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Mechanism-Based Thinking on Policy Diffusion: A Review of Current Approaches in Political Science

[working paper]

Heinze, Torben

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Corporate Editor Freie Universität Berlin, FB Politik- und Sozialwissenschaften, Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft Kolleg-Forschergruppe "The Transformative Power of Europe"
Abstract Despite theoretical and methodological progress in what is now coined as the third generation of diffusion studies, explicitly dealing with the causal mechanisms underlying diffusion processes and comparatively analyzing them is only of recent date. As a matter of fact, diffusion research has ended up in a diverse and often unconnected array of theoretical assumptions relying both on rational as well as constructivist reasoning – a circumstance calling for more theoretical coherence and consistency. Against this backdrop, this paper reviews and streamlines diffusion literature in political science. Diffusion mechanisms largely cluster around two causal arguments determining the desires and preferences of actors for choosing alternative policies. First, existing diffusion mechanisms accounts can be grouped according to the rationality for policy adoption, this means that government behavior is based on the instrumental considerations of actors or on constructivist arguments like norms and rule-driven actors. Second, diffusion mechanisms can either directly impact on the beliefs of actors or they might influence the structural conditions for decision-making. Following this logic, four basic diffusion mechanisms can be identified in mechanism-based thinking on policy diffusion: emulation, socialization, learning, and externalities.
Keywords political science; technical literature; political scientist; research approach; research process; political actor; thinking; decision making
Classification Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Political Science
Document language English
Publication Year 2011
City Berlin
Page/Pages 33 p.
Series KFG Working Paper Series, 34
ISSN 1868-7601
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications