Public Policy Paradigm Theory: Paradigm Shifts in the EU - Social and Related Policies
Burns, Tom R.
Department of Sociology Uppsala University Uppsala, Sweden
Department of Sociology Stockholm University Stockholm, Sweden
Public policy paradigm theory relates to a complex of concepts, principles, and models which have emerged over the past 15 years and which attempt to capture the interactions between ideas, institutions, and organized actors engaged in political and administrative processes. The article introduces and applies the theory to EU case studies, specifying and analyzing processes of paradigm formation and development including the "socio-politics of paradigms" (innovation, competition, conflict, alliance formation, proselytizing, etc.).
Public policy paradigm theory combines socio-cognitive models, institutional analysis, and conceptions of the ways in which organized actors seek both to realize their ideals and pursue their interests in public policies. These are illustrated through our case studies of EU policymaking in areas ranging from gender, food, chemicals, energy, climate change. The paper also identifies a number of the methodological principles and rules that characterize public policy paradigm research.
Three key findings about paradigms are presented in this article: (I) the functions/uses of public policy paradigms, for instance in interpreting socio-political reality, identifying problems and solutions, and guiding judgment and policymaking and its implementation; (II) the socio-political process of constructing and establishing or shifting a paradigm (related to the social construction of "problems" to be solved, designs, strategies, decisions). The paper identifies five basic social mechanisms of public policy paradigm shifts. (III) The structure of policy paradigms. Such a paradigm defines problems or types of problems and their sources which are to be publicly addressed and identifies the appropriate available strategies and resources to deal with these problems (or categories of problems). It defines also appropriate actors (and their roles in what takes place), for instance, those who should have public authority relating to the application and development of public policy. Furthermore, a policty paradigm usually identifies agents with special expertise (knowledgeable, authoritative experts) to define and solve the problems
The article concludes with arguments pointing out the usefulness and potentialities of public policy paradigm research program(s).