Skip to main content


Log in

Agenda dynamics and the multi-level governance of intractable policy controversies: the case of migrant integration policies in the Netherlands

  • Published:
Policy Sciences Aims and scope Submit manuscript


This article focuses on the relation between agenda dynamics and multi-level governance for a specific type of policy problems: intractable policy controversies. It discusses migrant integration policies in the Netherlands as a case-study, analysing problem, political and policy agendas in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam and on the national level, as well as the relation and interaction between these policy levels. The article shows that in a contested policy area like migrant integration, patterns of agenda setting often have a strongly level-specific character, leading to different policy frames and thus complicating modes of governance in multi-level setting. Precisely when the framing of policy problems itself is at stake, level-specific agenda dynamics will produce different policy frames also in multi-level policy settings. This makes multi-level governance in terms of effectively coordinating relations between policy levels to create congruence of policies between different levels a particular challenge when faced with this type of policy problems.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Alexander, M. (2007). Cities and labour immigration: Comparing policy responses in Amsterdam, Paris, Rome and Tel Aviv. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bache, I., & Flinders, M. (2004). Themes and issues in multi-level governance. In I. Bache & M. Flinders (Eds.), Multi-level Governance (pp. 1–11). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Bak Jørgensen, M. (2012). The diverging logics of integration policy making at national and city level. International Migration Review, 46(1), 244–278.

  • Baumgartner, F., & Jones, B. (1993). Agendas and instability in American politics. London: University of Chicago Press.

  • Bertossi, C. (2011). National models of integration in Europe: A comparative and critical analysis. American Behavioral Scientist, 55(12), 1561–1580.

    Google Scholar 

  • Birkland, T. A. (2006). Lessons of disaster: Policy change after catastrophic events. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bommes, M., & Thränhardt, D. (2010). Introduction: National paradigms of migration research. In M. Bommes & D. Thranhard (Eds.), National paradigms of migration research. Osnabruck: IMIS.

  • Bowen, J. (2007). A view from France on the internal complexity of national models. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 33(6), 1003–1016.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Breeman, G., Timmermans, A., Lowery, D., & Resodihardjo, S. (2008). Executive policy agenda drift in coalition governance. Boston, MA: Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Caponio, T., & Borkert, M. (2010). The local dimension of migration policymaking. Amsterdam: AUP.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • De Zwart, F. (2005). The dilemma of recognition: Administrative categories and cultural diversity. Theory and Society, 34(2), 137–169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duyvendak, J., & Scholten, P. W. A. (2011). Beyond the Dutch “Multicultural model”. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 12(3), 331–348.

    Google Scholar 

  • Entzinger, H. (2003). The rise and fall of multiculturalism: The case of the Netherlands. In C. Joppke & E. Morawska (Eds.), Toward assimilation and citizenship: Immigrants in liberal nation-states. Hampshire: Palgrave.

  • Favell, A. (2003). Integration nations: The nation-state and research on immigrants in Western Europe. Comparative Social Research, 22, 13–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guiraudon, V. (1997). Policy change behind gilded doors: Explaining the evolution of aliens’ Rights in France, Germany and the Netherlands, 1974–94. New Haven: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Guiraudon, V. (2000). European integration and migration policy: Vertical policy-making as venue shopping. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 38(2), 251–271.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hilgartner, S., & Bosk, C. L. (1988). The rise and fall of social problems: A public arenas model. American Journal of Sociology, 94(1), 53–78.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hooghe, L., & Marks, G. (2001). Multi-level governance and European integration. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoppe, R. (2011). The governance of problems: Puzzling, powering and participation. Policy Pr.

  • John, P. (2001). Local governance in Western Europe. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jones, B., & Baumgartner, F. (2005). The Politics of Attention. How Government Prioritizes Problems. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joppke, C. (2007). Beyond national models: Civic integration policies in Europe. West European Politics, 30(1), 1–22

    Google Scholar 

  • Joppke, C., & Morawska, E. (2003). Toward Assimilation and Citizenship: Immigrants in liberal nation-states. Hampshire: Palgrave.

  • Koopmans, R., Statham, P., a.o. (2005). Contested citizenship: Immigration and cultural diversity in Europe. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Maussen, M. (2009). Constructing mosques: The governance of Islam in France and the Netherlands. PhD Thesis, University of Amsterdam.

  • Penninx, R., Kraal, K., Martiniello, M., & Vertovec, S. (2004). Citizenship in European cities: Immigrants, local politics and integration policies. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Piattoni, S. (2010). The theory of multi-level governance: Conceptual, empirical, and normative challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Princen, S. (2007). Agenda-setting in the European Union: A theoretical exploration and agenda for research. Journal of European Public Policy, 14(1), 21–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Poppelaars, C., & Scholten, P. (2008). Two Worlds Apart. The divergence of national and local immigrant policies in the Netherlands. Administration and Society, 40(4), 335–357.

  • Rosenau, J. N. (2004). Strong demand, huge supply: Governance in an emerging epoch. In I. Bache & M. Flinders (Eds.), Multi-level governance (pp. 31–48). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Sabatier, P. A. (1986). Top-down and bottom-up approaches to implementation research: A critical analysis and suggested synthesis. Journal of Public Policy, 6(1), 21–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Scholten, P. (2011). Framing immigrant integration: Dutch research-policy dialogues in comparative perspective. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Schön, D. A., & Rein, M. (1994). Frame reflection: Toward the resolution of intractable policy controversies. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Uitermark, J., & Duyvendak, W. G. J. (2008). Civilising the city: Populism and revanchist urbanism in the city of Rotterdam. Urban Studies, 45(7), 1485–1503.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Uitermark, J., Rossi, U., & Van Houtum, H. (2005). Reinventing multiculturalism: Urban citizenship and the negotiation of ethnic diversity in Amsterdam. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(3), 622–640.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to P. W. A. Scholten.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Scholten, P.W.A. Agenda dynamics and the multi-level governance of intractable policy controversies: the case of migrant integration policies in the Netherlands. Policy Sci 46, 217–236 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: