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5 Unofficial Actors and their

Role in the Policy Process
Avinash Samal

The policy studies scholars have divided the players in the policy process
into two main categories such as official and unofficial actors. Official actors
are those involved in public policy by virtue of their statutory or
constitutional responsibilities and have the power to make and enforce
policies. This does not preclude the possibility of these people being
influenced by others, like political party bosses or other interest/pressure
groups. The actors belonging to legislature, executive (including
bureaucracy), judiciary and regulatory agencies are clearly the official
actors.

Besides the official actors, there are many other groups and
organizations which do participate in the policy-making process. These
actors are called unofficial because their participation in the policy process
is not a function of their duties under the Constitution or the law. This is not
to say that these actors have no rights or standing to participate in the
process. Rather, it means that their mode of participation in policy
formulation is not specified in law. On the other hand, it has evolved and
grown as the nation has evolved and grown. So the unofficial actors refer to
those who play a role in the policy process without any explicit legal
authority to participate, aside from the usual rights of participation in a
democracy. These groups include the interest/pressure groups of various
types, political parties, individual citizens, research organizations and think
tanks, and the mass media. They considerably influence policy formulation
without possessing legal authority to make binding policy decisions. While
the previous chapter focused on the role of official actors (legislature,
executive and judiciary) in policy formulation, the present chapter discusses
in detail the role of unofficial actors in the policy process.

Interest Groups

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A coherent peak association may be expected to be more influential than those interest groups operating individually. Special interest groups often make financial contributions to the campaign chests of sympathetic political parties and politicians. The main function of these groups is to express demands and present alternatives for policy action. and particularly of the executive and bureaucracy. the realities of modern politics enable groups formed specifically to promote the interests or positions of specialized social groups to play a significant role in the policy process. Well-organized and active groups naturally have more influence than groups whose potential membership is poorly organized and inarticulate. Some groups often form a ‘peak association’ consisting of representatives from other groups with similar interests. interest groups’ political impacts on the formulation and implementation of public policies vary considerably according to their access to differing levels of organizational resources. However. The members of specialized groups often know a great deal about their area of concern. interest groups differ tremendously in terms of size of membership. While policy-making is a preserve of the government. those with information may normally expect to play an important role than the other. The primary concern of a pressure group is to influence policy in a particular manner. Often there are several groups with conflicting desires on a particular policy issue. First.At the societal level. larger groups can be expected to be taken more seriously by the government. 2 . Second. The possession of specific information that may be unavailable or less available to others constitutes a very important advantage for them. Since policy-making is a highly information-intensive process. They also campaign for and deliver votes to sympathetic candidates who they think would support their cause in the government. Bureaucrats similarly often need these groups’ help in developing and implementing many policies (Baumgartner and Leech 1998). Government and opposition parties at times curry favour with such groups to secure the information required for effective policy-making or for attacking their opponents. and policy makers are faced with the problem of having to choose between conflicting demands. The other resources possessed by interest or pressure groups are organizational and political. They may also supply the official lawmakers with much technical information for and against a specific issue and possible consequences of a policy proposal. One of the most important resources that differentiates such actors from others is the specific knowledge they have at their disposal. Politicians and bureaucrats often find the information provided by interest groups indispensable for performing their tasks. All other things being equal. their propensity to associate with other similar groups also works as a powerful influential factor. interest or pressure groups play a significant role in the policy-making in many countries.

while many groups are local and deal with local issues. as they are often called. some groups are well funded which enables them to hire permanent specialized staff and influence parties and candidates during elections. social status and attitudes of the policy makers on specific policy issues. many interest groups and popular movements cannot be confined to small states or communities. While the exact impact of interest group campaign expenditures on government policy is contentious. leadership skills. the mere existence of a group does not necessary suggest that it will have any voice in policy making. other groups simply do not have it. and a membership group. In fact. Types of Interests Groups There are many ways to categorize interest groups. Rapid socio-economic and technological changes. While mobilization and group development are not greatly constrained in our political system. While some groups. With freedom of association and speech guaranteed by the Constitution. Groups that represent powerful or privileged interests are partly responsible for Americans’ suspicion of interest groups or. Today. The strength and legitimacy of groups also differs from country to country. they are unlikely to be entirely ignored except in rare circumstances when executive makes a high-level and deliberate decision to go ahead with a policy despite opposition from concerned groups. coupled with transportation and communications capabilities unimagined in the past. In fact. the number of interest groups has rapidly expanded since the 1960s. One can distinguish between an institutional interest group. such as halting the construction of multipurpose dams across rivers to banning the screening of some of the movies in the theatre halls. organization and style of operation. ‘special interest groups’. depending upon whether they are democratic or dictatorial. whose members have 3 . particularly those representing concentrated economic and business interests. it is not surprising that pressure groups are many and varied in number. have considerably more power. Fourth. UK and India than they are in the Soviet Union or China. Grassroots organizations form nearly daily to pursue myriad goals. has made it possible for large many groups to mobilize quickly on a regional or national scale. Third. there is no doubt that differences in financial resources matter and that in democratic political systems the information and power resources of interest groups make them key members of policy subsystems. size. some groups call themselves ‘public interest groups’ to signal that they view their mission as a counterweight to these ‘special’ interests. Interest groups are found to be more numerous in the USA. interests. neither US nor India place any legal burden in the path of those who wish to mobilize and form an interest group. developed or developing. whose members belong to a particular institution. their influence and effectiveness also depends on other resources like cohesiveness. While this does not guarantee that their interests will be accommodated. Given the plural character of USA or Indian society.

in the broader public interest – there is also a more technical way to distinguish between the two. These tend to be small groups in terms of the actual numbers of members. Industry groups. In economic terms. While the difference between the two is sometimes rhetorical – almost every group believes it is acting. he or she is a member of an institutional interest group – university students union – because he or she shares some interests with the fellow students. work to provide wage and benefit agreements that benefit only the members of the union. a cleaner environment without providing such benefits to others. such as environmental groups. they also seek to protect the economic interests of their members. Finally. the union seeks to promote cohesion and to encourage others to join the union. people join because they gain some benefit. Common Cause. and. If one happens to be a student at a university. Groups such as the Indian Medical Association and the Bar Council of India seek to promote and protect the professional and economic interests of doctors and lawyers. but are powerful because of what these groups are: collections of powerful economic interests that often enjoy considerable local. we can say that non-members of public interest groups are free riders who benefit from the work of the group without contributing resources such as labour or money. By restricting benefits in this way. For example. a social movement may result. In both public interest and economic groups. seek to create broad benefits for the entire society. regional. and the like. labour unions. such as journals and continuing education. Indeed. are clearly economic groups. Economic groups. on the other hand. Public interest groups. They play an active role in the education and licensing of doctors and lawyers. As a rule. it is easier for economic groups to do so because their members have their 4 . While they provide important benefits and services to their members.chosen to join. say. as mentioned earlier. such as FICCI. When their interests are threatened. they also know that non-members constitute a potential force of supporters. such as affordable tuition fee and quality education. he or she becomes part of a membership group because he or has chosen to join the same deliberately. not simply their members. One can also categorize interest groups as economic or private interest groups versus public interest groups. or national political support. thereby seeking to keep the size of the profession relatively fixed. one can consider professional and trade associations to be economic associations. If one joins the NCC or a Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). particularly in ‘closed shop’ states where all workers must pay dues to the union. it is difficult to allow only public interest group members to reap the benefits of. seek to overcome the free-rider problem by creating benefits only for the members of their groups. directly or indirectly. and the National Automobile Dealers Association. the National Association of Manufacturers. While public interest groups would like more people to join their causes. when many such people are mobilized. they lobby elected and appointed officials for its redress. The challenge for public interest groups is to make clear what those benefits are in order to attract and keep members.

during times of social upheaval and crisis or when issues of morality and values are paramount. due to improvements in modem means of communication and transportation and the gradual removal of controls on international economic transactions. the organization of business and labour is often seen as the most significant factor in determining a state’s policy capabilities. etc. These groups range from the mainstream churches to the more ‘fundamentalist’ churches. As pointed out by both neo-pluralist and corporatist theorists. glossy magazines. and from the politically moderate to the politically extreme on both ends of the ideological spectrum. it is important to note that some groups do not fit neatly into the public interest-economic dichotomy. This is because of the vital role each plays in the production process. Such groups can become important players in the policy process. in the broader society.economic security at stake. must appeal to other motivations than economics. Because of their potential to affect state revenues negatively. This can lead political 5 . moral. if they so wish. their mission is to promote their religious. in every society. Most public interest groups make an appeal to people’s desire to do good. political parties supported by contributions from business are in a better position to run such campaigns and thus influence voting behaviour. Elections can sometimes turn on relatively short-term issues and personalities. capitalists – both domestic as well as foreign – have the ability to ‘punish’ the state for any action it might take of which they disapprove (Hayes 1978). Public interest groups. augmenting it by material benefits like discounted nature tours. has contributed tremendously to the power of capital in recent decades. The increasing globalization of production and financial activities. and ideological values among their members and. Finally. sometimes. a fundamental activity that has effects far beyond the economy. on the other hand. to any unwanted government action by moving capital to another location. Rather. The financial contributions that businesses make to political parties also afford them an important resource for influencing policy-makers. at least briefly. Business Associations Among the various types of interest groups. but they help to attract new members and promote group cohesion. the United States contains many religious and ideological groups that come together without being based on economics or a broader public interest mission. with an unmatched capacity to affect public policy. Still. they are not as powerful as economic inducements in promoting group unity. In particular. which necessitate large budgets to influence voters through extensive media advertising campaigns. Although this theoretical mobility is limited by a variety of factors – including the availability of suitable investment opportunities in other countries – the potential loss of employment and revenues is a threat with which the state must contend in making decisions. It is possible for investors and managers to respond. calendars. which is. business is generally the most powerful. In such situations. These benefits seem trivial. and the benefits are then more tangible.

Labour Groups Labour. The strength or weakness of business and the varying patterns of government-industry relations found in a country are usually shaped by a range of historical factors. It usually takes the form of a peak association (a sort of federation of associations) with the authority to impose sanctions and discipline among its members. 6 . Similarly. Abelson 1999). which is their primary function. Although the example of Japan cited above is somewhat typical. too. Spain. i. too. the stronger will be the business influence. if the state is confident of the strength of the business association. the organizational strength of business is affected by the structure of the economy. In addition to bargaining with employers on behalf of their members’ wages and working conditions. Other European countries. which enjoys considerable weight with policy-makers even at the individual level of the firm. Austria. Moreover. labour needs a collective organization. The existence of strong business associations simplifies the government’s job by aggregating their demands within the organization. corporations have seen few reasons to organize. Second. In national economies characterized by low industrial concentration or high levels of foreign ownership. persistent challenges from trade unions or socialist parties. political culture. to have its voice heard in the policy subsystem. such as France. then it can delegate some business-related responsibilities to the business association itself. countries with strong states often have strong business organizations because in order to pressure strong governments business itself must be well organized. the US is regarded as having the weakest business organizations in the industrialized world and Japan the strongest. The stronger the unions. though not so powerful as business. business is often strongly organized if it has been confronted with strong. In countries such as the US and Canada with cultures highly supportive of business. Germany. a trade union.parties and candidates running for office to accommodate business interests more than they would for those of the other groups. Fourth. occupies a powerful position among social groups. it is difficult for the disparate elements to organize and devise a common position. Unlike business.e. Generally speaking. Third. has an important bearing on the extent and nature of business involvement in politics. and Sweden. A strong business organization is able to adopt a bold position if necessary and convey it to the government. A strong state may also nurture a strong business association in order to avoid the problems arising from too many groups making conflicting demands on the same issue. without incurring serious opposition from its rank and file. with countries like Britain or Canada falling closer to the US model. fall closer to the Japanese model (Katzenstein 1977). the financial contributions that businesses often make to public policy research institutions and individual researchers serve to further entrench their power. The organizations and individuals receiving funds tend to be sympathetic towards business interests and can provide business with the intellectual wherewithal often required to prevail in policy debates (McGann and Weaver 1999.

A weak and fragmented state will not be able to secure effective participation by unions because the latter would see little certainty that the government would be able to keep its side in any bargain. where the state encourages the formation and maintenance of 7 . the more successful it is likely to be. the trade union needs to enjoy comprehensive membership and have the organizational capacity to deal with conflicts among its members and maintain unity. who form a majority in every industrialized society. the more united a front it is able to put up. Weak businesses can also inhibit the emergence of a powerful trade union organization because the need for it is less immediate. and the United States. and the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). in Austria and the Netherlands. ethnic. whereas in Australia. or import-competing versus export-oriented lines will also experience difficulties in influencing the policy process. The creation of labour or social democratic parties. A union movement fragmented along any or all of possible regional. to realize its policy potential labour needs a central organization. or industrial versus craft. Trade Unions’ role in the policy process tends to be the highest in corporatist political systems such as the ones in Scandinavian countries. such as the Australian or British Trade Union Congress (TUC). The level of union membership affects the extent to which states seek or even accept union participation in the policy process. to have a say in the functioning of the government. foreign versus domestic. for example. Fragmentation among labour ranks tends to promote local and sporadic industrial strife and incoherent articulation of labour’s interest in the policy process (Lacroix 1986). which enabled workers. and the Scandinavian countries bargaining takes place at the industry or even countrywide level (Esping-Andersen and Korpi 1984. Hibbs 1987). the most important determinant of labour’s capacity to influence the policy process and its outcomes is its own internal organization. even more than does business. religious. linguistic. To be effective. The same is true for the structure of bargaining units: decentralized collective bargaining promotes a fragmented system of articulation of labour demands.trade unions engage in political activities to shape government policies affecting them (Taylor 1989). have decentralized bargaining structures. Given the voting clout afforded to them in a democracy. The origin of the role of the trade unions in the public policy process is rooted in late nineteenth-century democratization. Austria. Canada. However. Finally. Britain. The structure of the state itself is an important determinant of trade union participation in the policy process. further reinforced labour’s political power (Qualter 1985). Since collective action is the only tool through which labour can influence the employers’ or the government’s behaviour. The nature and effectiveness of trade unions’ participation in the policy process depend on a variety of institutional and contextual factors. the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). which eventually formed governments in many countries. it was sometimes easier for them to pressure the government to meet their needs than to bargain with their employers. All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).

political parties have a broader range of policy concerns than interest groups. of course. and the lowest in pluralist political systems such as the United States and Canada. the legislature. In modem societies.e. In one-party systems like the Soviet Union and China. they act more as brokers than as advocates of particular interests in policy formation. Needless to say. stems from their undeniable influence on elections and electoral outcomes in democratic states. The way in which parties ‘aggregate’ interests is affected by the number of parties. The regional parties. the political party that has a majority of votes in parliament forms the government. While vote-seeking political parties and candidates attempt to offer packages of policies they hope will appeal to 8 . they are the chief official framers of public policy. to a lesser degree.strong trade unions. most of the governments make policies according to the policy manifestos on which they have been elected to office. are more sectarian in their approach since they desire mainly to woo a particular regional segment of the population. i. Most of the national parties have manifestos. with half a dozen national parties and regional parties of twice the number. the fact that members of Legislatures often vote in accordance with their party policy. on the other hand. In multiparty systems. Though they are not directly represented in the policy subsystem. Generally. the party that controls the Congress exercises significant influence on policy matters. the party to which they are affiliated may influence many of the actors in the subsystem. They have a significant impact on public policy. parties may do less aggregating and act as the representatives of fairly narrow sets of interests as appears to be the case in France. though in the modern era this usually has been only indirectly. which only differ in stress rather than in content since their common desire is to extend their electoral base as wide as possible. Indeed. Political Parties Political parties are an intermediating actor existing on the margins or border between state and societal actors. In parliamentary democracies. political parties generally perform the function of ‘interest aggregation’. they seek to convert the particular demands of interest groups into general policy alternatives. where it does not. In presidential systems like the United States. Hence. primarily through their role in staffing the executive and. once in office. however. Political parties tend to influence public policy indirectly. In predominantly biparty systems such as the United States and Great Britain. which is the chief official policy maker. there is a multiparty system. it is not uncommon for party members in government to ignore their official party platform while designing policies (Thomson 2001). the desire of the parties to gain widespread electoral support will force both parties to include in their policy proposals popular demands and avoid alienating the most important social groups. The idea that political parties play a major role in the public policy process. In India.

Political parties tend to have only an indirect effect on policy making through their role in determining who actually staffs legislative. as Richard Rose argued almost a quarter century ago in the case of Britain: 9 . Even when parties do manage to raise an issue and see it move from the public to the official agenda. this power should not be overestimated. as they play a stronger but still indirect role in policy formulation and decision- making due to the strong role played in these two stages of the policy cycle by members of the political executive. They will also be important in securing support. allows them considerable influence on the content of policy decisions taken by those individuals. so too proponents of change face the need to modify their demands. of course. and judicial institutions. These range from limitations imposed by the country’s constitution to the specific mandate conferred on individual decision-makers by various laws and regulations (Pal 1988. Various rules set out not only the decisions that can be made by government agencies or officials. Axworthy 1988). does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that ‘parties do not matter’. As Richard Rose (1980: 153) puts it: “A party can create a movement on a given issue. or that any such influence may be waning. The role played by political parties in staffing political executives and legislatures. Modifications are necessary to secure the agreement of diverse interests within a party. they cannot control its evolution past that point. the electoral system is not structured to allow voters a choice on specific policies. by affected pressure groups.voters. but also the procedures they must follow in doing so. including those related to the staffing of the senior public service. The fact that the influence of parties on particular stages of the policy process may be muted. Howlett 1997). as we have seen. Their role in policy implementation is virtually nil. while they can have a more direct effect on policy evaluation undertaken by legislators and legislative committees (Minkenberg 2001). The representational system also limits the public’s ability to ensure that electorally salient policy issues actually move onto official government agendas. a governing party will also need to make changes to meet the weaknesses spotted by civil service advisors and parliamentary draftsmen responsible for turning a statement of intent into a bill to present to Parliament. dominated by routine or institutionalized agenda-setting opportunities rather than by partisan political activity (Kingdon 1984. however. the degree of freedom enjoyed by each decision-maker is circumscribed by a host of factors that limit the conduct of each office and constrain the actions of each office-holder. In modem governments. their indirect influence is not. Finally.” While their direct influence may be muted. Just as defenders of the status quo may find it difficult to defend their position without adapting it. Their role in agenda setting is very weak. executive. or at least grudging acceptance. but it cannot ensure the direction it will lead. That is. However. The official agenda of governments is. in fact.

Neither they join pressure groups nor do they display any active interest in public affairs. It not only affords citizens the opportunity to express their choice of government. this aphorism means very little. The differences in office between one party and another are less likely to arise from contrasting intentions than from the exigencies of government.parties are not the primary forces shaping the destiny of …society. is very negligible. In modern democracies policies are made by representatives of voters who. most legislators participate very little in the policy process. On the one hand. for various reasons. not so much because it 10 . More significantly. in democratic states voting is the most basic means of participating in the political and. However. by implication. as was discussed above. is voting. Citizen participation in policy- making. Much of a party’s record in office will be stamped upon it from forces outside its control. Surprising as it may appear. Elections are the major instruments in democratic countries to gauge public opinion or popular wishes. The Public (Individual Citizens) Since democratic governments are representative governments. but the differences are not as expected. despite such political attitudes of a great majority of citizens. The most conspicuous difference between authoritarianism and democratic regimes is that democracies choose their top policy makers in genuine elections. policy process. One important role played by members of the public in democratic polities. Even when they do. Moreover. once elected. attitudes. voters usually do not vote on the basis of proposed policies alone. In an abstract sense. policy decisions are taken by representative institutions that empower specialized actors to determine the scope and content of public policies. even in democratic countries. the ‘public’ plays a rather small direct role in the public policy process. at least not directly. some still participate directly in decision- making. and values against which the policy process is displayed. it is shaped by something stronger than parties. candidates and political parties often do not run in elections on the basis of their policy platforms. rather than the public per se determining policy. “Parties do make a difference in the way [a country] is governed. But concretely. this is true. the voters’ policy capacity usually cannot be actualized. but also empowers them to pressure political parties and candidates seeking their votes to offer them attractive policy packages. as it provides the backdrop of norms. In some of the American states (like California) and some countries (like Switzerland) citizens can and still vote directly on a legislation or on constitutional amendments which are submitted to the voters for approval. which tends to be dominated by experts in specific sectoral areas rather than by legislative generalists. On the other hand. Many people do not exercise their franchise or engage in party politics. it is often said that citizens arc therefore indirectly represented in the policy-making process. Voting in genuine elections may be an important method of citizen influence on policy. This is not to say that its role is inconsequential. in most liberal democratic states.. (Rose 1980: 141).. of course. However. are not required to heed the preferences of their constituents in their day-to-day functioning.

D. it is a truism that no government. Indeed. Their research tends to be directed at proposing practical solutions to public problems or.actually permits citizens to choose their officials and to some degree instructs these officials on policy. In fact. experts on various issue areas in order to develop a comprehensive perspective on the issues facing governments. and the RAND. Even dictators undertake many popular measures to keep down unrest or discontent against the regime. Such organizations maintain an interest in a broad range of policy problems and employ. Research Organizations and Public Policy Think Tanks Another significant set of unofficial actors in the policy process is composed of the researchers working at universities. the Fraser Institute. the American Enterprise Institute. Indirectly. elections enforce on proximate policy makers a rule that citizens’ wishes count in policy making. One-party systems like the Soviet Union also seem concerned to meet many citizen wants even as they exclude citizens from more direct participation in policy formation. academics undertaking directly relevant policy research are sponsored by think-tanks (Ricci 1993). they too maintain an image of intellectual autonomy from the government or any political party in order to be taken seriously by policy-makers. whose interests are more specialized and who do not necessarily seek practical solutions to policy problems. in the case of some think-tanks. Similar organizations in Canada include the C. However. and think- tanks on particular policy issues. research institutes. the Cato Institute. and the Institute for Research on Public Policy. finding evidence to support the ideological or interest-driven positions they advocate. A think-tank can be defined as an independent organization engaged in multidisciplinary research intended to influence public policy (James 1993). or what are often called ‘think tanks’. While think-tanks are generally more partisan than their purely academic counterparts. can afford to go against the desires. University researchers often have theoretical and philosophical interests in public problems that may not lead to research results that can be translated directly into usable knowledge for policy purposes. Some of the prominent think-tanks in the United States are the Brookings Institution. in many instances. the development of more complex government problems and the need for greater analytic capacity than that possessed by the governments have led to the growth of independent research organizations. the Urban Institute. customs or traditions of the people. howsoever dictatorial. To the extent that they do conduct research for the purpose of participating in policy debates. Major think-tanks in Britain include the Policy Studies Institute and 11 . but because the existence of genuine elections puts a stamp of approval on citizen participation. therefore. either full-time or on a contract basis. wishes. they often function in a manner similar to their counterparts in think tanks. Howe Institute. the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This sets them apart somewhat from academic researchers at universities.

and developing countries. journal articles. a premium has been placed on writing articles and pieces for newspapers and making appearances on radio and television programmes. which have come up in recent years. Others. In addition. Parenti 1986). While some regard the role of the mass media in the policy process as pivotal (Herman and Chomsky 1988. like political parties. unlike the researchers working in universities or the government. like RAND. Many think tanks are associated with a particular ideological position. There is no denying that the mass media are crucial links between the state and society. a position that allows for significant influence on the preferences of government and society in regard to the identification of public problems and their solutions. news programmes do not just report on a problem but often go to great lengths in locating a problem not otherwise obvious. Abelson. much of the work of think-tanks has been devoted to promoting economic efficiency. etc. spend a great deal of effort publicizing their findings. the American Enterprise Institute is somewhat more to the right. This new brand of research and analysis is dependent on ‘the public policy food chain’. They also seek originality in their ideas and. RAND uses very sophisticated techniques in its analyses of a range of public issues. 1996). since this has been an important preoccupation of the governments in the industrialized world. which includes a range of knowledge and policy-oriented institutions. Short reports. their direct role in the various stages of the policy process is often sporadic and most often quite marginal. and others that are more limited in their purview such as the Canadian Environmental Law Association (Lindquist. some with broad policy mandates. Media portrayal of public problems and proposed solutions often conditions how they are 12 . The role of the media in the policy process originates in the fact that in reporting problems they function both as passive reporters and as active analysts. Mass Media Last but not the least. The media’s role in agenda-setting is thus particularly significant. 1993. Yet. as well as advocates of particular policy solutions. Observer Research Foundation. and Cato is libertarian.the National Institute for Economic and Social Research. That is. developed. are more closely associated with their methodological style. media constitutes one of the important intermediating actors active in the policy-making process. While Brookings and Urban Institute are center-left. Over the last few decades. at the same time. others describe it as marginal (Kingdon 1984). Literally hundreds of such institutes are active in the Western. there are a few policy think tanks like Centre for Policy Research. The need for a quick response to policy issues and problems has forced many think-tanks to develop new ‘product lines’. Think-tanks target their research and recommendations to those politicians who may be expected to be favourably disposed to the ideas being espoused. and policy briefs that can be quickly read and digested have replaced book-length studies as the primary output of many think-tanks. defining its nature and scope and suggesting or implying the availability of potential solutions. In India too.

they are not easily swayed by media portrayals of issues and preferred policy solutions or by the mere fact of media attention. Indeed. in the sense that they define what is worthy of reporting and the aspects of a situation that should be highlighted. Reporters and editors are newsmakers. undistorted by bias or inaccuracy. crime stories receive so much prominence in television news and. But what objectives they pursue. This partially explains why. However. as it has an inclination toward the sensational news and also a tendency to exaggerate some aspects of an issue. policy issues that can be translated into an interesting story tend to be viewed by the public as more important than those that do not lend themselves so easily to narrative structures and first-person accounts and sound bites. as a corollary the public puts pressure on governments to appear to act tough on crime. it can be said that while the official actors like the minister(s) and bureaucrats by virtue of their central position in the policy subsystem and access to abundant organizational resources critically affect and influence the policy process. Indeed. while playing down others. very often the media are led by state opinion rather than vice versa (Howlett 1997). however. and on the outcomes of the policy process. Thus. These structures have a decisive effect on actors’ interest and behaviour. their societal counterparts like interest groups (business and labour). thereby shutting out some alternatives and making the choice of others more likely. exaggerate the mass media’s role in the policy process. for example. Other policy actors have resources enabling them to counteract media influence. research organizations/think tanks and the media often play a significant role in many policy areas. how they do so. and the extent to which they succeed in their efforts depend to a large extent on the institutional context in which they operate. a situation paralleled at the international level by the structure of international regimes and the role played by state resources within them. At the domestic level. We must not. and policy-makers are for the most part intelligent and resourceful individuals who understand their own interests and have their own ideas about appropriate or feasible policy options. It is not uncommon for public officials and successful interest groups to provide selective information to the media to bolster their case.understood by the public and many members of government. political parties. This is particularly significant considering that news reporting is not an objective mirror of reality. Conclusion To conclude. As a rule. All these actors have their own objectives. which they seek to achieve through subsystem membership and participation in the policy process. they often use the media to their own advantage. 13 . the mass media has the tendency to be a one-sided source for setting the policy agenda. the structure of political institutions affects the autonomy and capacity of the executive and bureaucracy.

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