The garbage can model and the study of the policy-making process

Authored by: Gary Mucciaroni

Routledge Handbook of Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415782456
eBook ISBN: 9780203097571
Adobe ISBN: 9781136223259

10.4324/9780203097571.ch24

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Abstract

Kingdon imported the garbage can model (GCM) into political science and adapted it to study public policy-making from the seminal work of Cohen et al. (1972) who used the “garbage can” metaphor to describe decision-making in universities and other complex organizations. As Nikolaos Zahariadis (2007: 66) points out, the GCM “theorizes at the systemic level, and it incorporates an entire system or separate decision as the unit of analysis.” Kingdon applied the GCM to the study of the federal government and conducted panel interviews with more than 240 participants in the policy-making process, primarily in the areas of transportation and health policies. Borrowing from Cohen et al., Kingdon described the federal agenda-setting process as a mix of order and chaos, or “organized anarchy.” The “can” is the set of more permanent and predictable features of the policy-making process, such as institutional arrangements and procedures that shape and structure behavior.

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