An increasingly popular view on the main theoretical approaches used in Policy Analysis differs between two main camps (for a recent article by Georg Wenzelburger, click here): policy output theories – focusing on single variables or factors – and policy process theories, which place emphasis on the specific course of a policy – from its origins as an idea, through agenda setting, and up to its adaption by the political system. Due to the specific mixed method research design employed in my dissertation project “The Political Economy of Private Security”, I aim to establish a certain synthesis between both approaches in order to arrive at a better integration of the quantitative and qualitative analyses.
At the conference “Tag der Politikwissenschaft 2017” in Graz, organized by the Austrian Political Science Association (ÖGPW), I now had the chance to present this general idea illustrated by first results of a qualitative case study. My work draws heavily on the revised Multiple Streams Framework developed by Herweg et al. (2015), but differs in the way single variables of policy output theories are “blended in”.
The preliminary results of my case studies confirm the utility of such an approach. Via a most detailed tracing of single policy processes based on document and interview data, it is possible to identify not only the drivers and stages of the process according to the Multiple Streams Framework but moreover also single causal mechanisms which shape the form of the later policy. In the present paper I was able to show how the idea of distinct “families of nations” developed by Francis Castles, can be linked to the discourses of policy communities on the micro level. In these communities experts debate new policy ideas, which need to meet certain criteria in order to survive. One of these criteria is “value acceptability”. It means that national expert discourses rest on a basic set of normative assumptions about how things should be done. For my policy field of interest – the regulation of private security industries – this relates to ideas about the appropriate role of market and state. And in fact, the studied case – a recent reform of German private security regulation – provides amble evidence for such a mechanism: Alternative policy ideas do not survive the early expert discourses, because they do not fit with an important norm – here the “Gewerbefreiheit”.
The commentaries and suggestions by the colleagues on my panel were encouraging and I will proceed in the project by employing the same “blended” hypotheses to my next case: a major Spanish law on private security from 2014. I hope to find further evidence for the mechanisms identified in the German and British cases. This careful analysis is enabled by a synthesis of policy output and policy process theories within the revised version of the Multiple Streams Framework I apply.
[photo by Helge Staff]