The last three days, Colette Vogeler and I visisted the ECPR General Conference 2018 in Hamburg to present our latest research, to learn about new approaches in policy analysis, and to meet the international community of scholars developing, modifying, and applying theories of the policy process. This annual event is the largest political science conference in Europe with more than 2500 scholars from around the world. Although such a large conference naturally covers the whole variety of different sub-disciplines and issue areas, in recent years the ECPR General Conference also features a very good section on policy process theories. This section and its individual panels are a great opportunity to hear about the latest results of others, receive feedback on one’s own research and to engage with a growing international community.
Colette Vogeler, who will head the Chair for Policy Analysis and Political Economy in the next semester, presented with her co-author Malte Möck the results of a research project on the water-food nexus in German livestock production. In the two presentations, one in the policy process section and one in a food governance section, Collette and Malte highlighted the problematic constellation of the specialized livestock production in North-Western Germany in terms of Nitrate pollution in the groundwater. This specific constellation of natural, economic, and policy factors has led to a governance failure. In her contributions, Colette showed how de-coupled policy-making in food and water sectors cannot solve the existing problem and how decisions in energy policy worsened the situation – hinting also at interesting cross-sectional policy effects.
In a panel on the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF) I presented preliminary results of my dissertation project “The Political Economy of Private Security”. Making use of the recently collected data in Spain, I am now able to compare three policy processes of private security regulation in Germany, the UK, and Spain. My paper in Hamburg drew on this rich qualitative evidence of the three case studies to illustrate the working of a causal mechanism, which spells out a link between the MSF and the idea of “families of nations”. This concept developed by Francis G. Castles draws on historical, legal, and cultural factors and shows that European states cluster in their policy output in five distinct families of nations. I related this concept to one of the MSF’s criteria for survival of an idea within the discourse of the policy community: value acceptability.
After four days of inspiring panel talks, critical discussions, and meetings with colleagues in the field of policy process research from around the world, we head back from Hamburg with a whole treasure of new ideas for our current and future research projects
[photos by Colette Vogeler, Johanna Hornung, and the author]