Policy feedback and pathways: when change leads to endurance and continuity to change

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The policy feedback literature was initially concerned with explaining how positive feedback could lead to self-reinforcing policy trajectories. More recently, policy scholars have devoted more attention to negative feedbacks which can result in self-undermining policy trajectories. This article moves beyond these two well-known pathways to policy endurance and change by conceptually outlining two additional pathways to endurance and change. We argue that positive and negative feedback may be observed simultaneously within the same policy trajectory. The existing literature fails to distinguish adequately between policy feedback processes operating at the ideational and instrument levels of policy. We outline a pathway to endurance in which negative feedbacks at the policy instrument level result in instrument change which can be a necessary condition for sustained positive feedback processes at the ideational level of policy. Somewhat counterintuitively, we argue a policy pathway in which positive instrument feedbacks undermine the ideational foundation of policy. With positive instrument feedback overshadowing negative feedbacks, misalignment between policy and the broader context, eventually undermining the policy, is likely to occur at some point. These new insights are important for policy planning with longer time horizons.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolicy Sciences
Number of pages16
ISSN0032-2687
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Feedback, Ideas, Path dependency, Policy change, Policy instruments, Policy paradigms

ID: 234024977