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Rethinking Systems : Configurations of Politics and Policy in Contemporary Governance
Michael P. Crozier Administration & Society 2010 42: 504 originally published online 16 July 2010 DOI: 10.1177/0095399710377443 The online version of this article can be found at: http://aas.sagepub.com/content/42/5/504

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77443AAS

Rethinking Systems: Configurations of Politics and Policy in Contemporary Governance
Michael P. Crozier1

Administration & Society 42(5) 504­ –525 © 2010 SAGE Publications DOI: 10.1177/0095399710377443 http://aas.sagepub.com

Abstract New governance patterns in Western democracies pose challenges to political analysis. Key here is the relationship of politics and policy. This article examines how this relationship is changing in terms of a communication systems shift. From this perspective, the adequacy of current frameworks of political analysis is called into question. The article applies this critical review to the rise of policy-politics modes of behavior as distinct from older politics-policy forms. This contrast draws attention to the emergent qualities of interactive policy processes and asks how open generative modes of organization operate in fluid conditions while nonetheless exercising political authority. Keywords governance, organization, communication, information dynamics, complexity, systems theory

Introduction
New patterns and modes of political action have emerged in Western democracies that present challenges for organizational political analysis. From one
1

University of Melbourne,Victoria, Australia

Corresponding Author: Michael P. Crozier, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne,Victoria 3010, Australia Email: mcrozier@unimelb.edu.au

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. 2005.g. Macedo et al. A key metric investigated by both approaches is how well the system negotiates difference into binding political decisions. 1997. and the fading of older stable forms of civic association alongside the appearance of more fluid “individuated” forms of social connectivity (e. approaches that are enthusiastic about the possibilities of more inclusive public debate and more intensive forms of democratic participation also exhibit a primary concern with political input dynamics. Here there is a sense that although things may be changing. there appears to be an underlying common framework of analysis at work. L. 2007). 2002. The case material cited in this perspective ranges from the deliberative democracy experiments in citizens’ juries and the growth of a consultative imperative across all areas through to interactive network arrangements and interdependencies in the generation of policy and program delivery (e. Blyth & Katz. Sennett.. 2010 . whether at the traditional level of political competition or in contemporary forms of mini-publics or via newer network organizational policy formation processes. 2005. 2000. 2006. 2006).. DeLeon & DeLeon. Each emphasizes differing shifts in the current calibration of democratic practice.Crozier 505 perspective. Although these various prognoses may be at odds. these varying approaches implicitly at least all use a diagnostic that privileges “input” in the evaluation of the political system that is otherwise cast in terms of an input–output model. Putnam. Wagenaar. Innes & Booher. 1995. this situation is often approached. 2008. at least in the first instance. In other words. For example. Goodin & Dryzek. 2006. Katz & Mair. 2005. Dalton. 2005. & Hunold. ensuring binding political decisions that may then be operationalized through the management and delivery of policy back into society.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. Fung. The ominous illustrations usually rallied in this frame include the decline of mass party membership combined with the rise of highly professionalized party machines. Dryzek. Hajer. 2007. Bennett & Manheim. yet many use the same diagnostics to try and understand these shifts. Downloaded from aas. the proliferation of sophisticated strategic communication techniques accompanied by the dumbing down of mainstream broadcasting and the balkanizing effects of narrowcasting. 2003. Hendriks. The shared assumption here is that wide-ranging robust input is good for the democratic vitality of the system and its citizens. Campbell.sagepub.g. with a sense of despair in regard to political participation and democratic vibrancy. approaches that highlight how a civic malaise is undermining democratic debate and participation demonstrate an underlying concern with the input side of political decision-making processes. Equally. 2006. new patterns of political life are often approached in a more positive register. From another perspective. there are opportunities opening up that have the potential to reinvigorate democratic practice. Fox & Miller.

Information Dynamics In the older industrial paradigm. 1965b. 1996). For instance in the realm of bureaucratic processing. Of immediate interest is how this paradigm shift is described in terms of a transformation in information dynamics. The first is at a meta-theoretical level to enable a critical interrogation of the underlying framework of analysis in input–output models. The second level draws this critical review into a theoretical investigation of conceptualizations of politics and policy and how they may be being reconfigured in practice amid changing informational dynamics. this is sometimes referred to as a paradigm shift from industrial to informational or network society (Castells. p. the informational dynamics assumed. and how analysis may be reoriented. so to Downloaded from aas. raw data is systematically sourced and gathered. and its communication oils.506 Administration & Society 42(5) However. One way to get a handle on recent societal trends is to focus on the changing character of information and communication in social processes. Equally in industrial production. A systems theoretical approach is used to introduce a level of abstraction on two levels. This is examined with a focus on new policy-politics modes of behavior that have emerged in recent decades that are distinct from older politics-policy forms (Bang. 21). and coordination. This contrast draws attention to the emergent qualities of interactive policy processes. The first step in this argument is to introduce a sociological frame attuned to the contemporary societal developments and transformations in which new patterns of governance and forms of political action are embedded. thus sensitizing political analysis to questions of how open generative modes of organization operate in fluid conditions while nonetheless “authoritatively allocating value” (Easton. this article broaches the issue in terms of a communication systems shift.sagepub. information enables progression of a process. On the macro scale. then classified and encoded into information to become a body of knowledge that can convey a sense of a situation or entity and how it can be acted upon. bodies of information as knowledge are brought to bear on mechanical processes that transform human and material resources into something new and tangible. In each case. what of the analytical adequacy of this type of input–output model? Are the diagnostics that rely on this type of model up to the task of changing circumstances? Often missing in these analytical approaches is the issue of how the relationship between politics and policy is reconfigured and reoriented in the new governance patterns that have emerged. To redress this gap.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. the value of information resided in the capacity to operationalize knowledge into material processes. organization. 2010 . 2007).

Nonetheless. Hansen. one of the critical features of contemporary information dynamics is that the creation and circulation of information has become an end in itself. In this regard.” This type of information dynamic is more recursive than linear for as information works on itself.Crozier 507 speak. organization itself is more and more encountered as communication per se. The oversight of information processing thus becomes less about controlling inputs and outputs and more about managing information flow-puts as they work on themselves (Crozier. information is now a key productive resource in which the processing and production of information has become a prime task rather than simply activity for exogenous purposes (see Kallinikos. communication was understood to facilitate the operations of the organization by transmitting information (knowledge and command) unilaterally through the organizational entity according to distinct steps and along clearly demarcated lines. In organizational terms. 2006). 2003. 2004. In the industrial paradigm. information is no longer just a means or an instrument but also becomes a special type of resource. 2001). By contrast. This centrality of information flows thus appears to signal the emergence of a new kind of Downloaded from aas. whether that be a bureaucracy or a factory. this means that the relationship between information and communication is less susceptible to descriptions versed only in terms of quantum and transmission. Shiller. Taylor & Van Every. information flows become as crucial to the organization’s ongoing iteration as they are to its productivity (see Espejo. the organization involved. 2007. in this industrial paradigm. Indeed. Langer. As Kallinikos (2006a. Leydesdorff. Information here is both resource and process. and not just how it goes about its tasks. 2004. 2010 .sagepub. in the informational era. by contrast. Indeed the functionality of informational organization rests on its ability to keep “talking with itself” and thus constitute itself. 1999. 2003. Holström. what is cause and what is effect becomes transformative and difficult to differentiate. 2000). In this situation. Fairhurst & Putnam. In this sense. information remains a means to transform resources into something else according to a linear sequencing of tasks. it relates to the new capacities of information to work on itself. 2006b. In the informational era. p. Sunstein. information and its new sustaining technologies operate in such a way that “the one reinforces the other in an iterative cycle of interactive sequences. 2005.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. More importantly. This is organization as information processing. & Salskov-Iversen. This is not simply about the exponential growth in information facilitated by new information and communication technologies. 99) notes. coordination is less about keeping pre-given processes on track and more about ensuring that communication is happening multilaterally.

sagepub. Rather it can invite us to think about political systems explicitly as communication systems. e. and direction though the goal itself remains fixed. In this regard. Van Dijk. 1990. But unlike the situation in classic mechanistic models. Lash. In this sense. both internally and externally. This is something quite different to the concerns of mainstream public communication studies with its prime focus on the production of messages and their effects. Goals may shift relative to position. 2006). If we use the lens of information dynamics. Fischer. Deutsch emphasizes that the feedback processes of politics are dynamic and not simply a way by which the system brings itself back to equilibrium in the face of environmental disturbance. This distinction rests on Deutsch’s analogy of the governing of human organizations with the steering of a ship toward some external goal. 2010 . The political system is understood to be a goal-seeking system but the goal situation sought is outside. In the macrosociological literature. Feedback processes provide the mechanism by which the system monitors and adjusts its behavior vis-à-vis the environment in pursuit of its goals. Urry.508 Administration & Society 42(5) organizational power problematic that centers on capacities to coordinate and cultivate information flows. Karl Deutsch’s work Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control (1966) is a prominent example of a communications understanding of the political system. the “deliberative turn” in political science and public policy analysis can in part be seen as a symptom of this kind of transformation in power problematics just as it is an attempt with normative intent to come to grips with newer patterns of political action and policy formation (see. Dryzek. speed. 2002.. 1996.g. Melucci.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. major Downloaded from aas. Equally. Drawing on developments in cybernetic theory at the time. feedback information is essential to the system as a goal-seeking operation open to its environment. then analytical attention is drawn to the role of communication in the functioning of a political system. Deutsch detailed how political systems require constant streams of information both internally and with their environment to function effectively. 2003. this has been observed as a “de-institutionalization” of power from older organizational arrangements and resituated in the shifting codes of information and images of representation and identity (Castells. 2003). Cybernetic Modeling The contrast that can be drawn between the industrial and informational paradigms potentially offers some productive ways to think through the efficacy of political diagnostics that remain underpinned by input–output models. not inside the system (as in a closed mechanical system). 2009.

Nonetheless. 188).sagepub. to receive the information regarding the position of the target goal and then to instigate the corresponding maneuver in the goal-seeking behavior of the system (Deutsch. 82-83). Deutsch thus proposes a communications model in which the relationship between the political system and its environments is open and sustained by feedback mechanisms. p. This pushes a communications understanding of the political system beyond the limitations of control-oriented models. 1966. as well as major structural rearrangements of the political decision system. p. However. 1966. recast. this involves “a major change in over-all function and behavior. Deutsch’s input–output model remains a very control-oriented approach with a prime focus on systems maintenance and goal-seeking (Deutsch. Deutsch also notes that feedback can generate a change in a goal itself whether through drift in the patterns of behavior of some parts of the system or more purposively through feedback processes themselves designed to move beyond given threshold values thus triggering a rearrangement of some elements of the communication system toward a different goal. and usually of the rest of society” (Deutsch. that is. However. 2003. 191. Otherwise where there are changes in major goals. if we attempt to open up this black box then all sorts of questions arise about the “politics” of a political system and not just its response capacities vis-à-vis its allocation of resources and value. But it says very little on how decision makers reach decisions on goals and objectives in the first place or how decision makers decide to modify. suitable feedback processes are needed for the system to process its relation to its environment. pp.Crozier 509 strategic goals may need to be pursued by a series of changing tactical goals in order to circumvent intermediate blockages and obstacles. Deutsch’s model tends to leave the political system as a “black box” that steers society. In each of these instances. especially in terms of line management tasks with set targets.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. 1966. Information processing plays a critical role in this model not only in terms of systems functionality but also in regard to its learning capacity and political creativity. Feedback loops may provide streams of information for system adjustment but information processing per se remains linear in this model. p. see Monge & Contractor. In this sense. Downloaded from aas. 199). Systems Flow Modeling Deutsch’s model is a good example of the types of information streams involved in industrial processing. 2010 . examples of goal-changing behavior in politics are isolated. according to Deutsch. or reject initial goals in the light of feedback.

Downloaded from aas. 19). 205-208). Through these [mechanisms] they may regulate their own behavior.510 Administration & Society 42(5) One way to begin to retheorize this is to draw on David Easton’s mid1960s research (1965a. Easton was interested in investigating the political system in terms of an input–output model. he identifies the political system as analytically distinct. especially the internal behavior of political systems. transform their internal structure. government is more or less a particular case of the more general cybernetic problematic of communication as control. p. 212). Legitimacy is a limiting factor on the occupants of authority roles just as much as it is an expectation of lay members of the political system in how binding decisions are made and implemented. 1965b). by contrast. Easton’s conception of political authority is about a type of power that is constraining but also enabling. 1965b. 36) all social systems are made up of interactions among persons and it is these interactions that are the basic unit of such systems. p. 2010 . 50). not an opposition between authorities and laypeople. Easton maintains that any political system. heterarchical. coercive but also requesting. In this regard. In his formulation political authority is attached to specialized roles. commanding but also facilitating (1965b. I will highlight some key themes in Easton’s work to develop the wider argument. or whatever. In Deutsch’s model. However Deutsch was concerned primarily with the response capacities of the system with its environment. Political authorities are normally seen by lay members of the system as responsible for the systematic articulation and addressing of the everyday affairs of the political system (Easton. According to Easton (1965a. p. p. Easton. pp. at least for most of the time. absolutist or democratic requires this legitimacy of role to secure the support for political authority. whether that is hierarchical. Key here is Easton’s notion of political authority. In this sense.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. hierarchical or heterarchical. Nonetheless. According to Easton (1965b). He differentiates the political system from other social systems according to a very specific set of interactions: “What distinguishes political interactions from all other social interactions is that they are predominately oriented toward the authoritative allocation of values for a society” (Easton. 1965a. The role of political authorities in Easton’s rendition is about a political division of labor. This sets up a power analytic that is interactional yet without preempting the specific mode of interaction that may be involved in any one instance. “political systems accumulate large repertoires of mechanisms through which they may seek to cope with their environments. Easton’s more intense focus includes a very precise specification of political system. Like Deutsch. The capacity to rule is dependent on the widespread belief in or acceptance of the legitimacy of these roles by the lay members. and even go so far as to remodel their fundamental goals” (Easton.sagepub. was interested in far more than this.

sagepub. there are usually a diversity and multiplicity of feedback loops.Crozier 511 A central puzzle for Easton’s systems analysis is not on “who gets what. 1965b. 380). Effects in the environment are transmitted to the political system through fluctuations in these inputs with consequences for the operations of the system. pp. namely.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. 464-465). 1965b. distinguishing them explicitly from “outcomes” in the environment that may follow on from these types of outputs. Inputs refer to that in the environment which is pertinent to political stimulation or “stress. 2010 . Easton presses for the need for analytical efficacy. Easton’s approach is far more nuanced. This leads Easton to zero in on what he calls the systemic feedback loop. Easton’s notion of outputs is concerned with “the consequences flowing from the behavior of the members of the system rather than from actions in the environment” (Easton. p. Equally. Easton approaches the issue by linking the political system to its environment in an input–output relationship. when and how” but on what is assumed as a constant in such questioning. Easton proposes that this looping of inputs with outputs enables us to investigate how a system copes in a dynamic manner with the challenges of environmental stimuli. He is not concerned with the ways that a system can best organize itself in order to achieve its goals. Easton notes that in political systems as in other large-scale systems. Rather Easton (1965b) is “interested in structures for goal attainment only to the extent that success or failure to achieve a goal reacts back on the input of support” (p. While outputs influence events in the wider society. 351-352) specifies these outputs as the decisions and actions of the authorities. they also play an important part in subsequent rounds of political inputs. feedback is crucial to Easton’s approach to the question of persistence though formulated in a far more systemic manner than in Deutsch’s model. and the effects of these inputs as political outputs.” While there are large amounts of environmental activity that may affect the system in some way. This feedback loop is not restricted to the output side and the relationships between authorities and their specific goals but also includes “those Downloaded from aas. Deutsch’s cybernetic preoccupation with response capacities means that he treats feedback simply as a mechanism that informs decision makers on the degree of deviation from their preferred course of action in pursuit of their goals. The analytical aim of this focus is to make it possible to map out the consequences of behavior within a political system for the system itself and not just for its environment. the persistence of a political system in the context of stability and change (Easton. The emphasis here is on the system’s behavior regarding incoming demands and support. identifying demands and support as the two major inputs weighing on political life. Easton (1965b. Indeed. pp. 27).

and then. 29). 1998). input–output models tend to project an image of the political system as a kind of Parsonian machine that converts societal demands and preferences into authoritative “action” back into society.512 Administration & Society 42(5) politically relevant members in a system upon whose support the system must depend for its persistence over time” (Easton. much political research. 1994). He sensitizes the output aspect to its “political” effects inside the system and not just to outcomes in society. Deutsch’s model still echoes in some corners of policy studies. DeLeon. He thus describes his approach as a flow model of the political system in which political processes need to be understood “as a continuous and interlinked flow of behaviour” (Easton. 381) as a continuous never-ending process. with the output side portrayed with features not unlike those detailed in Deutsch’s communications control model. The general idea of the political system as a process that links inputs of demands and support with outputs of authoritative decisions and actions still informs. implicitly at least. Downloaded from aas. 380). A key point here is his nuancing of the output side as more than simply a technical pursuit of settled goals.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. p. in mainstream analysis the “political” has been more or less restricted to the input side. pp. 2010 . once settled. especially in the way that the administration and management of policy and programs are understood to operate in ideal type terms (see P. systemic feedback flows from the system as a whole and may return through the system to its starting point. without Easton’s focus on the internal behavior of the system. dispersing its effects in the system via the chains of feedback loops within the system. connecting output—authoritative decisions and actions—with input—support and demands. In a manner. Politics-Policy Model Easton’s flow model of inputs and outputs “haunts” political analysis to this day even if his systems approach has never really been embraced by the mainstream (Bang. This is a communication loop that feeds the whole system so to speak. Nonetheless. 1965b. The general idea of the input–output model that seems to prevail is very much a conversion machine: The political system takes in supports and demands. However what tends to be neglected is Easton’s attention to the functioning of the system as political system and the significance of flows within it. 1965b. According to Easton. aims to churn these into binding political decisions. this aspect of Easton’s model is generally overlooked. 28-29. As a consequence.sagepub. Indeed. This is portrayed by Easton (1965b. p. Unlike Deutsch’s feedback mechanism. these decisions are enacted in policy. this looping is not simply a servant of a control center for monitoring and adjusting goal-seeking activities in the environment.

Mathur. Bang & Joergensen. what is entailed in these practices is a need to Downloaded from aas. 2006. and other multiactor interdependencies relating to “public” decision making and joint action provide very real examples of experiments that appear to defy the linear relationships set out in this model (see. Skelcher. On the empirical level. 2007) as the politicspolicy model of representative government. e. e. Mathur. Here. equality of opportunity and public accountability. Bang observes that this model privileges the input side of political processes. Yanow. Wurzel. Schout & Jordan. Its prime focus is on the way competing interests and identities attempt to gain access and recognition in representative and deliberative forums in which collectively binding decisions are discussed and negotiated.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. Fischer & Forester. collaborations. 1995. Policy is subordinate to this input side and cast as a means to emphasize and realize abstract input principles such as effective participation. In these approaches. 1993). Williams. 2003. In this sense. the idea that policy is a realm of technocratic expertise and action serving political decision-making processes in a neutral and impartial manner has been questioned. This type of delineation of politics and policy has also come under scrutiny in the critical policy literature over recent decades (see. Marinetto. new governance patterns would seem to test the analytical efficacy of this politics-policy model. 2005. 2004). 2003. Imperial. As such policy and administrative practice are thus seen to involve considerations of meaning at all stages from formulation to implementation. 1990. Hajer. Dryzek. partnerships. A major strain in this critical literature is associated with a growth in interest in discursive approaches to policy analysis (and practice) that place argumentative and deliberative processes at the core of policy processes. others contested. & Skelcher. there is the understanding that policy is a discursive construct embedded in linguistically constituted worlds of meanings and narratives. Many of these experiments illustrate how policy itself can be opened up as an interactive field of communication among an array of diverse actors and agencies in defiance of the set delineation of political contestation and policy instrumentation in the politics-policy model. 2003.. 2006.g. implemented. 1993. Jordan. 2002. some pervasive. monitored and adjusted as the case may be back in society. 2006. 2005. 2005.g. & Zito. The proliferation of policy networks. & Smith. 2004. Stoker. Fischer. This kind of input–output conception of the political system has been described by Henrik Bang (2007.Crozier 513 operationalized. Smith. Teisman & Klijn.. 2005. Carlsson & Berkes. 2005. Friedrich. Kelly. This research challenges the fundamental Weberian distinction between political decision making and rational administration (legitimate domination). 2010 . Hajer & Wagenaar.sagepub.

514 Administration & Society 42(5) explain. this construes policy processes as communication in contexts with practical effects. And even at the technical level. The “communication” in the politics of policy processes may involve citizen participation.” Downloaded from aas. this perspective draws attention to the issue of divergent methodologies and competing truth claims where positions.sagepub. and moreover. then this maneuver is preemptive at the analytical level.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. 184) In short. In this regard. and strategies have to be argued in relation to processes that connect data and analysis. develop decision-making and learning capacities. whether they wish to be or not. overcome interest-based blockages. (p. However. In Fischer’s view. the communication may be heterarchical or hierarchical but nonetheless accepted as “legitimate. From the point of view of Easton’s power analytic. including rights to meaningful participation in decision making and to proper access to information about policy rationales. However. but whether this is in accord with the democratic principle of the equal rights of all citizens seems a moot point empirically (as the varied experiences in the case material suggests). 2010 . in making the case for citizen participation and deliberation in public policy. and persuade in an interpretative mode and not just exercises in instrumental problem solving and management according to a criteria of effectiveness. citizen participation in policy processes can also assist in issues of policy and program legitimacy. Frank Fischer (2003) maintains that working in complex organizations structured by political processes. This discursive critique certainly opens up Deutsch’s “black box” and deinstrumentalizes the output side of the politics-policy model by identifying a “politics” of policy processes. at the point where this approach begins to critically evaluate communication in policy processes it appears to appeal to criteria derived from the input side. Confronting messy issues involving diverse populations with multiple and conflicting interests. policy analysts are—or have to become—political actors. justify. cultivate new. Fischer (2003) refers first to the fundamental democratic principle that “government decisions should reflect the consent of the governed” (p. This discursive view of policy thus urges a shift beyond the separation of the political and the technical-rational in policy analysis. For example. and in a postpositivist vein. The power problematic here is unequivocally associated with popular democratic sovereignty. question. if we adopt Easton’s understanding of political authority. evaluations. more deliberative political cultures. they have to learn to balance the technical and political components of the job. 205).

the communicative contexts of policy-making processes? This maneuver revisits the linear staging of the politics-policy model but in the policy field itself.. policy processes are cast simply as sites. for the enactment of deliberative democratic principles (see Campbell. In the deliberative case. Easton’s notion of political interaction.sagepub. Policy is again subordinated to abstract input principles though sourced from a deliberative rather than a pluralist conception of democracy. The initial analytical question in this approach is thus how well do competing discourses and identities in society access. In a manner. and find recognition in. that is. However. potential or otherwise.Crozier 515 What is at issue here involves distinguishing between analytical and normative levels. 2004). with widespread acceptance as legitimate. if we approach this discursive politics of policy from a Downloaded from aas. By contrast. is analytically open to diverse modes of communication that are nonetheless enacted authoritatively. and with what effects. What remains here is a categorical opposition between political authority and lay people. this approach then reverts to the input side in search of principles by which to critically evaluate this policy politics. these input principles include argumentative reasoning (rather than bargaining between competing interests). deliberative encounters as reflexive participation (rather than the expression of interests and demands). 2010 . In the example of Fischer. “communication” is cast in very specific normative terms as the meaningful participation in decision making and the proper access to policy information of the governed. the reverse is projected. Easton’s alternative conception of political authority alerts analysis to consider how communication and interaction “inside” policy processes themselves may be structuring behavior and goals. To use Habermasian language.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. 2004). and open deliberation in the formation of public agreement (rather than the aggregation and integration of private preferences) (Parkinson. In this view. Farmer et al. The deliberative turn in policy analysis thus reengages with the linear logics of the politics-policy model of representative government albeit in a deliberative democratic register. this flips the Habermasian concern with the propensity of the rational administrative state (legitimate domination) to colonize the life-world and overwhelm its communicative rationality. Lay people are cast as the source of sovereignty yet exempted from the structuring of political authority. 2002). Rather than the state impinging on civil society. the set of criteria in play in this approach works on the basis of breaking down the distinction between communicatively generated power (political decision making) and administratively used power (instrumental action) by submitting the latter to the former in a generalization of a set of deliberative criteria (Kelly. After critically unpacking policy processes to reveal a discursive “politics” of policy. 2005. or more precisely political communication.

a kind of recursive causation comes into play in which each step of a process feeds back into the process itself such that effects are also causes. thus precluding issues of productive feedback within the system. 2009). the “politics” of policy is about communicative interaction but how this structures behavior and goals in the political system is an open question. he delineates these in terms of a series of phases or steps such that information flows are treated as more or less linear circulating between system and society. But as we have seen. This type of looping hints at the more complex patterns now detectable in contemporary modes of communication. for example. 1986. In Deutsch’s model. Remodeling Contemporary information dynamics pose significant challenges for linear input–output models and the sequencing they entail. Morin. transmitted. Rather. in current conditions information flows tend to circulate in more recursive and nonlinear ways. this points to the creativity and productivity of positive information loops. Processes involving these new logics are not susceptible to linear causation with its capacities to retrace and check what are causes and what are effects. making the environment more fluid (Crozier. information flows are critical to the functioning of a political system albeit as a control mechanism. Sandri. Indeed. In these circumstances. These emergent properties are not accountable or open to instrumental manipulation or reconstruction simply in terms of the individual elements or actions involved. Easton by contrast alerts us to systemic effects of feedback looping within the political system itself. This tells us nothing about the internal dynamics of the political system itself.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. In essence. This type of looping continually generates new starting conditions as it goes through its various iterations and thus the sense of environment can change across time. 2007. Industrial approaches to causation become befuddled by the new informational logics that this generative dynamic introduces into information flows. This process can thus generate emergent properties through interaction that are not able to be factored out and dealt with sequentially or through traditional forms of (Weberian) specialization. then the analytical question is what are the consequences of this behavior within the political system for the system itself? As the empirical case material on new governance patterns highlights. Linear models tend to close down this question by privileging the input side over the output side.516 Administration & Society 42(5) systems perspective rather than a normative horizon. Downloaded from aas. and exchanged but is also generative as it works on itself and on agents and their interactions. information is not just processed. 2010 . 1996.sagepub.

1998. and acting constructively to prevent disturbances in the system’s environment. What Easton has in mind is not some form of societal conversion or control mechanism but a living dynamic system capable of adapting and evolving as such: A political system is a goal-setting. diverse. with a notion of the political system as more or less a conversion machine that transforms societal demands and preferences into authoritative action back into society. In this scenario. goal setting itself becomes complex as does goal-seeking behavior. the relationship of decision and “action” can tend to become less linear and more mutually covariant. The generative effects of contemporary information processing introduce new levels of complexity well beyond the linear dynamics of the industrial paradigm. function as a political system in its environment. It consists of human beings who are capable of anticipating. that is. and thus the ability to select becomes highly fraught (and often irresolvable by recourse to argumentative reasoning). A range of contemporary practice tends to elude the analytical grasp of these approaches and to confound their understanding of “politics” and “policy. The multiplicity of feedback loops within the system is seen as part of this as they feed into the core systemic feedback loop. feedback information loops enable the control center to keep its goal-seeking action on course in the environment. evaluating. 2010 . One consequence of this is that the problem of selection tends now to elicit the use of agile strategies of risk management (see Kallinikos. In Easton’s case. the systemic feedback loop is how the political system itself endeavors to persist. The ability to evaluate actions on the output side of the system is increasingly difficult as cause and effect become inextricable. Political information flows themselves and feedback circuits are now multiple. 2005. Members of the system are not passive transmitters of things taken into the system. This generates conundrums for analytical frameworks that remain underpinned. . digesting them in some Downloaded from aas. and multilateral. What is of critical interest is Easton’s idea of feedback looping. “input” activity now appears to happen at all sorts of different points along the older politics-policy linear chain even at the output stage. In these informational conditions. Equally. 2006). . however. In Deutsch’s model. 2005).Crozier 517 This has profound implications for how we may now characterize the political system as a communications system. implicitly or explicitly. self transforming and creatively adaptive system. Luhmann. . Boundary quandaries arise as the system and environment enter into more fluid interactions where jurisdiction and domain can become blurred (Considine.” Easton’s theorization can offer some help beyond these analytical dilemmas and in particular his consideration of the internal behavior of the political system.sagepub.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10.

1965a.” In this sense. Bang & Joergensen.sagepub. For instance. These types of norms can be seen in operation in new governance patterns of policy networks. and innovate with respect to all aspects and parts of the processes involved. modify. 2007) has brought this insight to bear on new governance patterns to explain how the relationship between politics and policy is now being reconfigured. Among other things. direct. p. Bang observes that policy formation itself is increasingly a site of political interaction that can include processes of goal searching. that is. partnerships. not represented or as citizens per se. The crucial question here is what is the endogenous character of the political in these policy processes? In this regard. Downloaded from aas. The key here is how people can be engaged. The communicative interaction in policy formation thus appears to be shaping more and more the political interaction in decision-making processes. He describes this new configuration as a policy-politics model. By contrast. For instance. and sending them along as outputs that influence other social systems or the political system itself. 8). They are able to regulate. Easton does not quarantine “support” to the domain of “inputs” but also situates it analytically in the consideration of “outputs. Given the critical importance of information flows within the political system. a kind of ethic of policy participation licenses contextsensitive deliberation in both policy formation and management in much of the case material. Bang describes how this involves new types of policy-oriented norms that engender innovation in resource and learning capacities as well as enabling the development of new political identities and novel forms of action. pp. In older politics-policy models. control. Bang (2007. (Easton. as we have seen above. Easton identifies policy as “political” and not just as an instrument of input political interaction and decision making. in order to develop and deliver solutions to society’s concrete and immediate policy conundrums. policy is cast as an instrument or as a site (as in the deliberative policy turn) to emphasize and enact abstract input principles. the policy-politics model deals in concrete policy values. 2007.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. it is slightly misleading to describe Easton’s account of the system as an input–output model as it is equally concerned about “flow-put” within the system (see Crozier. 2010 . 132-133) This is an understanding of political system as a productive entity capable of self-transformation. this emphasis on flow-put offers a way to circumvent the analytical myopia of older input–output models in regard to the “location” and relationship of political interaction and policy formation. and other multiactor interdependencies where there is collaboration in policy development and delivery. values relevant to getting the job done on the output side.518 Administration & Society 42(5) sluggish way.

diverse actors and agencies. the politics-policy chain has become increasingly confounded by informational and communication blockages and dilemmas in the face of growing complexity such that its capacity to get things done in society has diminished markedly. In this mode. Bang. governmental and nongovernmental. 2009). whether arguments are reasoned or not. Rather the informational power problematic poses questions about who and/or what is cultivating. In the past. This is communicatively generated power that may or may not operate symmetrically or “democratically” but nonetheless arises out of communicative interaction.. business and civil society organizations. are engaged in setting agendas on “what needs to be done” for society and executing these in and through the political system. managing.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. if these new modes are examined in terms of the informational dynamics concerned. However.g. e. New policy-politics approaches attuned to contemporary information dynamics have emerged in the wake of this shortfall. power is generated in the flows of information processing itself as it works on and through the links and nodes of these networks. These are ventures in “joint” action that nonetheless operate with political authority. or whether the communication context is more or less distorted. and participating in information flows. and where are they located in these recursive networks of communication. Conclusion The increasing levels of social complexity and reflexivity associated with contemporary information dynamics have generated a range of challenges to prevailing analytical approaches to political life. model construction supplied a way to transform multifaceted phenomenon into manageable Downloaded from aas. The emergence of policy-politics practices can thus be understood as a case of a political system creatively adapting itself in and through new modes of communication. Along with creativity and productivity. The critical power question here does not ask whether these practices enhance or diminish democratic participation. then analytical attention is drawn to capacities to nurture and coordinate intensive information flows.sagepub. However. 2010 . This suggests that there is a reconfiguring of the divisions of labor associated with political authority going on here (see. The identification and analysis of the patterns of power involved in these new modes can thus be perplexing to approaches that rely on constructs that assume the continuing predominance of older institutional and organizational arrangements.Crozier 519 The recursive dynamics of this type of policy-politics activity stand in stark contrast to the politics-policy chain of democratic government even though both still operate alongside each other.

These may be inclusive or very exclusive but all nonetheless usually require degrees of interactivity through information flows.sagepub. However. 2007. in a number of the social sciences. 2003). The logics underpinning the politics-policy model were more or less linear. In this light. 2006. In a way.g. 2005. perhaps both procedurally and substantively. Nonetheless. There are still situations where these types of models remain effective. at least for analytical purposes. what Bang has described as a policy-politics model may be better grasped as a mode that works with immediacy and emergence.520 Administration & Society 42(5) and understandable patterns. Papadopoulos & Warin. thus leading them to engage in some form of improvisation. 2008) or “possibility space” (Butler & Allen. What appears to be happening is a dynamic configuration that emerges in new policy processes as any one specific policy “communication event” (Crozier. Wagenaar.. Indeed. 2007. the recursive and emergent aspects of these new logics suggest that model building in the old sense is losing its broad efficacy. Sawer. e. 2010 . 2008. For instance. 2006. these models could range from the quite simple to highly abstract. these could be extremely useful in describing and controlling processes involving industrial logics. 1997.. Miller & Page. The novel thing about this scenario in modern constitutional democracies is that this sort of open license to “get things done” can in many cases also carry the public imprimatur of “authoritatively allocating value” (cf. Macintosh. New patterns of governance and interactive policy networks seem to engage in this modal type of behavior in all sorts of different ways. Teisman & Klijn. 2007). e. the extremely powerful methodologies that have been developed to deal with complex phenomena are centered on nonlinear dynamics rather than on architectonics (see. In terms of architecture. 2006. they are unable to deal with processes operating according to the new informational logics now proliferating. 2007). Vibert. The blockages and conundrums thrown up by growing complexity are attended to Downloaded from aas. complexity theory including theories of emergence and self-organizing systems is being explored to deal with these types of research challenges where older analytical models are faltering (see.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. Moreover. Jervis. Blume & Durlauf. Monge & Contractor. What Bang is describing as policy-politics is not a reversal of the sequencing in the politics-policy model but rather something quite different to sequencing per se. which was matched by the sequencing of a chain from political interaction and decision to policy instrumentation. Butler & Allen. 2008) unfolds. actors involved in a policy communication event may very well be unencumbered by any sense of role imposed by a preset model of behavior. the purpose of the model was to gain some descriptive if not instrumental purchase over the phenomenon at hand. Harrison.g. 2008. In the case of input–output models.

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Bio Michael P. E. N. Policy & Politics. The network society: Social aspects of new media (2nd ed. UK: Cambridge University Press. 573-596. (2000). Governance. 95-110.. H. A.. 2010 . NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. UK: Polity Press. Cambridge. G. & Skelcher. complexity... Teisman. Oxford. N. & Van Every. 17-50. 287-297. 41-61. UK: Sage. Partnership arrangements: Governmental rhetoric or governance scheme? Public Administration Review. & Klijn. 36. C.). (2006). (2003). (2006). R.com by Hugo Cadenas on September 10. Vibert. Yanow. Taylor. H. 62. R.. (2002). G. Urry.. R. 14. Infotopia: How many minds produce knowledge. Williams. Downloaded from aas. & Smith. J. The rise of the unelected: Democracy and the new separation of powers. 26. Teisman. His current research includes political systems analysis. M. Public value management: A new narrative for networked governance? American Review of Public Administration. Mathur. Sunstein. Smith. UK: Oxford University Press. London. H. 41-57. F. Cambridge. The emergent organization: Communication as its site and surface. J. Wagenaar.Crozier 525 Skelcher. J. Mahwah. 32. E. The communication of policy meanings: Implementation as interpretation and text. D. Van Dijk. American Review of Public Administration. Corporate governance in a collaborative environment: What happens when government. Public Management Review. Policy Sciences. (2007). Global complexity. (2006). business and civil society work together? Corporate Governance: An International Review. E. (2007). C. 159-171. (2008). (2006). & Klijn. (2004). G. R. (1993). The public governance of collaborative spaces: Discourse.. theorizing new governance patterns.sagepub. Stoker. 197-205. and communication analysis in political science. Public Administration. 83. (2005). C. 37. Governance and sustainability: An investigation of the role of policy mediators in the European Union policy process. design and democracy. Complexity theory and public management. Crozier is a political scientist in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. 10. J. M. and democratic participation: How citizens and public officials harness the complexities of neighborhood decline. Mathur.

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