In the study of policy network analysis as a useful tool in policy research, four main approaches are commonly used: the rational choice approach, personal interaction approach, formal network analysis, and structural approach (Marsh & Smith, 2000). This simply refers to the different elements and biases that go into the crafting of a public policy…
Dialectic relationship is defined as the interactive relationship between two entities in which one affects the other in a continuing iterative process. This process influences the strategic knowledge of both actors as well as the structured context, which in turn shapes the agent's future action. The implications are that policy network analysis may not be the foolproof method of policy analysis that it is made out to be. Nonetheless, it is attracting considerable interest in the policy-making arena because it expands the concerns of policy research previously confined to options directly or indirectly related to an issue.
Analysis of policy with the use of the policy network concept involves theoretical approaches in a wide range of disciplines that includes political science, sociology, anthropology, international relations and management (Sutton, 1999). By putting political science theories at work, the process looks at policy networks as epistemic communities that can help develop an understanding of the role of various interest groups in the undertaking. The concept of an epistemic community is important, especially in knowledge-based theories, because it can influence four stages of the policy process - policy innovation, diffusion, selection and persistence (Hasenclever, et al., 1997). These epistemic communities are likely to take a strong stand on the policy decisions, and once politicians agree with this position, the latter are expected to invite experts into the circle of power, thus giving such communities an opportunity to have a substantial influence on the policy process (Ibid). From the sociological viewpoint, policy networks are classified as either corporatist, state-directed, collaborative or pluralist, which essentially differ in their degree of integration. The networks with the greatest level of integration are the so-called "Iron Triangle" coalitions in the US, which are state-directed communities composed of congressional subcommittees, interest groups and government bureaus pursuing a mutually supportive relationship (Dowding, 1995). The level of integration of the other communities depends on the policy area. If the policy area concerns energy issues, the network assumes a corporatist character because it is made up of business groups, while it becomes collaborative if the issues relate to public health because the network will be composed of professional organizations. The network is pluralist in character if the policy under study involves national issues with social, political and economic ramifications.
There are two different approaches to policy network analysis developed in UK, one by Rhodes (1997) and the other by Wilk & Wrights (in Dowding, 1995). The Rhodes approach specifically addresses the relations between the central British state and governance in the periphery (Dowding, 1995), thus it looks at the policy network as a cluster or complex of organizations connected to each other by resource dependencies and distinguished from other clusters or complexes by breaks in the structure of these resource dependencies. As for the Wilk & Wrights model, it seeks to explain the complex nature of policy-making in ...
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