Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2018

The Political Economy of Public Policy

Dr. Christel Koop, Department of Political Economy, King's College London, United Kingdom

Course dates: 23 - 27 July 2018

NOTE! This course is closed for applications.

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Main disciplines: Public Policy, Political Science,
Political Economy, Public Administration

Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants

Course objectives / learning outcome
This course centres around the questions of how public policies emerge and change, and how they vary over time and across countries. It seeks to provide an advanced understanding of public policy, focusing on traditional models of policy-making as well as more recent contributions in the fields of comparative and international political economy. We critically assess the theoretical and empirical arguments, and apply the approaches and concepts to real-world cases, evaluating the importance of different explanations.

We focus on the different actors that play a role in the policy-making process, including bureaucrats and politicians, and business and the public. We address the question of what assumptions we should make about the actors in the policy process, and look at the role of interests, ideas and institutions. Also, we take a comparative and temporal perspective, looking at continuity, change and variation in public policy.

The course does not emphasise particular policy domains, but we apply the approaches and concepts to a wide range of issues, assessing also how different policy issues attract different types of politics. The focus of the course is generic, though the literature is primarily concerned with policy-making in developed economies. Finally, though policy evaluation is also part of the policy process, we look at policy-making rather than evaluation.

Course plan overview

Day 1 – Models and assumptions

  1. Why do we use models of policy-making?
  2. What assumptions should we make about policy actors?


Day 2 – Continuity and change  

  1. Why do we observe so much continuity in policies? 
  2. How does policy change come about?


Day 3 – Bureaucrats and politicians  

  1. Are bureaucrats or politicians in charge of policy-making?
  2. How do parties and elections matter?


Day 4 – Business interests and the public

  1. How do interest groups matter?
  2. What role do public preferences play?


Day 5 – Policy-making in a globalised world

  1. Globalisation and policy-making
  2. Policy diffusion and convergence

Day 1: Models and assumptions
On the first day, we look at several prominent traditional models of policy-making. We evaluate their key features and strengths and weaknesses. We especially focus on the underlying assumptions of the various models, addressing the more general question what assumptions about policy actors we can and should make.

Lecture 1: Why do we use models of policy-making?

  • Policy stages models
  • The garbage can model
  • The advocacy coalition framework
  • The multiple streams model

Lecture 2: What assumptions should we make about policy actors?

  • Rationality and bounded rationality
  • Whose interests matter? 


In case of time pressure, please prioritise the readings with an asterisk.

  • * John W. Kingdon (2010). Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. Updated second edition. Harlow: Pearson, Chapters 1 and 8.
  • * Paul Sabatier (1988). “An advocacy coalition framework of policy change and the role of policy-oriented learning therein.” Policy Sciences 21(2/3): 129-168.
  • * Herbert Simon (1955). “A behavioral model of rational choice.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 69: 99-118.
  • * Michael Hantke-Domas (2003). “The public interest theory of regulation: Non-existence or misinterpretation?” European Journal of Law and Economics 15 (2): 165-194.
  • Harold D. Lasswell (1951). “The policy orientation.” In Daniel Lerner and Harold D. Lasswell (Eds.). The Policy Sciences: Recent Developments in Scope and Method. Stanford: Stanford University Press, pp. 3-15.
  • Michael D. Cohen, James G. March and Johan P. Olsen (1972). “A garbage can model of organizational choice.” Administrative Science Quarterly 17 (1): 1-25.
  • Bryan D. Jones (2017). Behavioral rationality as a foundation for public policy studies. Cognitive Systems Research 43: 63-75.

Day 2: Continuity and change
On Day 2, we take a temporal perspective and focus on continuity and change in policies. As we mostly observe policy continuity, we first address the question how can account for this, looking at concepts such as path dependence, negative and positive feedback, bounded rationality and institutions. We then turn to the ‘special case’ of policy change, assessing the importance of the different factors that may trigger such change, including external shocks, internal policy decay, and changes in interests and ideas.

Lecture 3: Why do we observe so much continuity in policies?

  • Path dependence
  • Negative and positive feedback
  • Veto players
  • The role of bounded rationality 

Lecture 4: How does policy change come about?

  • Punctuated equilibrium
  • External shocks
  • Internal decay
  • Changes in interests and ideas


In case of time pressure, please prioritise the readings with an asterisk.

  • * Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan Jones (2009). Agendas and Instability in American Politics. Second edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chapters 1 and 6.
  • * John Forrester (1984) “Bounded rationality and the politics of muddling through”. Public Administration Review 44 (1): 23-30.
  • * R. Kent Weaver (2010) “Paths and forks or chutes and ladders? Negative feedback and policy regime change.” Journal of Public Policy 30(2): 137-162.
  • * George Tsebelis (1995). “Decision making in political systems: Veto players in presidentialism, parliamentarism, multicameralism and multipartyism.” British Journal of Political Science 25: 289-325.
  • Paul Pierson (2000). “Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics.” American Political Science Review 94 (2): 251-268.
  • Daniel Carpenter (2010). “Institutional strangulation: Bureaucratic politics and financial reform in the Obama administration.” Perspectives on Politics 8 (3): 825-846.
  • Bernhard Ebbinghaus (2015). “Peter A. Hall and David Soskice, Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage.” In Martin Lodge, Edward C. Page and Steven J. Balla (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Classics in Public Policy and Administration. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 605-622.

Day 3: Bureaucrats and politicians
Day 3 focuses on the role of state actors in policy-making – that is, the bureaucrats and politicians. We look at the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians, asking the questions of who drives the policy process. Also, we discuss what motivation we can ascribe to bureaucrats and politicians. In the afternoon, we assess the importance of elections and political parties in the policy process.

Lecture 5: Are bureaucrats or politicians in charge of policy-making?

  • To what extent do bureaucrats drive policy-making?
  • To what extent do politicians matter in the process?
  • What drives politicians and bureaucrats?

Lecture 6: How do parties and elections matter?

  • Do political parties matter?  
  • How and when do elections matter for policy-making?


In case of time pressure, please prioritise the readings with an asterisk.

  • * Joel D. Aberbach, Robert D. Putnam, and Bert A. Rockman (1981). Bureaucrats and Politicians in Western Democracies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Chapter 1.
  • * Edward C. Page (2003). “The civil servant as legislator.” Public Administration 81 (4): 651-679.
  • * Carles Boix (1997). “Political parties and the supply side of the economy: The provision of physical and human capital in advanced economies, 1960-90.” American Journal of Political Science 41 (3): 814-845.
  • * Kenneth A. Schultz (1995). “The politics of the political business cycle.” British Journal of Political Science 25 (1): 79-99.
  • Herbert Obinger, Carina Schmitt and Reimut Zohlnhöfer (2014). “Partisan politics and privatization in OECD countries.” Comparative Political Studies 47 (9): 1294–1323.
  • William D. Nordhaus (1975). “The Political Business Cycle.” Review of Economic Studies 42 (2): 169-190.
  • Joshua Clinton and David Lewis (2008). “Expert opinion, agency characteristics and agency preferences.” Political Analysis 16 (1): 3-20.

Day 4: Business interests and the public  
On Day 4, we turn to the role of societal actors in policy-making, addressing the question to what extent policies respond to organised (business) interests and the public. We look at how different interests seek to influence policy-making, and at the conditions under which policies may be responsive to public preferences. In the process of studying the role of business and the public, we also address the question whether state actors are autonomous or solely driven by societal pressures.

Lecture 7: How do interest groups matter?

  • Which interest groups matter?
  • How do interest groups influence policy-making?
  • Is there variation in influence across policy areas?

Lecture 8: What role do public preferences play?

  • Why do public preferences matter?
  • When do public preferences matter?


In case of time pressure, please prioritise the readings with an asterisk.

  • * Theodore J. Lowi (1972). “Four systems of policy, politics, and choice.” Public Administration Review 32 (4): 298-310.
  • * Sam Peltzman (1976). “Towards a more general theory of regulation.” Journal of Law and Economics 19 (2): 211–240.
  • * Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page (2014). “Testing theories of American politics: Elites, interest groups, and average citizens.” Perspectives on Politics 12 (3): 564-581.
  • E.E. Schattschneider (1960). The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Reinhardt and Winston, Chapter 2.
  • George J. Stigler (1971). “The theory of economic regulation.” Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science 2 (1): 3-21.
  • Pepper Culpepper (2011). Quiet Politics and Business Power: Corporate Control in Europe and Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 7.
  • Devin Caughey and Christopher Warshaw (2017). “Policy preferences and policy change: Dynamic responsiveness in the American states, 1936-2014.” Early view in the American Political Science Review.

Day 5: Policy-making in a globalised world
On our last day, we look at policy-making in a globalised world. First, we assess how globalisation has affected policy-making, addressing also the question whether national-level factors – including political parties and institutions – still matter. Second, as the globalised world is characterised by interdependence, we focus on the role of policy diffusion, including its mechanisms and implications for policy convergence.

Lecture 9: Globalisation and policy-making

  • How has globalisation constrained policy-making?
  • Do domestic institutions and parties still matter?

Lecture 10: Policy diffusion and convergence

  • What are the mechanisms of policy diffusion?
  • What are the channels of policy diffusion?
  • How does policy diffusion vary across policy areas?


In case of time pressure, please prioritise the readings with an asterisk.

  • * Duane Swank and Sven Steinmo (2002). “The new political economy of taxation in advanced capitalist democracies.” American Journal of Political Science 46 (3): 642-655.
  • * Daniel W. Drezner (2007). All Politics is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, Chapter 1.
  • * Beth A. Simmons, Frank Dobbin and Geoffrey Garrett (2006). “Introduction: The international diffusion of liberalism.” International Organization 60 (4): 781–810.
  • * Nathan M. Jensen and René Lindstädt (2012). “Leaning right and learning from the left: Diffusion of corporate tax policy across borders.” Comparative Political Studies 45 (3): 283-311.
  • David M. Konisky (2007). “Regulatory competition and environmental enforcement: Is there a race to the bottom?” American Journal of Political Science 51 (4): 853-872.
  • Abbott Kenneth W. and Duncan Snidal (2009). “The governance triangle: Regulatory standards institutions and the shadow of the state.” In Walter Mattli and Ngaire Woods (Eds.). The Politics of Global Regulation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 44-88.
  • Eunyoung Ha (2008). “Globalization, veto players, and welfare spending.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (6): 783-812.


The lecturer
Christel Koop is Senior Lecturer in Political Economy in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. Her research interests revolve around regulation, delegation to independent agencies, and the trade-offs involved in politicisation and depoliticisation.

In her current research project with Christine Reh (UCL) and Edoardo Bressanelli (KCL), she looks at the implications of national-level contestation of the European Union (EU) for policy-making at the EU-level (funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust). Other projects focus on the global diffusion of competition policy, the accountability of independent central banks, the background of board members of regulatory agencies, and the transparency of transnational regulators. Her work has been published in outlets such as Comparative Political Studies, the European Journal of Political Research, Regulation & Governance, Public Administration, the Journal of European Public Policy, the Journal of Public Policy, and European Union Politics.

Further reading list:

  • Joel D. Aberbach and Bert A. Rockman (1988). “Image IV revisited: Executive and political roles.” Governance 1 (1): 1-25.
  • Alberto Alesina, Nouriel Roubini and Gerald D. Cohen (1997). Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Frank R. Baumgartner, Bryan D. Jones and John Wilkerson. (2011). “Comparative studies of policy dynamics.” Comparative Political Studies 44 (8): 947-972.
  • Frank R. Baumgartner, Christian Breunig, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Bryan D. Jones, Peter B. Mortensen, Michiel Nuytemans, and Stefaan Walgrave (2009). “Punctuated equilibrium in comparative perspective.” American Journal of Political Science 53 (3): 602-619.
  • Quintin H. Beazer and Byungwon Woo (2016). “IMF conditionality, government partisanship, and the progress of economic reforms.” American Journal of Political Science 60 (2): 304-321.
  • Daniel Béland (2009). “Ideas, institutions and policy change.” Journal of European Public Policy 16 (5): 701-718.
  • Daniel Béland and Alex Waddan (2015). “Breaking down ideas and institutions: The politics of tax policy in the USA and the UK.” Policy Studies 36 (2): 176-195.
  • Jonathan Bendor, Terry M. Moe and Kenneth W. Shotts (2001). “Recycling the garbage can: An assessment of the research programme.” American Political Science Review 95 (1): 169-190.
  • Mark Blyth (1997). “Any more bright ideas? The ideational turn of comparative political economy.” Comparative Politics 29 (2): 229-250.
  • Frederick J. Boehmke, Sean Gailmard and John W. Patty (2013). “Business as usual: Interest group access and representation across policy-making venues.” Journal of Public Policy 33 (1): 3-33.
  • Tobias Böhmelt, Lawrence Ezrow, Roni Lehrer and Hugh Ward (2016). “Party policy diffusion.” American Political Science Review 110 (2): 397-410.
  • Christian Breunig, Chris Koski and Peter B. Mortensen (2009). “Stability and punctuations in public spending: A comparative study of budget functions.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 20 (3): 703-722.
  • Michael D. Cohen, James G. March and Johan P. Olsen (1972). “A garbage can model of organizational choice.” Administrative Science Quarterly 17 (1): 1-25.
  • Anthony Downs (1972). “Up and down with ecology: The ‘issue-attention’ cycle.” Public Interest 28: 38-50.
  • Robert J. Franzese, Jr. and Jude Hays (2008). “Interdependence in comparative politics: Substance, theory, empirics, substance.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (4-5): 742-780.
  • Sean Gailmard and John Patty (2017). “Giving advice vs. making decisions: Transparency, information, and delegation.” Forthcoming in Political Science Research and Methods.
  • Judith Goldstein and Robert O. Keohane (1993). “Ideas and Foreign Policy: An Analytical Framework”. In Judith Goldstein and Robert O. Keohane (Eds.). Ideas and Foreign Policy: Beliefs, Institutions, and Political Change. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 3-30.
  • Erin R. Graham, Charles R. Shipan and Craig Volden (2013). “The diffusion of policy diffusion research in political science.” British Journal of Political Science 43 (3): 673-701.
  • Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson (2010). Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer – And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. New York: Schuster & Schuster.
  • Peter A. Hall (1993). “Policy paradigms, social learning, and the state: The case of economic policy-making in Britain.” Comparative Politics 25: 275-296.
  • Peter A. Hall (1997). “The role of interests, institutions, and ideas in the comparative political economy of the industrialized nations.” In Mark I. Lichbach and Alan S. Zuckerman (Eds.). Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 174-207.
  • Peter A. Hall and David Soskice (2001). “An introduction to varieties of capitalism.” In Peter A. Hall and David Soskice (Eds.). Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1-68.
  • Judd C. Hays (2003). “Globalization and capital taxation in consensus and majoritarian democracies.” World Politics 56 (1): 79-113.
  • Christopher Hood (1994). Explaining Economic Policy Reversals. Buckingham: Open University Press, Chapter 1.
  • Michael Howlett, Allan McConnell and Anthony Perl (2016). “Weaving the fabric of public policies: Comparing and integrating contemporary frameworks for the study of policy processes.” Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis 18 (3): 273-289.
  • Torben Iversen and Anne Wren (1998). “Equality, employment and budgetary restraint: The trilemma of the service economy.” World Politics 50 (4): 507-546.
  • Torben Iversen and Thomas Cusack (2000). “The causes of welfare state expansion: De-industrialization or globalization?” World Politics 52: 313-349.
  • Peter John (2017). “Theories of policy change and variation reconsidered: A prospectus for the political economy of public policy.” Early view in Policy Sciences.
  • Bryan D. Jones, Tracy Sulkin and Heather A. Larsen (2003). “Policy punctuations in American political institutions.” American Political Science Review 97 (1): 151-169.
  • Bryan Jones and Frank Baumgartner (2007). The Politics of Attention: How Government Prioritizes Problems. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
  • Bryan D. Jones, Heather Larsen-Price and John Wilkerson (2009). “Representation and American governing institutions.” Journal of Politics 71 (1): 277-290.
  • Heike Klüver (2009). “Measuring interest group influence using quantitative text analysis.” European Union Politics 10 (4): 535-549.
  • Heike Klüver (2011). “The contextual nature of lobbying: Explaining lobbying success in the European Union.” European Union Politics 12 (4): 483-506.
  • Dennis Quinn and A. Maria Toyoda (2007). “Ideology and voter preferences as determinants of financial globalization.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (2): 344-363.
  • Charles E. Lindblom (1959). “The science of ‘muddling through’.” Public Administration Review 19 (2): 79-88.
  • Jeff Manza and Fay Lomax Cook (2002). “Policy responsiveness to public opinion: The state of the debate.” In Jeff Manza, Fay Lomax Cook and Benjamin Page (Eds.). Navigating Public Opinion: Polls, Policy, and the Future of American Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 17-32.
  • Covadonga Meseguer (2004). “What role for learning? The diffusion of privatisation in OECD and Latin American countries.” Journal of Public Policy 24 (3): 299-325.
  • Michael Mintrom and Sandra Vergari (1996). “Advocacy coalitions, policy entrepreneurs, and policy change.” Policy Studies Journal 24 (3): 420-434.
  • Bumba Mukherjee and David Andrew Singer (2010). “International institutions and domestic compensation: The IMF and the politics of capital account liberalization.” American Journal of Political Science 54 (1): 45-60.
  • Edward C. Page (2007). “The origins of policy.” In Michael Moran, Martin Rein and Robert E. Goodin (Eds.). Oxford Handbook of Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 207-227.
  • Stefano Pagliari and Kevin Young (2014). “Leveraged interests: Financial industry power and the role of private sector coalitions.” Review of International Political Economy 21 (3): 575-610.
  • B. Guy Peters, Jon Pierre and Desmond S. King (2005). “The politics of path dependency: Political conflict in historical institutionalism.” Journal of Politics 67 (4): 1275-1300.
  • Paul Pierson (1993). “When effect becomes cause: Policy feedback and political change.” World Politics 45 (4): 595-628.
  • Hans Pitlik (2007). “A race to liberalization? Diffusion of economic policy reform among OECD-economies.” Public Choice 132 (1-2): 159-178.
  • Thomas Plümper, Vera E. Troeger, and Philip Manow, P. (2005). “Panel data analysis in comparative politics: Linking method to theory.” European Journal of Political Research 44 (2): 327-354.
  • Thomas Plümper, Vera E. Troeger and Hannes Winner (2008). “Why is there no race to the bottom in capital taxation?” International Studies Quarterly 53 (3): 761-786.
  • Thomas Plümper and Christina Schneider (2009). “The analysis of policy convergence, or: how to chase a black cat in a dark room.” Journal of European Public Policy 16 (7): 990-1011.
  • Scott E. Robinson, Floun'say Caver, Kenneth J. Meier and Laurence J. O'Toole, Jr. (2007). “Explaining policy punctuations: Bureaucratization and budget change.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (1): 140-150.
  • Richard Rose (1990). “Inheritance before choice in public policy.” Journal of Theoretical Politics 2 (3): 263-291.
  • Patrycja Rozbicka (2013). “Advocacy coalitions: Influencing the policy process in the EU.” Journal of European Public Policy 20 (6):838-853.
  • Paul Sabatier (1987). “Knowledge, policy-oriented learning, and policy change.” Science Communication 8 (4): 649-692.
  • Paul A. Sabatier (1998). “The advocacy coalition framework: Revisions and relevance for Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 5 (1): 98-130.
  • Paul A. Sabatier and Hank C. Jenkins-Smith (1993). Policy Change and Learning: An Advocacy Coalition Approach. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Beth A. Simmons and Zachary Elkins (2004). “The globalization of liberalization: Policy diffusion in the international political economy.” American Political Science Review 98 (1): 171-189.
  • Herbert A. Simon (1997). Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organisations. Fourth Edition. New York: Free Press, Chapter 1.
  • Herbert A. Simon (1997). Models of Bounded Rationality: Empirically Grounded Economic Reason. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Duane Swank (2002). Global Capital, Political Institutions, and Policy Change in Developed Welfare States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Christopher M. Weible, Paul A. Sabatier and Kelly McQueen (2009). “Themes and variations: Taking stock of the advocacy coalition framework.” Policy Studies Journal 37 (1): 121-140.
  • Christopher Wlezien (1995). “The public as thermostat: Dynamics of preferences for spending.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (4): 981-1000.
  • Christopher Wlezien and Stuart Soroka (2016). “Public opinion and public policy. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Available from: http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-74?rskey=sf4YtP&result=7
  • Nikolaos Zahariadis (2003). Ambiguity and Choice in Public Policy: Political Decision Making in Modern Democracies. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Questions about this PhD course and the application procedures may be directed to Senior Executive Officer Tron Harald Torneby.

Tags: Political Science, Political Economy, Summer School, Public Policy and Administration, Public Administration, PhD
Published Aug. 15, 2017 3:08 PM - Last modified June 4, 2018 11:45 AM