Policy dismantling is a distinctive form of policy change, which involves the cutting, reduction, diminution or complete removal of existing policies. The perceived need to dismantle existing policies normally acquires particular poignancy during periods of acute economic austerity. Dismantling is thought to be especially productive of political conflict, pitting those who benefit from the status quo against those who, for whatever reason, seek change. However, scholars of public policy have been rather slow to offer a comprehensive account of the precise conditions under which particular aspects of policy are dismantled, grounded in systematic empirical analysis. Although our overall understanding of what causes policy to change has accelerated a lot in recent decades, there remains a bias towards the study of either policy expansion or policy stability. Dismantling does not even merit a mention in most public policy textbooks. Yet without an account of both expansion and dismantling, our understanding of policy change in general, and the politics surrounding the cutting of existing policies, will remain frustratingly incomplete.
This book seeks to develop a more comparative approach to understanding policy dismantling, by looking in greater detail at the dynamics of cutting in two different policy fields: one (social policy) which has been subjected to study before and the other (environmental policy) which has not. On the basis of a systematic analysis of the existing literatures in these two fields, it develops a new analytical framework for measuring and explaining policy dismantling. Through an analysis of six, fresh empirical cases of dismantling written by leading experts, it reveals a more nuanced picture of change, focusing on what actually motivates actors to dismantle, the strategies they use to secure their objectives and the politically significant effects they ultimately generate.
Dismantling Public Policy is essential reading for anyone wanting to better understand a hugely important facet of contemporary policy and politics. It will inform a range of student courses in comparative public policy, politics, social and environmental policy.