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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses “The Science of Muddling Through”, a 1959 paper by Charles E. Lindblom that has influenced several generations of thinking about public policy decision-making in complex situations such as government and bureaucracy. The focus of Lindblom’s paper is on incrementalism, which he originally developed in the early 1950s as a decision-making model. Incrementalism refers to the study of “muddling through” behavior on the part of actual administrators and executives and is also called the method of “successive limited comparison” or “marginal” analysis by Lindblom. This chapter examines the impact of “The Science of Muddling Through” on the development of incrementalism and decision-making studies in the policy sciences. It also considers the influence of incrementalism on budgeting and management and on “punctuated equilibrium” thinking about decision-making outcomes. It concludes with an analysis of criticisms against incrementalism.

Keywords: Charles E. Lindblom, public policy, decision-making, incrementalism, muddling through behavior, successive limited comparison, marginal analysis, budgeting, punctuated equilibrium

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