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Evolutionary approaches to the concept of drift in policy studies.

Baines, D., 2019. Evolutionary approaches to the concept of drift in policy studies. Critical Policy Studies, 13 (2), 174-189.

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DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2017.1414618


Within the important seam of policy studies dedicated to understanding how institutions and policies change over time, attention is increasingly being paid to cataloguing patterns of change in the absence of ‘big’. The concept of policy drift has been widely referenced in this line of work as an intuitively appealing label for an empirical pattern seemingly observed across many different policy sectors. Although evolutionary approaches are not explicitly acknowledged in this line of inquiry, in this paper we argue that they have much to contribute. First, evolutionary thinking helps clarify drift as a distinct concept from those which are often co-listed as competitors for the analysis of cumulative, sub-surface and endogenous policy change: displacement, layering, conversion or exhaustion. Second, an evolutionary approach casts light on the role of agency in drift sequences, something poorly understood and articulated in the drift literature. It remains unclear whether policy drift should be understood as something caused directly by a political strategy employed by an influential policy actor, or, rather, as a policy sequence that is unintended by any actor in the policy process. This paper presents the argument, using an evolutionary metaphor, that it is the latter, leaving an important but necessarily separate question of the agency of policy actors: to recognise their interests in, and capacity to develop, appropriate responses to the consequences of policy drift. The third contribution of the evolutionary metaphor is to this question of agency: it extends the existing drift literature beyond a simple dichotomy of maintaining or reversing drift by identifying acclimatisation and adaptation as distinct responses to drift in the policy environment. The paper is structured to develop the argument that the nascent literature on evolutionary approaches in policy studies can help bolster our understanding of drift.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:policy; health systems; policy drift; NHS; pharmaceuticals; pharmacy policy; pharmacy practice
Group:Bournemouth University Business School
ID Code:29890
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:23 Oct 2017 10:16
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:07


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