Continuity and Change in Public Policy and Management

Continuity and Change in Public Policy and Management

Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert

Combining theory development, international comparison and original case study analysis, two of Europe’s leading public policy and management scholars apply and develop some of the main models of policy change and offer a revealing long-term view of policy developments since 1965. Drawing on an extensive programme of elite interviews and documentary analysis they provide an integrated treatment of national and local policymaking in two major public services – hospital care and the police – in England and Belgium. This timely book addresses the ‘paradigm wars’ in public policy, arguing for a nuanced intermediate position that challenges the orthodox and the post-modernists alike.

Chapter 9: Reflections on Doctrines of Comparison

Christopher Pollitt and Geert Bouckaert

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy


INTRODUCTION The previous chapter dealt with the substance of our conclusions and further thoughts about our two public services in our two Western European countries. This final chapter deals not with the substance but with the ways in which that substance has been collected, assembled and presented. We have told a pair of intertwined stories (one local, one national) for each country, and we have then compared these pairs, one with another, looking for similarities, differences and general patterns over time. Each has been a complicated narrative, with many different events (for example riots, decisions, changes of government) and influences (for example finance, technology, culture). Each has offered ‘thick description’ but has also engaged with a range of theoretical issues (the effects of specified types of political and organizational regimes; path-dependency; causal mechanisms; and so on). It is therefore time to ask what kinds of stories these have been, how persuasive and reliable they are, and what kind of explanations they will bear. This is, in effect, a methodology chapter, but we have not called it that but have chosen instead to title it ‘Reflections on doctrines of comparison’. That choice is intended to send two important messages. First, the use of a plural (doctrines) emphasizes that there is no one best way to undertake all international comparisons – no single, stratospheric, gold standard against which all other approaches can be graded. Second, use of the term ‘doctrines’ suggests that the selection of a methodology by a researcher is not an...

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