Policy, Performance and Management in Governance and Intergovernmental Relations Transatlantic Perspectives
Edited by Edoardo Ongaro, Andrew Massey, Marc Holzer and Ellen Wayenberg
Chapter 10: Revisiting Pressman and Wildavsky: Implementation and the Thickness of Hierarchy
10. Revisiting Pressman and Wildavsky: implementation and the thickness of hierarchy Peter L. Hupe1 INTRODUCTION Beyond the Top-down View? ‘(T)he ability to forge subsequent links in the causal chain so as to obtain the desired results.’ That is how Jeffrey Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky describe implementation in the preface to the first edition of their book (1973, 1984: xxiii). They speak about understanding sequences of events as depending on ‘complex chains of reciprocal interaction’ (ibid.: xxv). The authors use the chain metaphor several times in the book. In fact, they see the success of implementation as highly dependent on the length of the vertical chain implied by the policy process involved. ‘The longer the chains of causality, the more numerous the reciprocal relationships among the links and the more complex implementation becomes’ (ibid.: xxiv). The essence of Pressman and Wildavsky’s argument is that the more ‘clearances’ there are in the vertical ‘chain’ of a policy process, the smaller the chance will be of an implementation congruent with the policy intentions of the policy concerned. The assumption is that if action depends upon a range of links in a vertical line of implementation, the degree of co-operation between agencies required to make those links has to be close to 100 per cent if a situation is not to occur in which a number of small deficits create a large shortfall in a cumulative way. Pressman and Wildavsky thus introduce the idea of an ‘implementation deficit’. The goals of a public...
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