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Policy failures, blame games and changes to policy practice

  • Markus Hinterleitner (a1)

Studies examining the policy implications of elite polarisation usually concentrate on policy formulation and change, but neglect the impact of polarisation on the day-to-day application of policies. Applying the method of causal process tracing to the Swiss “Carlos” case, a blame game triggered by the reporting about an expensive therapy setting for a youth offender, this article exposes and explains a hitherto neglected, but highly important, mechanism between political elites engaging in blame generation and changes in policy practice. A policy’s distance and visibility to mass publics, as well as the incentives and resources of elites to engage in blame generation, explain the dynamics within blame games, which, in turn, effect organisational and behavioural changes that help institutionalise a more politicised policy practice. Politicised policy practice can make an important difference to policy target populations, as well as damage output legitimacy and undermine democracy.

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