Who learns what? Policy learning and the open method of coordination
Radaelli, Claudio M.
University of Exeter
This paper provides a theoretical and empirical assessment of the claim that the open method of coordination is a learning-based mode of governance. The paper presents four arguments. Firstly, learning in a political context is not a truth-seeking exercise. It is a political exercise. Secondly, the OMC may well have potential in terms of new governance. However, even when it is examined in its pure, ideal-typical form, open coordination has contradictory aims. It seeks to mute politics and to encourage high-level political coordination, to facilitate bottom-up learning and to steer learning processes from above, to encourage cooperative learning and to spawn dynamics of competitive learning. This makes learning via open coordination more difficult. Thirdly, real-world open coordination provides empirical evidence of learning at the top (or ‘EU-level learning’), embryonic evidence of cognitive convergence from the top (or ‘hierarchical learning’), and almost no evidence of learning from below (‘bottom-up learning’ from regions and local conditions, or ‘social learning’). There are several reasons for this rather disappointing track record, most pertinently perhaps, poor participation, a partially wrong choice of instruments for learning, and lack of attention to the peculiarities of learning in politics. Fourthly, the pre-conditions for learning differ across the policies in which the OMC is currently employed. The structural elements of public policies define the scope for learning.
Paper prepared for the ESRC Seminar Series: 'Implementing the Lisbon Strategy, Policy Learning Inside and Outside the Open Method', held at the European Research Institute, University of Birmingham, Friday 26th November, 2004