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the previous methods, improved public relations are GLSER, J. und G.

LAUDEL (2006): Experteninterviews und

seen as the main objective of public participation. qualitative Inhaltsanalyse als Instrumente rekonstru-
Figure 2 shows the intersection of the types and the ierender Untersuchungen, Wiesbaden.
HOLTKAMP, L., J. BOGUMIL und L. KISSLER (2006): Koopera-
research matrix (cf. fig. 2). Altogether 7 case studies can
tive Demokratie. Das politische Potenzial von Brgeren-
be allocated to type A, four case studies to type B and 2 gagement, Frankfurt/Main
case studies belong to type C. KOM(2006) 302 endg. (2006): Mitteilung der Kommission
an den Rat und das Europische Parlament ber einen
6. DANKSAGUNG EU-Forstaktionsplan. SEK(2006) 748. Herausgegeben
Die Autorin dankt den Gutachtern fr die wertvollen von Kommission der Europischen Gemeinschaften.
Anmerkungen. Brssel. Online verfgbar unter
agriculture/fore/action_plan/com_de.pdf, zuletzt geprft
am 27. 10. 2011.
7. LITERATUR LEHMANN, A. (1999): Von Menschen und Bumen. Die
ARNSTEIN, S. R. (1967): A Ladder of citizen Participation, Deutschen und ihr Wald, 1. Aufl., Reinbek.
Journal of the American Institute of Planners, Vol. LCKGE, F.-J. (1991): Gemeinden als Waldeigentmer.
35/July, 216224. Forstpolitische Analyse der Gemeindewaldwirtschaft in
ATTESLANDER, P. (2006): Methoden der empirischen Sozial- der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Dissertation zur
forschung, 11. Aufl., Berlin. Erlangung der Doktorwrde, Albert-Ludwig-Univer-
BOGUMIL, J. (2001): Kooperative Demokratie Formen, sitt, Freiburg im Breisgau.
Potenziale und Grenzen, Vortrag auf der Tagung Loka- MAYRING, P. (2008): Qualitative Inhaltanalyse. Grund-
le Politik und Brgergesellschaft des AK Lokale Poli- lagen und Techniken, 10. Aufl., Weinheim.
tikforschung, 16. 03. 2001, Heppenheim. PICOT, A., H. DIETL und E. FRANCK (2004): Organisation
BOGUMIL, J. (2001): Modernisierung lokaler Politik. Kom- Eine konomische Perspektive. 4. Aufl., Schffer-Poe-
munale Entscheidungsprozesse im Spannungsfeld zwi- schel Verlag.
schen Parteienwettbewerb, Verhandlungszwngen und ROTH, R. (1997): Die Kommune als Ort Brgerbeteiligung.
konomisierung, Baden-Baden. In: KLEIN /SCHMALZ-BRUNS 1997, Politische Beteiligung
DINKELAKER, F. (2000): Der Gemeindewald in der Kommu- und Brgerengagement in Deutschland. Mglichkeiten
nalpolitik: eine Untersuchung am Beispiel des kommu- und Grenzen, 404447, Bonn.
nalen Waldbesitzes. RUPPERT, C. (2006): Der kommunale Forstbetrieb im
FEINDT, P. H. und J. NEWIG (Hrsg.) (2005): Partizipation, Spannungsfeld von Gemeinwohlorientierung und
ffentlichkeitsbeteiligung, Nachhaltigkeit. Perspekti- Erwerbswirtschaft. Eine institutionenkonomische Ana-
ven der politischen konomie, Marburg. lyse, empirische Studien und Handlungsempfehlungen,
FLICK, U. (2008): Triangulation. Eine Einfhrung, Wiesba- Schriften aus dem Institut f. Forstkonomie der Univer-
den. sitt Freiburg.

Reviewing empirical explanations of policy change:

Options for its analysis and future fields of research
Chair of Forest and Nature Conservation Policy, Gttingen University and
Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre


(Received November 2011)


Policy change; explanations; factors; assessing analytical CHOICES AS PREREQUISITE FOR
frameworks; criteria; independent variables; dependent ANALYSING POLICY CHANGE
variable; policy sciences. The analysis of policy change, defined as a substantial
Politikwandel; Erklrungen; Faktoren; Bewertung ana- rather than semantic difference in either outcomes or
lytischer Rahmen; Kriterien; unabhngige Variable, ab- outputs of principle-guided government action, by policy
hngige Variable; Policy-Wissenschaften. sciences aims at understanding processes of change as
well as of stability by revealing the main factors influ-
encing it. This applies to academics with a rather ana-
1) Contact address: Ph. D. LUKAS GIESSEN. lytical as well as those with a more normative endeav-
E-Mail: our, the latter aiming to change existing policy towards a

248 Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12

more desirable shape. At the core of such analyses lie Consequently the study does not cover the full discus-
the factors explaining, supporting or impeding policy sions of policy change from the past decades. It also does
change, the independent variables, as well as the depen- not cover the important contributions by book publica-
dent variable of policy change itself. It lies in the nature tions in this field. This somewhat limited approach has
of social sciences that different methodological and theo- been chosen for two reasons: Firstly, the contributions
retical approaches to the analysis and explanation of aim was to provide SOTIROV et al. (in this issue) with cur-
policy and its change exist. Consequently, methodologi- rently discussed independent variables, which secondly
cal and theoretical choices are to be taken by the should be empirically concrete factors, rather than com-
researcher, both, regarding the independent variables to paring larger analytical frameworks. Thirdly, the data
be analysed and on how to conceptualise the dependent processed here had to be limited to an amount manage-
variable of policy change. These choices should be active- able and in line with the original objective of comment-
ly made by the researcher, based on a number of selec- ing on SOTIROV et al. (in this issue).
tion criteria. Thus, the objectives of this article are to The main explanatory factors for policy change which
review the recently discussed factors influencing policy were found in empirical studies as well as the conceptu-
change, including conceptions of the dependent variable alisations of the independent variable have then been
and to assess them regarding their usefulness against a distilled from these literatures by the author. The
set of criteria, which apply to most researchers and con- explanatory factors presented by the empirical policy
temporary research projects. The selected independent change research have then been clustered according to
variables that will be reviewed can be understood as con- their main common denominator. Using the categories of
crete empirical phenomena, which were observed as policy analysis theories (i.e. families of theories with a
influential factors leading to policy change.2) similar orientation and basic argumentation, see ARTS,
Methodologically this article builds on a body of litera- 2011) the independent variables are then positioned in
ture derived from a database search using the Scopus broader political theories by the author. Additional liter-
software, which embraces all ISI-listed journal articles. ature cited, e.g. when positioning the explanatory vari-
In a first step the search has been limited to the field of ables in broader theories, has not been retrieved from
social and life sciences between 2006 and 2010. It the specific literature search mentioned above.
focussed on the appearance of the exact terms policy The following section of this article addresses policy
change within the article title in order to include only change as the dependent variable. Subsequently, in sec-
those contributions, actually dealing with policy change tion three the current empirical explanations for policy
as a main topic. From the resulting population (n = 205) change stemming from the policy sciences are reviewed,
a number of articles have been selected based on the fol- clustered and their main analytical strengths and weak-
lowing criteria: (i) concrete empirical factors derived nesses are discussed. Then section four develops a set of
from social research methods having an impact on policy criteria for assessing the usefulness of variables in the
change are mentioned already in the abstract because research process. Section five makes explicit reference to
this reviewing of the most concrete variables has been the contribution of SOTIROV et al. (in this issue) by
the main scope of the study; (ii) a wide range of explana- assessing their analytical framework against the criteria
tory factors is covered by the selection of articles. This developed in the previous section.3) The article closes
criterion was chosen in order to cover as many factors with conclusions for researchers on the theoretical and
currently discussed as possible with the selection of arti- methodological choices to be made as well as with an
cles; (iii) substantial contributions, rather than merely outlook on fruitful paths for future analyses of policy
mentioning the term policy change are made to the change.
policy sciences research programme on policy change.
The term policy change also has been used in other 2. THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE PROBLEM
fields of research (e.g. anthropology, management stud- IN ANALYSING POLICY CHANGE
ies), but with extremely little substantial contributions
to the policy sciences. This criterion was used in order to A variety of factors and theories resulting in an exten-
focus and narrow down the search results and was sive research programme have been employed in system-
applied by the author; and (iv) access to the article could atic ways for explaining policy change (see the following
be obtained. Access did not lead to a bias of the sample sections). But according to KNILL /SCHULZE / TOSUN (2010)
because especially criteria (i) and (iii) lead to a selection this research programme so far did not fully achieve a
of articles, which has been published in policy research clear systematic and empirically concrete understanding
journals accessible to the author. The selection resulted of the research subject: policy change as such.
in a sample of n = 58 articles to be reviewed. In fact HALL (1993) proposes to differentiate into three
orders of policy change: changes of whole policy para-
) The term concrete empirical factors means single and isolated digms, of instruments and of the instruments tuning
variables and is used in opposition to linking different factors and application. Likewise CAPANO and HOWLETT (2009)
into more abstract explanatory frameworks such as e.g. the
advocacy coalitions framework (SABATIER, 1988) or the multiple
streams framework by KINGDON (1984). These frameworks have ) This contribution has been developed as a commentary to the
been demonstrated having explanatory power and have already analytical framework proposed by SOTIROV et al. (in this issue).
been reviewed e.g. in ROBERTS (1998) and JOHN (2003). This Both contributions have been presented to the 43rd meeting of
article highlights individual and empirically demonstrated fac- German-speaking forest policy researchers (43. Forstpolitik-
tors from an empiric-analytical perspective and hence does not treffen) held in Duderstadt/Germany from April 13th to 15th
dicuss these frameworks in detail. 2011.

Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12 249

distinguish actual as opposed to temporary or transi- network theories. An example for successfully linking
tionary policy change. And ROBERTS (1998) offers a con- different theories is BCHER (2007, 2011), who brings
ceptualisation of policy change distinguishing between together learning approaches with materialistic and
change along the two dimensions of scope (changes in a interest-based arguments into an analytical framework
whole system or only parts of a system) and pace (slow for explaining the change of policy instruments.
or fast). The two extreme ends of the resulting four pos- The analytical strength of ascribing at least indirect
sible types of change are referred to as incremental explanatory power to values and beliefs as negatively
change (slow and affecting only parts) and radical correlated pre-conditions in the policy change process
change (fast and affecting the whole system). Taking lies in the fact that they are widening the researchers
such different types of change as a starting point one perspective from material interests to non-material fac-
now can address more detailed aspects of operationaliz- tors. These can be values, beliefs but also immaterial
ing policy change and making it empirically concrete. interests. The main weakness of stressing values and
However, based on a literature review KNILL /SCHULZE / beliefs as influential factors is the weak linkage between
TOSUN (2010, 409) find as the main methodological weak- cause and effect. Assuming values and beliefs as influen-
nesses of their policy change literature reviewed that (i) tial factors neglects that still non-material interests,
most studies fail to provide clear-cut definitions and such as reputation for personal utility in a given social
measurement of this concept, (ii) they only used proxies or spatial setting, could also account for actors behav-
for measuring policy change, (iii) they do not capture the iour.4) This is reflected in Sabatiers conception of belief
complexity of political decisions, (iv) they do not take systems, where at the lowest tire (the so-called sec-
into account that policy change can also be dismantling ondary aspects with the possibility for actors to act
existing policy and (v) the empirical focus of most studies instrumentally) the categories of interests and beliefs
was too narrow for drawing conclusions on causality. are not separated, but exist side by side. Consequently,
the still open question then remains, whether actually
3. REVIEWING RECENT INDEPENDENT values and beliefs or rather non-material utility account
VARIABLES EXPLAINING POLICY CHANGE for a change in actors behaviour. Also these factors may
explain policy change only in situations of so to say
In this section the main explanatory factors for policy
material saturation where basic material needs of the
change are presented, which have been discussed in the
actors involved are covered. Otherwise material inter-
policy sciences during the past five years. Additionally
ests must be expected to have stronger explanatory pow-
they are theoretically positioned and their main
er than values and beliefs. And lastly, values and beliefs
strengths and weaknesses are discussed.
are conceptualised as a pre-stage of policy change, which
still depend on either policy learning or major external
3.1 Advocacy coalitions, values, beliefs and policy
factors to happen in order to facilitate policy change.
The largest number of the studies that have been 3.2 Ideas, narratives, frames and discourses
reviewed sees shared values and beliefs as influential
Ideas, narratives, frames and discourses, were shown
factors in the context of policy change. A large number of
to also explain policy change. The methodologies used to
these studies build on the advocacy coalition framework
trace this influence, however, often represent a post-pos-
developed by SABATIER in the late 1980s (e.g. 1988). In
itivist critique which largely rejects positivist methodolo-
this conception values and shared beliefs determine the
gies.5) Hence, these factors are separated from the afore-
political behaviour of actors and result in advocacy coali-
mentioned ones which are directly related to the
tions, which then account for policy as such (ARTS, 2011).
positivistic advocacy coalitions framework. The basic
Policy change is not likely to occur as long as one advo-
argument here is that politics are influenced by the exis-
cacy coalition remains dominant (BANDELOW, 2006).
tence of new ideas and knowledge, established and new
Based on experience and additional information (i.e. pol-
ways of doing and talking about things and established
icy learning, see BANDELOW, 2006), however, these beliefs
or new ways of putting issues (e.g. FISCHER, 2003).
can partly be changed. Hence, the shared beliefs limit
Through their social construction and acceptance these
the ability of policy learning leading to policy change of
factors then shape actors expectations and resulting
secondary issues only (in the words of SABATIER these are
the secondary aspects). Major policy changes may only
be expected when external political, economic or social Similar to values and beliefs these factors have been
framework conditions change (see also below under studied quite extensively in the policy change literature.
punctuated equilibrium, political parties). Few studies, however, have been conducted in the field
of environment and natural resources, such as on US
This line of argumentation has been applied to the
agricultural policy (LEHRER /BECKER, 2010) and water
analysis of language policy (SLOBODA et al., 2010), to
Swiss foreign policy analysis (HIRSCHI / WIDNER, 2010), to 4
) It must be noted here that this critique is directed towards the
local pesticide policy, land use policy (OLSSON, 2009), general use of values and beliefs as explanatory factors rather
environmental and rural policy (BCHER, 2007, 2011) than towards their specific use within the advocacy coalitions
and in more conceptional contributions (JONES /JENKINS- framework, which in its lowest tire of beliefs still acknowledges
material and immaterial interests of rational actors.
SMITH, 2009). 5) This does not apply to the whole body of literature grouped
These studies show a rather heterogenous set of theo- here, especially not to large parts of the media discourse analy-
ries, ranging from more rationalist to institutional to ses.

250 Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12

policy in Hungary and The Netherlands (WERNERS et al., piece of everyday and political life (GIESSEN et al., 2009;
2010). Policy analyses focusing on policy change in other BCHER et al., 2009; MERT, 2009; OJHA et al., 2009;
empirical fields include studies on migration policy in WEIGELT et al., 2009). The basic weakness of such factors
Spain (BALCH, 2010) and Switzerland (AFONSO, 2007), lies in their dismissal and rejection of more rationalist
social policy in New Zealand and Australia (Humpage (content-wise) and especially positivist (methodology-
2010), pension policy in Canada (BABICH /BELAND, 2009), wise) arguments. As a consequence they are rather diffi-
education policy in Hong Kong (CHENG, 2009), and finan- cult to combine with other factors in a pragmatic
cial policy in the US (ANDERSON, 2008). BELAND (2009) research approach. And illustrating clear causality
provides for a rather conceptual contribution. Out of this between the explanatory factors and policy change is not
body of literature it is ANDERSON (2008) who proposes a always obvious and difficult to achieve, as critical dis-
framework to overcome the ideas-interests-divide and course theorists partly reject the validity of linear
who suggests that both factors are mutually constitu- causalities and often do not aim at revealing them.
A particular body of literature, which also focuses on 3.3 Individuals: Policy entrepreneurs and issue
ideas, narratives, frames and especially discourses, is experts
made-up of media analyses. Their basic argument is that Policy entrepreneurs as actor types are assumed being
mass media are able to shape public opinion which in a major factor initiating and influencing policy change,
turn influences policy outcomes. because they invest above average time, knowledge and
SHANAHAN et al. (2008 on land use policy in the US) as their personal skills in order to change policy towards
well as ROULSTON (2006 on educational policy in New their ideas, values or interests (BCHER, 2007; ROBERTS,
Zealand) and JOHN (2006 on UK budget policy) find 1998). Experts possess knowledge and expertise on tech-
media discourses being an active contributor to policy nical or social aspects of the issue at hand, which, once
change accounting for large parts of the policy changes they actively become involved in politics, becomes a cru-
observed rather than an a-political instrument providing cial factor for change to occur. Both are individuals who
information only. BIRKLAND and LAWRENCE (2009), how- for different reasons may have a stake in the issue and
ever, find only limited influence of media framing on who thats the argument here due to the crucial
public opinion and public school safety policy. HIRSCH et resources they bring to the process are able to cause poli-
al. (2010) illustrate this using the example of local pesti- cy change.
cide policy and find, that it takes skilful leaders who MINTROM /NORMAN (2009) offer a conceptual paper in
then create and utilise media discourses and narratives which they position and combine the assumption of poli-
for achieving their policy goals. Likewise DAVIS (2006) cy entrepreneurs as factors of policy change in/with dif-
for the case of wildfire policy in the US finds key bureau- ferent other theories. LOVELL (2009) finds that policy
crats responding to media discourses and by this trigger- entrepreneurs as individual agents of change can
ing policy change. Also here only indirect explanatory reframe housing policy discourses in the UK and may
power is ascribed to media discourses and framing. even successfully lobby for new policy alternatives with-
The broader theoretical assumptions behind this set of in the policy making process. Likewise environmental
explanatory factors are again rather homogenous. activists are reported as agents of change, who success-
According to ARTS and BUIZER (2009) the theories behind fully challenged infrastructure projects and transformed
factors such as ideas, narratives, frames and discourses them into conservation projects (OLSSON, 2009). And
share the aim to explain the social world by means of HIRSCH et al. (2010) find politically experienced leader-
ideational and symbolic systems and orders. Such dis- ship combined with the use of media and coalition narra-
course theories, which pertain to the broader family of tives being the key resources of change coalitions in local
critical policy analysis (ARTS, 2011) dismiss both the pesticide policy. Using the case of water policy in the US
rational homo economicus and the norm-driven homo CROW (2010) shows that in general policy entrepreneurs
sociologicus to explain human action []. In contrast, have a role to play in policy change. It is, however,
they posit the knowledge-driven and meaning-searching expert entrepreneurs holding critical expertise on water
homo interpreter as their starting-point. So it is neither management, who explain policy change the most.
rational calculations nor social norms that [according to In this vain ANDERSON (2008) sees financial experts in
such discourse-oriented theories] drive human behaviour the US as a source of new policy ideas, which are mutu-
and choice, but collective ideas, interpretations and ally constitutive with interests. A strong influence of eco-
meanings attached to (parts of) the world (ARTS and nomic experts on Swiss immigration policy change is
BUIZER, 2009, 341). also reported by AFONSO (2007). LOWRY (2006) stresses
The strength of these theories and the explanatory fac- that focussing events, organised by experts, continue
tors derived from them is that they are able to reveal traditional priorities, but may also trigger different lev-
how political influence may be taken at quite abstract els of change, e.g. in water policy in the US, China, Aus-
levels of discourse as communication, as text, as frame tralia and Canada. MARIER (2009) shows different types
or as everyday social practice (ARTS and BUIZER, 2009; of influence expert commissions exerted on French,
STEFFEK, 2009; HUMPHREYS, 2009). Especially when con- Swedish and UK pension policy. But the study also
sidering critical discourse theory which is based on the shows that suggestions initiated by these experts must
concepts of Foucault, one may find innovative ways of fall on fertile grounds regarding the preferences of the
how these new variables may influence literally every government in order to realise change. In contrast the

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case of Israeli water policy reported by MILGROM and tems, GROSSMAN (2010) explains change in the US edu-
SCHWARTZ (2008) shows that only very few and also cational policy even by relatively small policy sub-sys-
minor changes were triggered by expert reports and tems, who mobilised material resources as well as
audits. strategically framed the issues in ways supporting policy
Policy entrepreneurs as well as issue experts as agents change towards their interests. PRINCEN (2010) identifies
of change are justified by very heterogeneous theoretical both, competing sub-systems and punctuated equilibri-
orientations. They range from rather rationalist concep- um (see below) as accounting for changes in the EU fish-
tions in which entrepreneurs lobby for the interests of a ery policy (similar BRUNNER, 2008). In contrast,
wider interest coalition in rational ways to critical dis- WILLIAMS (2009) argues that it is endogenous effects of
course theory according to which these individuals advo- sub-systems, rather than external shocks, that explain
cate for policy ideas and/or shape the relevant discourses change in Canadian finance policy (similar GRAINGER /
in ways that facilitates change. The concept of epis- MALAYANG, 2006). In their conceptual contribution
temic communities (HAAS, 1992) can be mentioned here JONES /JENKINS-SMITH (2009) innovatively conceptualise
as representing the latter end of this continuum. BCHER sub-systems as operating in a permeable fashion, stress-
(2007, 2011) offers a conception that mediates between ing that trans-subsystem dynamics also account for poli-
interest-based and ideas-based analytical perspectives, cy change. AFONSO (2007) finds epistemic communities
proposing that policy entrepreneurs advocate for (their) as transnational expert networks having varying
policy ideas even in situations of re-distributive conflict, degrees of influence depending on the conditions exter-
when according to MAJONE (1993, cf BCHER, 2007) the nal to a sub-system.
explanatory value of ideas is decreasing. A special role within policy sub-systems is assigned to
The strength of these factors is that they explicitly sectoral bureaucracies. LOWRY (2009) for Canadian
address the role of individuals, which long has been water policy highlights that policy change is not a
neglected by (more rationalist) political theories. These matter of policy diffusion but it is sub-national bureau-
factors focus the leadership and role-of-individuals dis- crats who drive or resist changes. In this vain ENGES-
cussions away from psychological aspects to more politi- BAK /STUBBE (2008) stress that after change formally
cal characteristics of individual leaders/entrepreneurs, occurred in the formulation of policies, bureaucracies
such as the resources they bring to the process like time, had a major impact on the actual implementation in
knowledge and political experience, their position within Norwegian education policy.
relevant networks and their self-interests. A weakness is These factors to a certain extent share basic assump-
that so far no clear distinction can be drawn between tions from network theory. The broader set of theories
routine (self-interested) actors and policy entrepreneurs behind policy sub-systems and bureaucracies, however,
or issue experts. One could argue that no defining is rather heterogeneous. It is ranging from the rather
unique feature exists for policy entrepreneurs and that critical-discursive notion of ideas and values as basis of
they are regular stakeholders in the process. This per- sub-systems to more rationalist conceptions of sub-sys-
spective would be especially valid for rationalists, who tems as interest coalitions. In the latter vain bureaucra-
would assume self-interests as motivations of policy cies are mostly understood as leading representation of
entrepreneurs anyways. policy sub-systems.
3.4 Policy networks, subsystems and their The strength of employing policy sub-systems in
bureaucracies explaining change is that such an approach acknowl-
edges that there are diverse networks which are compet-
Even though the advocacy coalitions framework also ing for influence on policy change or stability for pursu-
partly builds on policy networks and sub-systems, they ing their ideas, values or interests. The main weakness
are mentioned here as individual factors explaining poli-
lies in the blindness of the approach toward major socio-
cy change, because competing conceptions of them exist,
political or economic factors outside the systems, which
in which not all of the factors employed by the frame-
is well overcome when using sub-systems in a mixed
work are used. In general policy networks are seen as
analytical framework, such as e.g. the one on advocacy
sets of formal and informal institutional linkages
between governmental and other actors structured
around shared interests in public policy (MARSH /RHODES,
3.5 External shocks and crises
External shocks and crises are assumed to have a
PEDERSEN (2010) finds policy network change to be
strong influence on policy change (see e.g. BAUMGARTNER
the decisive factor leading to policy change (similar
WERNERS et al. 2010). NG (2007) argues, that policy net- and JONES, 1993) because they can change both, the bio-
works and sub-systems have a strong and persistent physical conditions of a political issue which then makes
impact on change and stability in the transition process former policy goals and instruments inappropriate from
of Hong Kong and must be seen as major factors in that an instrumental point of view, and the considerations of
regard. SCHIFFINO et al. (2009) describe the autonomy of actors concerned with the issue on how to position them-
the Italian and Belgiums sub-system of physicians as selves regarding the new conditions. So here both, prob-
major explanatory factors. HIRSCHI / WIDMER (2010) find, lem-solving as well as the construction of actors inter-
that especially the analytical focus on sub-systems and ests opens avenues for policy change to occur.
external shocks explains change and stability in Swiss External shocks are reported accounting for foreign
foreign policy. Though not explicitly mentioning sub-sys- policy changes in Switzerland (HIRSCHI /WIDMER, 2010)

252 Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12

and in Belgiums criminal policy (WALGRAVE /VARONE, focus on self-interested actors (including the EU) seeking
2008). Similarly, HOGAN (2010) as well as STOLFI (2010) coalition options across levels for increasing their influ-
and WILLIAMS (2009) find economic crises being decisive ence. Only policy diffusion concepts are more influenced
for fiscal policy change in a number of western countries. by critical discourse theory and their focus on ideas.
PRINCEN (2010) illustrates how the rare political win- The strengths is that the studies stressing the impor-
dows of opportunity enabled change in EU fishery policy tance of multi-level structures and agencies show the
by punctuating a long period of stability. DAVIS (2006) in importance of also considering the (new) coalition strate-
particular finds that administrative policy change was gies across levels in explaining policy change. They are
caused by bureaucrats responses to crises and media also fruitful for integrating rationalist with critical dis-
attention, while legislative change occurred due to elec- cursive arguments. The main weakness is that the fac-
toral behaviour of the president. tors of internationalisation per se are rather unspecific
The theoretical accounts of external shocks and crises regarding the political factors which actually have an
as explanations for change are oriented rather homoge- impact on policy change. That means they leave it open
neously oriented towards punctuated equilibrium theory. if it is the new actors that are introduced by the interna-
Inspired by the correspondent biological theory on evolu- tionalisation or the new structures and institutions that
tionary change, this rationalist theory assumes that account for change. There is, however, a growing body of
social systems are resistant to major changes and gener- literature explicitly addressing this issue (see e.g. BERN-
ally change only incrementally. Such stability may be STEIN and CASHORE, 2000), who identify specific path-
punctuated only be sudden shocks, which then open win- ways along which internationalisation takes effect in
dows of opportunity by challenging institutional cul- national settings and accounts for policy change).
tures, vested interests or the bounded rationality of cen-
tral actors (GIVEL, 2006). 3.7 Political parties
The strengths of these factors is that major shocks Political parties may become a major explanatory fac-
(like e.g. the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011) can be tor in policy change if they succeeded over a formerly
seen as facilitating political windows of opportunity for ruling party or coalition of parties after elections. Their
changes in almost all other factors mentioned here: They influence has been demonstrated already by HIBBs
will change discourses and prevailing framings of issues (1977, cf. BCHER and TLLER, 2011, 92) seminal compar-
as they will also change actor network configurations in ative study.
an issue area and the perception and rational calcula- PEREZ-LINAN /RODRIGUEZ-RAGA (2009) find party config-
tions of the concerned actors interest. Their weakness is uration of coalitions only a secondary factor in US policy
that they enable the researcher to only focus on cases making. Similarly, PEDERSEN (2010) finds changes in the
where crises or shocks actually occurred in the past. The ruling parties as strongly supporting one over another
validity of applying the theory to policy domains without policy network in Danish land use policy, which then
major shocks thus is limited, and researchers are by def- leads to radical policy change. And also SCHIFFINO et al.
inition not able to forecast based on the theory. (2009) find the division of political parties among two
other explanatory factors in health policy in Belgium
3.6 Internationalisation, policy diffusion and Italy. In this vain WALGRAVE /VARONE (2008) as well
and multi-level governance as WALGRAVE et al. (2006) argue that as an additional
The possibility of diffusion of policy ideas among coun- factor political parties account for change in Begiums
tries (e.g. from US to Canada, see LOWRY, 2009) and sub- policy making process. This holds true for legislative
sequent policy convergence illustrate how internationali- changes, but not for changes in the corresponding bud-
sation may challenge policy stability (similar gets. In the case of economic policy in post-communist
HOLZINGER /KNILL /ARTS, 2008). democracies HOROWITZ /BROWNE (2008) find that policy
In fact, in a conceptual contribution BELAND (2009) change is facilitated by more competitive party systems,
only assigns a secondary role to international actors and while multi-party coalitions tend to inhibit change.
processes. Still, the internationalisation of financial The orientation of political parties as an explanatory
markets is reported to change the configuration of policy factor is based quite homogeneously on the assumptions
sub-systems (WILLIAMS, 2009). According to CORT (2010) of theories from rational policy analysis, their notion of
the acceptance of the EU as actors in Danish educational utility-maximising and rational parties.
policy created a window of opportunity for policy change, According to the lay understanding of democracy par-
which in the national context only happens incremental- ties should be expected to account for the overwhelming
ly. PATEL (2009) reports that multi-level analyses need to majority of policy changes. It is remarkable, however,
be consulted for fully explaining policy change in British that only a limited amount of literature is concerned
bank policy. BRUNNER (2008) for the case of German with this factor and that these studies view parties a
emission policy even finds that the multiple stream theo- secondary factor at best. Additionally, parties can easily
ry lacks a number of relevant factors for explaining poli- be embedded in the aforementioned argument of net-
cy change, such as multi-level governance structures works causing change, again weakening the party argu-
and relating actor networks. ment. So the empirically proven low degree of
Theoretically these explanatory factors are grounded explanatory power is the main weakness. The strength
in a rather homogeneous set of theories, mostly pertain- of employing parties in studies on policy change is that
ing to the realm of rationalist policy analysis and a clear they cover the formal framework conditions in which

Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12 253

policy change may happen. According to the fundamen- posed policy changes or stability by commanding effec-
tal assumptions of democratic theory the coming-into- tive implementation of changed policies.
power of parties through elections is supposed to be the The strength of this argument, which to some extent is
main formal factor deciding on change or stability. rooted in rationalist, to some more extent in institution-
al policy analysis as well as in the stringent logics of
3.8 Institutions legal theory, lies in the factual power courts have in
Due to the rather high transaction costs of establish- countries which follow the rule of law in detail. Its
ing, maintaining, altering or terminating institutions as explanatory power decreases, once the political culture
commonly agreed set of rules and norms (FRCHETTE and or the polity do not strongly reflect this democratic prin-
LEWIS, 2011) they are ascribed explanatory power with ciple anymore.
regard to policy change in the course of establishing
institutions and especially policy stability once they 3.10 Other explanatory factors
have been established and cause path dependencies. In this last section on independent variables explain-
HUMPAGE (2010) uses institutions as explanatory vari- ing change the factors knowledge and science, gender,
able in Australian social policy among ideas and inter- class and capital as well as shifts in existing technologies
ests (similar BELAND, 2009; BELAND /SHINKAWA, 2007). are briefly reviewed and discussed. Quite some litera-
Likewise PRINCEN (2010) shows how competing institu- ture exists in the field of policy change research on each
tions, next to the framing of fishery policy in the EU, of theses but also other factors. The reason why they do
trigger policy change. not stand more central in this article is that the methods
Institutions as independent variables are deeply root- applied only resulted in a limited number of articles rep-
ed in the slightly distinct schools of institutional thought resenting these factors.
and theory, granting explanatory power to structures Knowledge plays a central role in both, the advocacy
and norms, while less to the individual maximisation of coalitions framework and in HALLs (1993) conceptions of
utility. policy paradigms, because they serve as a source of new
The strength of most institutional theories and factors ideas. But knowledge may also be strategically utilised
is that they are compatible with a wide range of theories by rational actors in the perusal of their interests, grant-
and other factors and that most other theories in a way ing them strategic advantages over competing actors
or another are deeply influenced by institutional (GRUNDMANN, 2009; LVBRAND, 2009; KLINKE, 2009;
thought. Also institutional explanations contribute to WERLAND, 2009). In all these conceptions different kinds
the big question of social sciences whether or not or of knowledge may be referred to; scientific knowledge is
under which circumstances norms in general and sets of one source among others (e.g. PETERSEN et al., 2006;
norms in particular matter. The main weakness of opposing LAYZER, 2006). Different strands of theory,
employing institutions as main explanatory factor is ranging from critical theory and its focus on ideas to
that one tends to neglect or at least underestimate the rationalist policy analysis stressing the strategic self-
motivations of individuals, be they of material or interested and biased use of knowledge, can explain this
ideational nature. influence. Still, the former more heavily relies on knowl-
edge as a factor than the latter set of theories.
3.9 Veto-power Class and capital may be expected to have an impact
Based on the thoughts of TSEBELIS (2002) veto player on policy change on a more abstract and societal level by
theory the right or ability of individual or corporate setting the broader discursive and institutional limits
actors to block the policy process is seen as an explanato- for any policy to be put in place or changed once it has
ry factor for policy change because it can either block been in place. The structural power of transnational cap-
change and support stability or it can support change by ital and inter-class struggles in the developing world are
blocking decisions in other issue areas and claiming reported to account for pharmaceutical policy change in
change in a given issue in exchange for dropping the Turkey and India (EREN-VURAL, 2007). These factors
veto. Because only few actors or institutions have factual clearly pertain to Marxist theory6), which, despite of its
veto power (either by law or factual by huge power strong explanatory power at a more general level in
asymmetries) these factors are not reported frequently. terms of the wider politics, not distinct and small policy
changes, has been rarely applied.
(2009) find presidents with veto power as facilitating Due to differences in the thinking and differences in
stability. WALSH (2006), in a wider sense of veto power, the relative positions of men and women in social net-
identifies powerful actors and their coalitions, who do works gender may also be an explanatory factor for poli-
have factual veto power, as crucial allies that need to be cy change (ANNESLEY, 2010). This factor is mostly backed
convinced by change-oriented coalitions in order to by critical theory, but conceptualising its contribution is
achieve changes in British security policy. In an even difficult to achieve due to a lack in comparative designs
wider sense, judges do have veto power. LAYZER (2006) and large-n-studies.
reports lawsuits by environmentalists leading to change
in British fishery policy. Based on similar arguments, ) ARTS (2010) subsumes Marxism under the cluster of critical
policy analysis. This suggestion is not followed here because of
SWEDLOW (2009) develops a theory of judicial policy mak- its much more overall rationalist argumentation. Hence, Marx-
ing and policy change in the case of forest protection in ism will be mentioned as an individual theory here and not be
the US, illustrating how judges may either veto pro- subsumed under either of the theory families.

254 Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12

Policies directly regulating commodities such as forest patible with the expectations of the researchers peers
and agricultural products were observed to be influenced and hence be positive for the future career development.
also by markets and the level of prices (BORGES et al.,
2010). This argument is in line with more rationalist 5. EXCURSUS:
Lastly, shifts in the technologies available e.g. for The contribution of SOTIROV et al. to this special issue
housing materials or the use of chain saws in forest of the journal employs a combination of explanatory fac-
management were observed having an impact on policy tors and theories behind them for explaining policy
change (LOVELL, 2007). Advancements in technology change and policy stability in the EUs Natura2000 poli-
bring about new options for social interactions, e.g. by cy. It largely builds on the advocacy coalitions frame-
changing the basis of production. This leads to a re-dis- work with its focus on ideas, beliefs, sub-systems and
tribution of costs and benefits among actors, who in turn external events. The framework proposed further
revise their strategies in the perusal of their interests includes ideas, goals and instruments as part of HALLs
and which then bears options for new coalitions in sup- (1993) mixed-theory policy paradigms, multi-level gover-
port of change. This factor is largely based in rationalist nance as a more institutionalist8) element as well as veto
argumentation, but would also qualify to be linked to player strategies as a rather rationalist element
other theories and their argumentations. (SOTIROV et al., in this issue). This selection of variables
and theories puts major emphasis on ideas and beliefs,
4. THE USEFULNESS OF VARIABLES AS but also on structures and less on individual and materi-
The explanatory factors presented above as well as the The framework has a clear strength: By combining
different conceptions of policy change now offer the variables from different strands of theory it promises to
researcher a variety of options for combining them into have much greater explanatory power than an isolated
an analytical framework, where a set of independent factor or theory. This is achieved especially by comple-
variables aims at explaining the dependent variable, menting the advocacy coalitions framework with aspects
including the possibility of falsification of each of the of the multi-level governance-research, which is strongly
assumed causalities.7) The selection of the independent influenced by institutional thought, and by adding ratio-
variables is up to the researcher. Yet, the choice of the nalist arguments on veto players. In doing so it may well
dependent variable (i.e. the case to be used and the cor- contribute to the integration among these families of
responding type of policy change) partly have already theories.
been pre-determined earlier in the research process or Its shortcomings include, and parallel to the findings
will be subject to empirical study. by KNILL /SCHULZE /TOSUN (2010), a relatively abstract
In order to arrive at a theoretically sound, yet empiri- operationalization of the dependent variable. In fact the
cally relevant analytical framework it is proposed here authors employ one of the most advanced concepts of
that the researcher should not follow a purely paradig- policy change proposed by CASHORE /HOWLETT (2007).
matic approach in selecting the variables. Rather, the Still, these conceptual tools provided by the research
researcher should make the selection in a pragmatic programme on policy change remain abstract and little
way, so that it benefits all major elements of a given concrete from an empiric-analytical perspective (com-
research, i.e. the major research question, the research pare KNILL /SCHULZE /TOSUN, 2010). This shortcoming,
project and the researcher. For these three elements of a however, is beyond the direct influence of SOTIROV et al.
research the selection of the independent variables to be and could be taken up productively by the authors
investigated can be useful in different ways: (i) useful for future work. Another critical point can be seen in the
the generation of new knowledge by effectively solving quite narrow focus on a particular policy (the EUs Natu-
the research problem at hand. This includes both, useful ra2000) and not on a wider domain of EU policy making.
in theoretical terms for addressing research questions Also the multi-theory approach, spanning over several
and hypotheses and useful regarding their relevance in and partly contradictory families of theories, might be
empirical practice. But (ii) also useful for the research seen as overambitious and difficult to manage from a
project from a research economical perspective. The research-pragmatic point of view. Content-wise this
framework might have to be compatible with other pro- approach can however, as stated above, also lead to
ject partners and their methodologies, such as in joint major theoretical advancements, which should be left
and/or cross-disciplinary research projects. And the open to future work of the authors. Still, the different
selection of variables should (iii) also be useful for the epistemologies behind the different theories and their
researcher by being compatible with his or her previous methodological implications should always be made
work and experiences. It should, however, also be com- explicit.
Against the criteria for usefulness developed above,
) This general approach is a central building block in positivist SOTIROV et al.s framework can be characterised as being
methodologies and conforms with the empirical-analytical par- an appropriate selection of variables for the analysis of
adigm in social sciences (von BEYME, 2000) which also forms the
base of central arguments of this article. A number of post-posi- In the aforementioned review of existing studies this factor was
tivist critiques to this approach exist (e.g. FISCHER, 2003), for assigned to rationalist theory. However, the more theoretical
whom this general approach to science may not seem appropri- discussions on multi-level governance, which are not reviewed
ate to follow. here, are of a more institutional character.

Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12 255

policy change. It is useful for generating new insights however, should be further developed and new combina-
into the interdependence of ideational, structural/insti- tions of factors should be tested empirically. This neces-
tutional and material factors especially in the relatively sitates future studies of policy change and stability to
young field of EU environmental policy making with its employ mixed-theory and mixed-factor frameworks for
rather dynamic polity, where either of these factors can analysis. The responsibility to choose and combine these
be expected to play a prominent role. The framework factors, however, lies with the researcher, who should
also seems to be useful for the researcher9), who has make such evaluations based on explicit criteria, such as
extensive previous experiences with the main theories the ones proposed in this paper. A question that has
and variables used here, i.e. the advocacy coalition been rarely addressed explicitly, but which has strong
framework (e.g. SOTIROV, 2009; SOTIROV and MEMMLER, implications for each of the competing sets of theories, is
2011). Also the chosen variables and theories illustrate whether basic material needs of actors involved in a poli-
that the researcher is able to fruitfully add new aspects cy domain are covered or not and how that relates to the
to his work and that he aims to develop a comprehensive effect immaterial factors such as values and beliefs
and theoretically ambitious research approach, building might have. This calls for studies using a more system-
on well-established, yet distinct political theories. Only atic and comparative design rather than isolated case
the usefulness of the framework from a research-eco- studies on individual policy changes. Likewise, more
nomics perspective might be questioned in two ways: analyses on new materials and technologies as factors
Firstly, the framework developed accommodates a large triggering policy change are called for, because they
number of factors and corresponding theories, which in a could enable inter-disciplinary integration among most
way contradicts the positivist principle of narrowing- theories reviewed here. Regarding policy change as the
down explanatory factors. Secondly, the usefulness with dependent variable there is an urgent need to explicitly
regard to the overall joint research project (European further work on conceptualising policy change and its
Beech Forests for the Future, BeFoFu)10) can be ques- measurement.
tioned. Because it employs a number of quite thorough
theories of the policy process, which is a challenge on its 7. SUMMARY
own to integrate with each other (see above), it will be
This article aims at reviewing recently reported con-
an even greater challenge to make the methodological
crete empirical factors influencing policy change, includ-
approach as well as its findings compatible with other
ing conceptions of policy change as the dependent vari-
project partners coming from an array of disciplines
such as genetics, forest ecology and yield sciences, able. It further aims at developing a set of criteria for
nature conservation, economics and other strands of pol- assessing the usefulness of selecting these explanatory
icy analysis. factors in any given research project. Based on a litera-
ture review a body of articles is identified which pro-
vides concrete empirical factors as independent vari-
ables explaining policy change. These explanatory
factors are clustered and positioned in broader theories
From the reviewing exercise of recently discussed of the policy sciences. Subsequently a set of criteria is
independent variables of policy change one can conclude developed for assessing the usefulness of selecting inde-
that a diversity of influential factors is discussed and pendent variables in a given research process. These cri-
hence it also is a fruitful area for future inquiry. In order teria then are applied to the analytical framework devel-
not to let the number of factors grow extensively howev- oped by SOTIROV et al. (in this issue) in order to briefly
er, it could be worthwhile considering to establish and illustrate its usefulness in their research project envi-
test hierarchies among factors (e.g. primary and sec- ronment. The article closes with conclusions for
ondary factors, factors that closely relate to others or researchers on the theoretical and methodological choic-
even cause them) and to look for (the most) important es to be made when developing their own analytical
factors, that are valid in most or even all contexts. Also frameworks as well as with an outlook on fruitful paths
the explicit study of policy stability in the future could for future research on policy change.
help support already existing factors influence on policy
change or even reveal new ones, to then be tested in poli- 8. ZUSAMMENFASSUNG
cy change cases. However, rather than engaging in para-
digmatic fights over which factors (or rather theories) Titel des Beitrages: Zusammenschau empirischer
explain more, future studies should, similar to SOTIROV Erklrungen fr Politikwandel: Optionen zur Analyse
et al. (in this issue), combine these factors into frame- und Felder knftiger Forschung.
works in innovative ways, especially for revealing their Der Beitrag hat zum Ziel, einen berblick ber kon-
linkages and under which conditions which of the factors krete empirische Faktoren zu geben, die derzeit in den
specifically accounts for change. Here lies the strength of Policy-Wissenschaften im Zusammenhang mit Politik-
frameworks, such as the advocacy coalitions (SABATIER, wandel diskutiert werden. Zudem werden Kriterien ent-
1988), the policy paradigms (HALL, 1993) and the multi- wickelt, anhand derer die Ntzlichkeit der Auswahl von
ple streams model developed by KINGDON (1984), which, solchen Variablen in Forschungsvorhaben bewertet wer-
den kann. Basierend auf einer Literaturstudie werden
) Here only the first author will be considered because a full Journalartikel identifiziert, die konkrete empirische
account for practical reasons is not feasible. Faktoren benennen und damit versuchen, Politikwandel
10) See URL for project details. zu erklren. Diese unabhngigen Variablen werden

256 Allg. Forst- u. J.-Ztg., 182. Jg., 11/12

gruppiert und in bestehenden Theorien der Policy-Wis- BCHER, M. (2011): The Role of Policy Entrepreneurs in
senschaften verortet. Danach werden Kriterien zur Regional Governance Processes. Paper presented at the
Bewertung der Ntzlichkeit der Auswahl der unabhn- 6th ECPR general conference, Reykjavik, August 2427,
gigen Variablen in Forschungsvorhaben entwickelt. Die- 2011.
se Kriterien werden dann auf den Beitrag von SOTIROV BCHER, M. and A. E. TLLER (2011): Umweltpolitik in
et al. (in diesem Heft) angewendet, um kurz die Ntz- Deutschland: Eine politikfeldanalytisch orientierte Ein-
fhrung. FernUniversitt Hagen.
lichkeit ihrer Selektion von Faktoren zu diskutieren.
BCHER, M., L. GIESSEN and D. KLEINSCHMIT (2009, Eds.):
Der Artikel schliet mit Schlussfolgerungen fr die
Discourse and expertise in forest and environmental
Selektion von Variablen zur Erklrung von
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Dr. FRITZ-HELMUT EVERS wissenschaftliche Studium mit dem Diplomexamen an

Am 26. Oktober 2011 ist der Universitt Freiburg ab. Nach der Referendarzeit in
der langjhrige Leiter der der baden-wrttembergischen Landesforstverwaltung
Abteilung Botanik und legte er 1957 die Groe Forstliche Staatsprfung ab.
Standortskunde der FVA Entsprechend seinem vorwiegend naturwissenschaft-
Baden-Wrttemberg, Herr lichen Interesse an der Forstwissenschaft kam er
Ltd. Forstdirektor a.D., danach zur damaligen Abteilung Bodenkunde der FVA
Dr. FRITZ-HELMUT EVERS, in Stuttgart-Weilimdorf (Fasanengarten). 1962 folgte
in seinem 85. Lebensjahr die Promotion an der Universitt Freiburg mit der Dis-
in Stuttgart verstorben. sertation Die Wirkung von Ammonium- und Nitrat-
FRITZ-HELMUT EVERS Stickstoff auf Wachstum und Mineralstoffhaushalt von
wurde 1927 in Stuttgart Picea und Populus, ein nach wie vor aktuelles Thema.
geboren. Nach Schulzeit 1964 wurde EVERS zum Leiter der Sektion Pflanzen-
und kurzzeitiger Verpflich- ernhrung und Dngung in der Abteilung Botanik und
tung als Flakhelfer am Standortskunde ernannt; 1974 wurde ihm nach der Pen-
Ende des Zweiten Welt- sionierung von Prof. Dr. SCHLENKER die Abteilungslei-
krieges studierte er tung bertragen.
zunchst Naturwissenschaften, wandte sich dann aber EVERS war ein Forstkologe im besten Sinne und er
den Forstwissenschaften zu. 1954 schloss er das forst- hat wesentlich zur berregional anerkannten wissen-

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