Unpacking Policy Capacity: Issues and Themes

  • Martin Painter
  • Jon Pierre


An interesting puzzle surrounds the issue of the policy capacity of the modern state. On the one hand, there has been a growing emphasis on market solutions for a wide variety of issues and sectors of politics. There has also been growing scepticism about and critiques of the political system, as demonstrated by falling support for elected officials and political institutions. Administrative reforms in much of the Western world have arguably removed some of the policy capacity of the state by displacing political and institutional capacity downwards in the political system, outwards to agencies and NGOs, or upwards to transnational institutional systems such as the European Union (EU) (Pierre and Peters, 2000; Rhodes, 1997). Many of these developments have also been evident elsewhere. For example after the Asian financial crisis some features of ‘developmental states’ in East Asia — which are often depicted as exhibiting high levels of capacity — came into question (Haggard, 2000). In recent years decentralization, new forms of accountability and transparency and other reforms have chipped away at the old pillars of state capacity in a number of these states. An overarching objective in many countries is to ‘roll back the state’ and allow other actors to play a greater role. Given the preference for a minimal role by the state, policy capacity is not a top priority, perhaps not even an issue worthy of inquiry, because it is typical of a state model of times past.


European Union Policy Choice State Capacity Veto Player Asian Financial Crisis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Painter
  • Jon Pierre

There are no affiliations available

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