Pathologies of Policy Learning: What Are They and How Do They Contribute to Policy Failure?
Policy and Politics
Reason for embargo
This paper analyses policy failure as a degeneration of policy learning. Analytically the paper drills down on one ideal type of policy learning – epistemic learning. This is the realm of evidenced-based policymaking (EBPM), where experts advise decision-makers on issues of technical complexity. Empirically, the paper presents the management of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in England since 1997 as a failure of epistemic learning – where learning degenerated as the result of various weaknesses in government’s management of its relationship with an epistemic community established to advise it. Drawing on evidence from elite interviews and documentary analysis, these management failures are analysed as problems of learning about different aspects of organisational capacity. The paper concludes with some reflections on the value of learning theories as a conceptual lens for policy failure.
The chapter arises out of original research funded by the British Academy (BA SG-50865). Previous versions were presented at ‘Policy Failure Workshop’, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) National University of Singapore, 19-21 February 2014. The article has taken various forms and has benefitted hugely from colleagues’ insightful comments. Particular thanks are extended to Sarah Ayres, Allan McConnell, Michael Howlett, Adrian Kay, Allan McConnell, Peter May, B. Guy Peters, M. Ramesh and Diane Stone, and all the participants of the Singapore workshop. Any errors or omissions remain my responsibility.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Policy Press via the DOI in this record.
Available online: 07 November 2016
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