Theories of the Policy Process


Edited by Paul A. Sabatier, Christopher M. Weible

Third Edition • July 29, 2014 • 432 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813349268 • $47.00 USD$60.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813349275 • $29.99 USD$29.99 CAN

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Since the first edition published in 1999 with editor Paul Sabatier, Theories of the Policy Process has served as the quintessential gateway to the field of policy process research for students, scholars and practitioners alike. This enduring and well-regarded volume provides a forum for expert scholars and creators of the most established and widely used theoretical frameworks, to present the basic propositions, empirical evidence, latest updates, and promising directions for future research. This brief but comprehensive volume covers such classics as Multiple Streams (Zahariadis), Punctuated Equilibrium (Jones et al), Advocacy Coalition Framework (Jenkins-Smith et al.), Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (Ostrom et al.), Policy Diffusion (Berry & Berry), and Social Construction and Policy Design (Schneider et al).

This thoroughly updated third edition, with new editor Christopher M. Weible, includes a new introduction on the trajectories and needs of public policy research and two new chapters— Policy Feedback (Mettler and SoRelle) and Narrative Policy Framework (McBeth et al). A revised chapter presents a comparative analysis and evaluation of the frameworks included in this edition (Cairney & Heikkila), and a new conclusion looks at future directions and emerging areas in the field.


Paul A. Sabatier was political scientist and professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Davis.

Christopher M. Weible is associate professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. He is the editor for the Policy Studies Journal, one of the leading journals featuring theoretically innovative research in public policy.

Chapter 1. Introducing the Scope and Focus of Policy Process Research and Theory
Christopher M. Weible

Part II: Theoretical Approaches to Policy Process Research
Chapter 2. Ambiguity and Multiple Streams
Nikolaos Zahariadis
Chapter 3. Punctuated-Equilibrium Theory: Explaining Stability and Change in Public Policymaking
Frank R. Baumgartner, Bryan D. Jones, and Peter B. Mortensen
Chapter 4. Democratic Policy Design: Social Construction of Target Populations
Anne L. Schneider, Helen Ingram, and Peter deLeon
Chapter 5. Policy Feedback Theory
Suzanne Mettler and Mallory SoRelle
Chapter 6. Advocacy Coalition Framework: Foundations, Evolution, and Ongoing Research
Hank C. Jenkins-Smith, Daniel Nohrstedt, Christopher M. Weible, and Paul A. Sabatier
Chapter 7. The Narrative Policy Framework
Mark K. McBeth, Michael D. Jones, and Elizabeth A. Shanahan
Chapter 8. An Assessment of the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework and Introduction of the Socio-Ecological Systems Framework
Elinor Ostrom, Michael Cox, and Edella Schlager
Chapter 9. Innovations and Diffusion Models in Policy Research
Frances Stokes Berry and William D. Berry

Part III: Conclusions
Chapter 10. Comparing Theoretical Approaches
Paul Cairney and Tanya Heikkila
Chapter 11. Moving Forward and Climbing Upwards: Advancing Policy Process Research
Christopher M. Weible

Praise for the third edition:

“I have found this book to be particularly useful for exposing students to the major theories in the field. Each chapter breaks a particular theory down into a fairly concise manner. Theories of the Policy Process provides students with a working knowledge of a theory that really assists in their eventual mastery of the theory in subsequent readings. I have found this approach to significantly enhance and improve students’ ability to understand the original texts the chapters are based upon.”

—Alesha Doan, University of Kansas

“This is without question the best book on the theories of the policy process. There are many policy textbooks out there, but none that engage with contemporary theories of the process in such a comprehensive way.”

—Robert S. Wood, University of North Dakota

Praise for prior editions:

“This sophisticated primer will have much appeal for those who subscribe to policy models that put boundedly rational individuals at the centre of their analyses. Its attractiveness lies in its elaboration as well as critique of these approaches.”

—Canadian Journal of Political Science

“Theories of the Policy Process is an excellent…state-of-the-art volume: the less we consider it as the ‘qualifying round’ for future public policy theory, the more we will learn from it.”

—ECPR News

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