Abstract

Despite the prominence of exogenous factors in theories of policy change, the precise mechanisms that link such factors to policy change remain elusive: The effects of exogenous factors on the politics underlying policy change are not sufficiently conceptualized and empirically analyzed. To address this gap, we propose to distinguish between truly exogenous factors and policy outcomes to better understand policy change. Specifically, we combine the Advocacy Coalition Framework with policy feedback theory to conceptualize a complete feedback loop among policy, policy outcomes, and subsequent politics. Aiming at theory‐building, we use policy feedback mechanisms to explain why advocacy coalitions change over time. Empirically, we conduct a longitudinal single case study on policy‐induced technological change in the German energy subsystem, an extreme case of policy outcomes, from 1983 to 2013. First, using discourse network analysis, we identify four patterns of actor movements, explaining coalition decline and growth. Second, using process tracing, we detect four policy feedback mechanisms explaining these four actor movements. With this inductive mixed‐methods approach, we build a conceptual framework in which policy outcomes affect subsequent politics through feedback mechanisms. We develop propositions on how coalition change and feedback mechanisms explain four ideal‐typical trajectories of policy change.

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