic” of early policy process theoreticians, he finds it critically inadequatefor a variety of reasons necessitating exploration of more promising theoreticalframeworks. In advancing criteria by which to judge seven frameworks, he creates for policy process theories a Weberian ideal type that exhibits the following characteristics:(a) meets the test of being a scientific theory, (b) it has been subject to recent conceptualdevelopment and empirical verification with the result of being judged viable by peers,(c) the theory must be explanatory of the policy process, and (d) must address factorsjudged to be important by political scientists in their consideration of publicpolicymaking. By these criteria he has discriminated among the following frameworksthose meeting the criteria sufficiently to merit detailed analysis in his book.
Discriminating Policy Analysis Frameworks Using Sabatier’s CriteriaPromising Frameworks
The Stages Heuristic
Institutional Rational Choice
Policy Diffusion Framework
Funnel of Causality and Other Frameworks
Arenas of Power
Policy Domain Framework
Part 2Alternative Views of the Role of Rationality in the Policy Process
Chapter 2. The Stages Approach to the Policy Process: What Has It Done/ Where Is ItGoing?
DeLeon traces the genesis of the “Stages Heuristic,” following the transformationof Laswell’s seven “stages” (1951) into “the decision process” (1956) which ischaracterized by the following steps: Initiation, Estimation, Selection, Implementation,