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Policy Failures, Blame Games, and Changes to Policy Practice

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Hinterleitner Markus,
Project Assessing Blame Avoidance Behavior
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Journal of Public Policy
Page(s) 1 - 22
Title of proceedings Journal of Public Policy
DOI 10.1017/s0143814x16000283

Open Access

Type of Open Access Repository (Green Open Access)


Research examining the policy implications of elite polarization usually concentrates on policy formulation and change, but neglects the impact of polarization on the day-to-day application of policies. Applying the method of causal process-tracing to the Swiss ‘Carlos’ case, a blame game triggered by the reporting about an expensive therapy setting for a youth offender, this article exposes and explains a hitherto neglected, but highly important, mechanism between political elites engaging in blame-generation and changes in policy practice. A policy’s distance and visibility to mass publics, as well as the incentives and resources of elites to engage in blame-generation, explain the dynamics within blame games, which, in turn, effect organizational and behavioral changes that help to institutionalize a more politicized policy practice. Politicized policy practice can make an important difference to policy target populations, as well as damage output legitimacy and undermine democracy.