Policy Change

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In the realm of policy-making, a number of scholars1 in recent years have re-opened the doors towards understanding the role of ideas in policy change. Building upon the inadequacies of rational choice and institutional approaches, these theories emphasise that ideas play an important role in contributing to policy change.


Thus, this essay will argue that ideas affect policy change only indirectly, as paradigms frames and determinants of interest, such that its importance in understanding policy change is only secondary to other approaches.
To better understand the importance of a study of ideas in policy change, it is first necessary to understand what ideas are. Ideas are shared beliefs held by individuals. However, a distinction must be made between two categories of shared beliefs, particularly "consensual beliefs" and "economic ideas", where although not mutually exclusive differ in their relation to policy. As Jacobsen explains, the difference lies between those of "means" to "ends", where consensual beliefs "shape the legitimate ends of economic activity"; economic ideas are the means to reach these ends. 3 Taking this definition of ideas, the importance of a study of ideas in policy change can be summarised in their roles as paradigms, roadmaps, or ideational frames.
Comparing policy change to scientific revolutions, Hall (1989) places emphasis on the role of ideas through "policy paradigms", or "roadmaps" as Goldstein and Keohane (19 ...
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