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How Do Institutions Shape Policy? Neo Institutional Theory And Parliament And Cabinet

1447 words - 6 pages

This essay is concerned with the impact of institutions of the state on the policy process. Key influences in the Neo-Institutional approach to the study of policy have been the importation of ideas from organisational sociology and a growing recognition of the need to employ historical analysis to trace the evolution of policy over time. I intend, in this essay to examine Neo-Institutionalist theory, and discuss it's relevance with reference to the institutions of Parliament and the Cabinet. Two points though that should be noted are that institutions are seen as central to one of the main policy theories, and that they are seen as 'makers and shapers' of policy.Attempting though, to understand the relevance and impact institutions have on public policy without defining the terms 'public policy' and 'institutions' would be imprudent. Like so many concepts and ideas in politics, there are many competent definitions, but despite their variations they all agree on certain key aspects. They agree that polices result from decisions made by government and that decisions by governments to do nothing are just as much policy as are decisions to do something. William Jenkins' definition of public policy is as 'a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve.' In this essay I will define institutions narrowly, like Howlett and Ramesh, as 'the structures and organisations of the state, society and the international system'With these definitions we can go on to consider the role of institutions in influencing the policy process.Unsurprisingly, there are a number of approaches to studying Public Policy. Howlett and Ramesh have created a two-dimensional framework, with one being a distinction between deductive and inductive approaches to the study of Public Policy, and the other asking whether the fundamental unit of analysis is the individual, the group, or the institution. Deductive theories begin from a relatively small number of basic postulates or assumptions accorded to universal status and then apply these assumptions to the study of specific phenomena. Inductive theories, on the other hand, begin with observations of specific phenomena and attempt to derive generalisations from these observations which can be combined into a more general theory.The Neo-Institutional approach to policy is one of three major deductive theories, the others being Public Choice and Class Theories. Essentially, the approach recognises the limits of individual and group-based theory to deal with political phenomena. Neo-Institutionalism is a relatively new term, coined by March and Olsen in the mid-1980's, used to distinguish the approach from traditional institutionalism, in legal-historical studies which merely described political institutions.Guy Peters states...

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