Panel Paper: Policy Regime Perspectives: Policies and Governing

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 3:00 PM
Calhoun (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Peter May and Ashley Jochim, University of Washington

How do policies achieve legitimacy?  Policies contain a set of political and institutional commitments that reify the majority enactors’ view of the purposes of government.  The realization of these commitments does more than shape implementation success.  Sustained commitments enhance the legitimacy of a given policy or set of policies.  In considering what brings this about, we call attention to the political and institutional arrangements that are embedded with or surround major policy enactments.  These arrangements are best characterized by the concept of a policy regime.  Our discussion of policy regimes makes three contributions.  One is articulating the role of regimes in enhancing policy legitimacy.  Second is revealing how choices about policy designs shape the strength of policy regimes.  Third is considering how policy regimes shape implementation prospects, reinvigorating an expanded notion of implementation as policy evolution.  Collectively, these insights contribute to our understanding of how policies become meaningful instruments for governing.

We develop our arguments about the role of regimes in fostering policy legitimacy in several stages.  We first discuss the importance of policy legitimacy in enhancing implementation and sustaining reforms over time.  We then discuss how policy regimes enhance legitimacy.  Here we offer our conceptualization of policy regimes and consider the elements that empower them.  We next turn to how choices about policy design shape the strength and durability of policy regimes.  We conclude by addressing the relevance of regimes to policy theory, practical issues in studying regimes, and a set of theoretical issues for future research.

In describing regimes in these terms, we call on policy scholars to take seriously the role of policies as governing instruments and the factors that shape the legitimacy of policies.  This raises fundamental issues about the appropriate foci for studying the political dynamics and success of policies beyond their enactment. These emphases highlight the interplay of policy and implementation in the exercise of government authority.

This paper is based on a longer-term research agenda in addressing policy regimes.  It is appropriate for panels addressing political processes, policy implementation, and policy durability.

Full Paper: