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The Politics of Crisis Policymaking: Chernobyl and Swedish Nuclear Energy Policy
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
2008 (English)In: Policy Studies Journal, ISSN 0190-292X, E-ISSN 1541-0072, Vol. 36, no 2, 257-278 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Public policy scholars often accentuate the key role of crises in explaining policy change; however, much empirical work still remains to be done in order to explain crisis-induced policy outcomes. This article explores the prediction of the Advocacy Coalition Framework that stable coalitions and impediments to learning reduce the likelihood for policy change after a crisis. Strategic action is emphasized as a supplementary variable focusing on the role of political motivations in post-crisis policymaking. Sweden's decision not to accelerate the nuclear power phaseout following the 1986 Chernobyl disaster provides a case study to assess the utility of these explanations. Findings corroborate theoretical expectations about stable minority coalitions, cast doubts over the presumed rigidity of policy core beliefs, and emphasize strategic action and cognitive heuristics as important motivations for policy choice. The article concludes by outlining three sector-specific variables (ideological salience, level of conflict, and previous crisis experiences) that add to the explanation of crisis-induced policy outcomes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 36, no 2, 257-278 p.
Keyword [en]
Advocacy Coalition Framework, Coalition mobilization, Crisis, Learning, Nuclear power, Policy change
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-95702DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2008.00265.xISI: 000254954300005OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-95702DiVA: diva2:170016
Available from: 2007-04-13 Created: 2007-04-13 Last updated: 2014-05-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Crisis and Policy Reformcraft: Advocacy Coalitions and Crisis-induced Change in Swedish Nuclear Energy Policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Crisis and Policy Reformcraft: Advocacy Coalitions and Crisis-induced Change in Swedish Nuclear Energy Policy
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation consists of three interrelated essays examining the role of crisis events in Swedish nuclear energy policymaking. The study takes stock of the idea of ‘crisis exceptionalism’ raised in the literature, which postulates that crisis events provide openings for major policy change. In an effort to explain crisis-induced outcomes in Swedish nuclear energy policy, each essay explores and develops theoretical assumptions derived from the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF). The introduction discusses the ACF and other theoretical perspectives accentuating the role of crisis in policymaking and identifies three explanations for crisis-induced policy outcomes: minority coalition mobilization, learning, and strategic action. Essay I analyzes the nature and development of the Swedish nuclear energy subsystem. The results contradict the ACF assumption that corporatist systems nurture narrow subsystems and small advocacy coalitions, but corroborate the assumption that advocacy coalitions remain stable over time. While this analysis identifies temporary openings in policymaking venues and in the advocacy coalition structure, it is argued that these developments did not affect crisis policymaking. Essay II seeks to explain the decision to initiate a referendum on nuclear power following the 1979 Three Mile Island accident. Internal government documents and other historical records indicate that strategic considerations superseded learning as the primary explanation in this case. Essay III conducts an in-depth examination of Swedish policymaking in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl accident in an effort to explain the government’s decision not to accelerate the nuclear power phaseout. Recently disclosed government documents show that minority coalition mobilization was insufficient to explain this decision. In this case, rational learning and strategic action provided a better explanation. The main theoretical contribution derived from the three essays is to posit the intensity and breadth of political conflict, strategic action, and analogical reasoning as key factors affecting the propensity for crisis-induced policy change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, 2007. x, 161 p.
Political science, Crisis, policy change, advocacy coalitions, Swedish nuclear energy policy, learning, strategic action, Statsvetenskap
National Category
Political Science
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-7796 (URN)978-91-506-1928-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2007-05-04, Brusewitzsalen, Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Gamla Torget 6, Uppsala, 10:15
Available from: 2007-04-13 Created: 2007-04-13 Last updated: 2014-05-21Bibliographically approved

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