The Theory of Public Policy Paradigm Shifts -- Application to Selected Environmental Policies: A Social Systems Theoretical Perspective

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Marcus CARSON, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden
Tom R BURNS, Uppsala University, Sweden
This paper conceptualizes public policy paradigm shifts in areas of environmental policy. Drawing on earlier work utilizing a social systems approach (ASD), the paper specifies the architecture of public policy paradigms and the mechanisms that contribute to shifts or reforms in paradigms. The theory is applied to major paradigm shifts in international agreements aimed at environmental protection, in particular, bio-diversity policies. The shifts entail a reformulation from protecting specified individual species, locations, or environmental features to a more systemic perspective that emphasizes ecosystems, biodiversity, and system interactions that include people. In short, it is a shift from a very particularistic, differentiated view of nature in terms of individual flora and fauna to a much more holistic view. The research presented (theory and empirical cases) indicates that such shifts consists of multiple changes: in goals, responsible agents, expert groups; also, changes in problem definitions, conceptualizations/models of the problems, the solution complex, the particular methods and technologies to be used in solutions. The article applies the theory to Nordic area cases of major policy shifts in the regulation of the use of water resources and wetlands as well biodiversity generally.