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Policy Mechanisms


Causal mechanisms; Causality; Generative mechanisms


Causal mechanisms are an explanatory rather than predictive tool used to unpack the “black boxes” defined by empirical generalizations common in policy research. Specifically, mechanisms can be frequently occurring and easily recognizable causal patterns that are triggered under generally unknown conditions and usually with indeterminate consequences. This approach is appropriate for public administration, public policy, and governance research because it is often based on small N between-case and within-case studies. In testing hypotheses associated with causal mechanism, process-tracing methods are often used.


Issues of causality are infrequently discussed within the public policy and public management disciplines. Positivism and interpretivism are the two most popular approaches. The underlying notion of causality underpinning positivism is one of simple event regularities; that is, there are...

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Correspondence to Adam M. Wellstead .

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Wellstead, A.M., Cairney, P., Oliver, K. (2018). Policy Mechanisms. In: Farazmand, A. (eds) Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance. Springer, Cham.

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