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Policies as species

Viewing and classifying policy from an evolutionary biology perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 August 2019

Samantha L. Mosier*
East Carolina University
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This article proposes equating policies as species to develop a better understanding of how policies emerge, change, and diffuse across policymaking environments. Scholars have long shown an interest in understanding policy change and reinvention, whether incremental or nonincremental. The two subfields of public policy that can answer how and why policies change are not unified, leading to difficulty in comprehensively assessing policy emergence and change. The policy species concept bridges knowledge of the policy process and knowledge in the policy process by creating an operationalized definition of public policy and suggesting a process for classifying policies to observe subsequent behavior. Drawing from the field of biology, the policy species framework outlines how policies possess genotypes and phenotypes, which dictate what a policy is and how it can change. In tracing genotypic and phenetic change over time, policy evolution and change is more easily discernible. In turn, a more precise picture of how policies function is painted.

© Association for Politics and the Life Sciences 2019

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