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date: 19 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines Agendas and Instability in American Politics (1993), a classic in public policy authored by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones. Baumgartner and Jones criticize contemporary studies that predict stability and equilibrium in decision-making and instead offer a distinctive framework for what they call punctuated equilibrium. In particular, they argue that instability may arise due to agenda-setting by key participants in the policy process. The chapter first reviews some aspects of the intellectual environment that shaped the thinking of Agendas and Instability before discussing the factors that made the book so important at the time it was originally published. It then summarizes the book’s arguments and empirical work and assesses its value for students and scholars of public policy. Finally, it analyses the framework set out by Baumgartner and Jones for understanding decision-making in American politics, as well as their key assumptions about American politics with respect to governments, Congress, and the Presidency, as well as other interests.

Keywords: Agendas and Instability in American Politics, public policy, Frank R. Baumgartner, Bryan D. Jones, stability, decision-making, punctuated equilibrium, politics, instability, agenda-setting

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