Power, Politics and Policy Transfer

Article English OPEN
Ellison, Nicholas Richard (2016)

Although the extensive literature on policy transfer and learning has succeeded in raising awareness of the myriad issues associated with this complex field, the goal of developing a clear and systematic conceptual apparatus capable of explaining (at least) how policy is transferred, by whom (or through what structural mechanisms) and with what effects has so far proved elusive. This verdict is not in fact surprising because, as the literature demonstrates, ‘policy transfer’ is characterised by contested definitional and conceptual debates, inherently complex contextual detail, and challenging methodological problems, which together conspire to limit the scope and impact of theoretical insights and empirical findings. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties it is possible to utilise what is a sophisticated and insightful literature in a different manner. Rather than treat policy transfer as a dependent variable, it is advantageous to understand the term as an integral component of the wider field of policy analysis and one that can throw light on a range of policy issues. The role of power in policy making – and specifically the differential operation of power relations in a globalising world – is one area that an appreciation of the complex dynamics of policy transfer can illuminate. Following a review of the core debates concerning policy transfer, this article goes on to argue that different power paradigms can be associated with different types of transfer process. An appreciation of the characteristics of these paradigms makes it possible to develop a model that depicts the interaction of power and policy transfer at different levels and spatial scales
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