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Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies (Longman Classics Edition)

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First published in 1984, this explanation of the policy-making process in the United States described agenda setting as the ability to define the list of subjects to which government officials and those around them are paying serious attention. Kingdon (U. of Michigan) identifies three streams tha


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First published in 1984, this explanation of the policy-making process in the United States described agenda setting as the ability to define the list of subjects to which government officials and those around them are paying serious attention. Kingdon (U. of Michigan) identifies three streams tha

30 review for Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies (Longman Classics Edition)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christina Mitchell

    And, so it was another day in the reading of a doctoral student. I actually think it is a profound blueprint for how decisions are made in Washington. If you are an advocate or a member of a nonprofit organization, the information in this book is critical learning. And, I adore politics. It was good reading. But, let's face it, it isn't an Elizabeth George mystery novel.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paloma *The Romance Queen*

    Had to read it for my capstone...so much closer to my diploma

  3. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    This is a seminal text in the public policy literature. Of the several models of the public policy process, Kingdon’s multiple streams model was perennially one of my favorites. The model is considerably deeper and attempts to be a more all-encompassing theory of public policy setting than the text book summaries give credit. Like the models in psychology or economics, it is best to have several models at your disposal that you can compare between and pick and choose to apply to best fit the sit This is a seminal text in the public policy literature. Of the several models of the public policy process, Kingdon’s multiple streams model was perennially one of my favorites. The model is considerably deeper and attempts to be a more all-encompassing theory of public policy setting than the text book summaries give credit. Like the models in psychology or economics, it is best to have several models at your disposal that you can compare between and pick and choose to apply to best fit the situation at hand. From my perspective, I like to zoom out and compare the usefulness and efficacy of a theory of public policy against the topical (memoirs and opinion writers), sociological (e.g. Webber, Giddens) and socialist models (e.g. Mouffe, Meiskins Wood). The proponents of socialist models counter that the value of their theories are not their use-value, but their value in transcending late stage capitalism and pointing the way to a more equitable alternative. From my perspective, that is their usefulness. But there is no point in forever pining for the new Jerusalem or the kingdom of heaven if it is nothing but a pipe dream. Like the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, that is like singing beautiful songs when you don’t have food to eat. Public administration and public policy studies are relatively speaking the newest entrants to this equation. Taking a step back, it is worth noting what they are very briefly. They are modern disciplines; meaning they emerged and came of age during the late 19th century and the 20th century. They were designed as and tend to be progressive, in the original political sense of the word. They were designed to model and conceptualize the public policy process as it actually happens and functions. They also aspire to model the areas of dysfunction and conceptualize which are features and which are bugs of the system. One advantage of the Kingdon model is his conceptualization of the coupling of the streams and the emergence of windows of opportunities. Basically, Kingdon models how windows of opportunity have opened when the streams converge. Namely, windows open when, at the same time, the voting blocs in congress and the administration are aligned in the politics stream, out of the problem stream a problem has arisen or is constructed through changes in the national mood or galvanizing events, and within the policy stream the policy solutions have been already worked through by academics, think tanks, and congressional staffers and are ready at hand for congress and the administration when the issue reaches the decision agenda. In a strange unanticipated convergence, the Kingdon model for agenda setting and the public policy process is rivaled on the European post-Marxist side of the pond by Louis Althusser in his last phase and Chantel Mouffe. Their models, although coming from vastly different backgrounds, provide a topography of government or the state, the relations to political problems or interests from the base, the articulation and deliberation of alternatives, and how issues reach the decision agenda. In either case, the use-value is as a model or tool in the hands of constituencies, coalitions, and organizations on the ground. They prove their usefulness as models to fit to situations within the state and public policy process and provide the ability to act when windows of opportunity present themselves.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Agenda setting, in the world of politics, is when a problem becomes identified as an issue that calls for government attention, discussion, and--possibly--decision making. This book is one of the most important works on agenda-setting. John Kingdon has stated that: Political events flow along according to their own dynamics and their own rules. Participants perceive swings in national mood, elections bring new administrations to power and new partisan or ideological distributions to Congress, an Agenda setting, in the world of politics, is when a problem becomes identified as an issue that calls for government attention, discussion, and--possibly--decision making. This book is one of the most important works on agenda-setting. John Kingdon has stated that: Political events flow along according to their own dynamics and their own rules. Participants perceive swings in national mood, elections bring new administrations to power and new partisan or ideological distributions to Congress, and interest groups of various descriptions press (or fail to press) their demands on government. The author sees three streams that must come together for an issue to be placed on the agenda--a political stream (just noted above), a policy stream (in which some policy proposal emerges as "best"), and a problem stream (a problem develops that people label as important). If they come together and if the window of opportunity for success is there, then the issue can become an agenda item. If the streams do not come together, agenda placement is unsuccessful--as with President Clinton's health care plan. That plan had two of three requirements in place. One, the political stream was supportive. A new President had been elected with his party having a majority in both houses of Congress; furthermore, Clinton outlined as a campaign issue support for a more ambitious health care program for Americans. The confluence of these two factors produced something like a "mandate" for change. Two, the problem stream saw health care bubbling up toward the top. That is, increasingly, people seemed to define health care as a serious problem about which something had to be done. Nonetheless, no major initiative emerged to be fully considered. Clinton's plan was very nearly DOA (dead on arrival) once serious discussion began. Why? No single policy proposal garnered enough support. Democrats supported several different plans--such as a single payer system (in which government becomes the insurer), "pay or play" (in which businesses would largely fund health care insurance), and the Clinton plan itself (which focused on managed care). Thus, the policy stream never did "come together" around any single proposal. As a result, the initiative died and no substantial changes were forthcoming in the health care system. What emerges in each stream is, to a large extent, "contingent," depending upon many factors--including chance. The result is unpredictability. It may be that this work overemphasizes chance and contingency and underplays the role of human agency (for instance, the role of policy entrepreneurs who labot to get issues placed on the agenda and acted upon). Nonetheless, this is an exemplary work and well worth attending to if one is interested in setting the political agenda.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Delaney

    It was good for a policy book required for my graduate program, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for a pleasure read. As far as policy goes the concepts were intriguing and it wasn't too dry or awful. I enjoyed that the book focuses on how policies or ideas get on 'the agenda' and the 'why'.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Clement

    I really enjoyed this book. Although I know that Sabatier and others contend that the Multiple Streams model does not quite meet their standards of a theory of the policy process, I thought this book had a lot to offer. The book is clear, well organised, interesting, and compelling. I think it provides an excellent foundation for anyone studying political science, public policy, or public administration. I also think it provides a useful heuristic, if not a theory or metatheoretical framework. K I really enjoyed this book. Although I know that Sabatier and others contend that the Multiple Streams model does not quite meet their standards of a theory of the policy process, I thought this book had a lot to offer. The book is clear, well organised, interesting, and compelling. I think it provides an excellent foundation for anyone studying political science, public policy, or public administration. I also think it provides a useful heuristic, if not a theory or metatheoretical framework. Kingdon provides a more compelling argument for his model than the authors of many other books I have read, perhaps because it is "clear enough to be wrong" and based on fairly large number of case studies - particularly when compared to other policy books. This book is very American, however, and I do think that the differences in the American system make this model an imperfect fit for elsewhere because the elements of the model are intertwined with the characteristics of America's style of government. All in all, though, this was a highly enjoyable read and pretty quick too. It only took me a day, and I am not a fast reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Jennings

    I very good synopsis of policy, problems, agendas, politics, etc. Useful for beginners embarking on their first forays into public policy!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gede Suprayoga

    This book contains a sort of a big bang theory in policy studies. Kingdon illustrates the process of how a policy agenda can enter the enactment phase. He explains different elements that he categorizes into three streams, problems, policies, and politics, that open a window of opportunity for the enactment. Each stream works independently meaning that it comes from various actors in policy-making, such as bureaucrats, politicians, experts, interested groups, etc. When the time comes, a policy e This book contains a sort of a big bang theory in policy studies. Kingdon illustrates the process of how a policy agenda can enter the enactment phase. He explains different elements that he categorizes into three streams, problems, policies, and politics, that open a window of opportunity for the enactment. Each stream works independently meaning that it comes from various actors in policy-making, such as bureaucrats, politicians, experts, interested groups, etc. When the time comes, a policy entrepreneur (the one who is persistence enough to endorse a proposal for future gains) opens the opportunity for the adoption of a policy agenda. Later on, many scholars advance the theory under the theme "the multi-stream framework/approach" (MSF or MSA). The focus has been given to refining the elements of the streams operated and to illustrating the window better. The critics around the theory are that they need to be substantiated more in different cases and contexts. Moreover, the theory about the detailed elements of each stream requires more explanation. For example, the role of problem brokers that accentuate a problem to surface and the stream that emerges as more dominant in specific circumstances. The theory itself is appealing. The 'window' metaphor can be understood and translated into actual cases easily. The theory outlines the policy-making processes and helps to manage the processes better. The book is truly worth reading to students and practitioners in policy-making.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea

    This another book I had to read for my graduate level public policy course. Kingdon felt even dryer then Stone. Again, another look at public policy from a federal perspective moving from agenda setting to the folks in government who make sure the wheels turn. I'm not sure if any one theory discussed in this book stuck with me. As I read these public policy texts it became very clear that this stuff is steeped in economic frameworks that just don't interest me at all. There was a point in my lif This another book I had to read for my graduate level public policy course. Kingdon felt even dryer then Stone. Again, another look at public policy from a federal perspective moving from agenda setting to the folks in government who make sure the wheels turn. I'm not sure if any one theory discussed in this book stuck with me. As I read these public policy texts it became very clear that this stuff is steeped in economic frameworks that just don't interest me at all. There was a point in my life where I was considering public policy for school. Glad I dodged the bullet. Books/literature aside, sometimes it's the professors that make the degree and not the books. And sometimes, you realize that the literature is terrible and you want nothing to do with it, good professors or not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Breck Wightman

    My favorite framework for agenda setting. Kingdon’s work is not only salient, but also more pleasant to read than the typical academic work. The quotes he includes from his interviews contain incredibly good anecdotes and analogies - better than you could even make up.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Solid insights into policy development in a variety of settings, despite the rather limited scope into the federal government. Also an interesting look back into one of the previous times national healthcare was on the national agenda.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christopher T Galvez

    Helpful review in the basics of public policy making. This book sits on my desk and is frequently referenced.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ed McKinley

    A nonstop thrill ride

  14. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    It wasn’t bad but I am comparing this to the first book I read for my public policy analysis class, and I found Policy Paradox much more engaging!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paige Kirby

    The framework it provides can and should be condensed to a much briefer article.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Ball

    Kingdon does a great job explaining the Agenda Setting portion of the policy cycle. If you're in a rush, you could get away with just reading chapter 9 (although chapter 8 after that would help). The whole book tends to be repetitive (and there aren't that many big ideas), and the concluding chapter does a good job of summing up the details. I quite enjoyed the epilogue, which looks at health care reform during the Clinton and Obama administrations, since the examples were more relevant and Kingd Kingdon does a great job explaining the Agenda Setting portion of the policy cycle. If you're in a rush, you could get away with just reading chapter 9 (although chapter 8 after that would help). The whole book tends to be repetitive (and there aren't that many big ideas), and the concluding chapter does a good job of summing up the details. I quite enjoyed the epilogue, which looks at health care reform during the Clinton and Obama administrations, since the examples were more relevant and Kingdon's theory of agenda setting fit them quite nicely. Note that this book does not consider the entire policy cycle, but only a small (initial) portion of it. There are more aspects to public policy than agenda setting (the subject of this book), such as formulation, decision-making, implementation, and evaluation. For a fuller picture, consider a book like Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles & Policy Subsystems by Michael Howlett.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Oliver

    A good analysis and introduction to the policy process. It makes interesting arguments about the problems, policies and politics approach to policy making. I thought his discussion of actors, and their involvement in how an issue becomes relevant, and gains prominence, was important. I also felt like the discussion of the policy stream, policy windows, and framing, not to mention focusing events, as being instrumental in the theory behind policy making. It still seems like an amorphous process, A good analysis and introduction to the policy process. It makes interesting arguments about the problems, policies and politics approach to policy making. I thought his discussion of actors, and their involvement in how an issue becomes relevant, and gains prominence, was important. I also felt like the discussion of the policy stream, policy windows, and framing, not to mention focusing events, as being instrumental in the theory behind policy making. It still seems like an amorphous process, with no cogent or logical way about it, other than a ton of disparate actors, influences and pressures elevating and lowering issues on the agenda. However, his argument has some seriously questionable gaps, such as who is to say that Kingdon's interviews were a representative sample of the population, and how do we know they knew why policy was implemented or not? There is serious question on his statistics. Also, the reasons they perceived for an issue to become germane could vary from the reality of the situation.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    Kingdon is a policy guru and this is a classic in the policy world. He outlines a model of agenda setting and policy formation based on Cohen, March, and Olsen's previously outlined "garbage can" model. Here's the short version: (1) Three relatively independent "streams" must coincide- problem identification, the generation of feasible alternatives (from a primeval soup of ideas floating around and interacting with each other), and a political atmosphere favorable for action, (2) at an opportune Kingdon is a policy guru and this is a classic in the policy world. He outlines a model of agenda setting and policy formation based on Cohen, March, and Olsen's previously outlined "garbage can" model. Here's the short version: (1) Three relatively independent "streams" must coincide- problem identification, the generation of feasible alternatives (from a primeval soup of ideas floating around and interacting with each other), and a political atmosphere favorable for action, (2) at an opportune time (when the policy window opens), (3) with the help of people with something to gain by championing a particular policy (a policy entrepreneur). However, although this information is important, his delivery is very dry and it is super painful to read this book from cover to cover. Especially in one day because you procrastinated and didn't do the reading ahead of time. Especially when you have less than eight hours to write a paper on it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    CJ

    Supposedly this is a classic. I found it long-winded and crusted in two boring examples from the late seventies. However, it does convincingly get across its thesis that Washington politics is a complex machine not under any one person's control. He describes a model of "Agenda setting"->"Alternative specification"->"decision making"->"implementation" under which various political actors and random events have varying levels of influence. For the cynical, this book attributes to system complexit Supposedly this is a classic. I found it long-winded and crusted in two boring examples from the late seventies. However, it does convincingly get across its thesis that Washington politics is a complex machine not under any one person's control. He describes a model of "Agenda setting"->"Alternative specification"->"decision making"->"implementation" under which various political actors and random events have varying levels of influence. For the cynical, this book attributes to system complexity what might otherwise attributed to malice or stupidity.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    This was assigned reading for one of my classes, but I really enjoyed it. It provides an interesting way of thinking about how our federal agenda is set, and the conditions necessary for any policy to take hold. It focuses on health care policy, and even though this book was written about case studies from the late 1970s, it is extremely reminiscent of everything that is happening currently in that arena. I recommend this book to anyone who is confused by our government's recent activities.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Abby Jean

    very interesting articulation of the complicated process and chance involved in moving issues to the public agenda and creating alternatives from which eventual policy is made. seemed much more familiar to me than the straightforward and logical schoolhouse rock progression of how a bill becomes a law.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    Read for doctoral program. It's readable, although I agree with one of the reviewers on Amazon.com who said that this is a 40-page article that was stretched out by wordiness into a book. I think this would have made an excellent article. As a book, it was easy to scan which made it a fast read. Good information, however, and I'm interested to see what we do with it in class.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sus

    I really enjoyed this, even if I had already encountered most of the same ideas previously when reading the excellent Agendas and Instability in American Politics so I wasn't surprised that the updated edition referenced that work. I think this leans a little too heavily on the idea of policy "windows," but is still a thorough look at the various elements involved in agenda-setting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    A really great read. Kingdon gives his take on how policy in the US is made. The author presents his "streams model" of policy making, which is fairly intuitive.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A great book for those interested in Policy Development and why certain politcal agendas succeed and others fail.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    What you don't think this sounds fascinating?! Yes, it's for school....but very well written and an interesting take on how Washington works!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    Oh my god. Only read it if you have to. Dull dull dull dull dull.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    A fairly dry read, although apparently one of the most important books for the field.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    He could have written this book in 40 pages and said the same thing, but overall, excellent presentation of how agendas are set

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate Ditzler

    Read pages 165-195, chapter 8: The Policy Window, and Joining the Streams.

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