Belief Systems and Social Capital as Drivers of Policy Network Structure: The Case of California Regional Planning
Henry, Adam Douglas, Lubell, Mark, McCoy, Michael, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Policy networks are formed by a diverse set of actors interacting over long periods of time to influence policy (Sabatier 1999) and are widely recognized to have an important influence on policy dynamics and outcomes (Fowler 2006; Heclo 1978; Klijn 1996; Marsh and Smith 2000; Thatcher 1998). In this article, we employ recent advances in the statistical modeling of network structure to investigate the factors that drive policy network formation in the context of collaborative regional land-use and transportation planning. In a complex policy-making landscape where participants must collaborate to solve problems, influence political decisions, or otherwise achieve their policy goals, what is the rationale that drives some agents together and drives others apart? Our analysis of this question provides both theoretical and methodological contributions to the study of policy networks and public administration.
On the theoretical side, we analyze the relevance of belief similarity and social capital as two possible drivers of policy network structure. (1) According to the advocacy coalition framework (ACF, Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1993), actors with similar belief systems are more likely to form coalitions, leading to policy subsystems that are fragmented into ideological groups. Social capital is generally defined as trust and norms of reciprocity, which helps cement cooperative relationships (Coleman 1990; Putnam et al. 1993). We do not view these as competing theories. Rather, how these forces combine to influence network structure has important implications for policy dynamics.
If both policy beliefs and social capital strongly influence network structure, then networks should exhibit advocacy coalitions consisting of actors with similar belief systems knit together by high levels of social capital. This view of advocacy coalitions answers the long-standing criticism that the ACF does not have a model of individual cooperation to support the belief system similarity argument (Schlager 1995). The approach also accounts for the difference between bridging and bonding social capital (Larsen et al. 2004; Pretty 2003) since cross-coalition ties bridge actors with divergent beliefs, whereas within-coalition ties bond actors with similar beliefs. In contrast, strong belief system effects coupled with weak social capital effects indicate the presence of issue networks where collaboration is supported primarily by shared policy goals and flee-riding problems are less important. Strong social capital effects coupled with weak ideological effects is a signature of broad cooperation throughout the network and bridging across ideological cleavages, which is one of the goals of the collaborative institutions that provide a setting for our study.
In terms of methods, this article contributes to the ongoing enterprise in the policy network literature (e.g., Schneider et al. 2003; Weible 2005; Weible and Sabatier 2005) of clarifying the linkages between theoretical concepts and the structural characteristics of networks. To strengthen these links, this article proposes a set of concrete network measures (operationalized as network "configurations," or patterns of collaboration created by individual policy actors) that are consistent with the dynamics of network formation suggested by the ACF and theories of social capital. Both the ACF and social capital concepts will benefit from a more precise formulation of their hypotheses in terms of network structure. For example, this study examines network structures such as reciprocal ties, transitive triads, and cyclic triads as different aspects of social capital. Similarly, we also operationalize the theory of networking embedded in the ACF--namely, that cognitive biases cause actors to collaborate on the basis of shared beliefs--and link this mechanism with specific configurations of collaborative ties. (2)
Testing the importance …
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Publication information: Article title: Belief Systems and Social Capital as Drivers of Policy Network Structure: The Case of California Regional Planning. Contributors: Henry, Adam Douglas - Author, Lubell, Mark - Author, McCoy, Michael - Author. Journal title: Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Volume: 21. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 2011. Page number: 419+. © 1999 University of Kansas. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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