Skip to main content Accessibility help

Alternative Theories of the Policy Process: Reflections on Research Strategy for the Study of Nuclear Waste Policy*

  • Hank C. Jenkins-Smith (a1)


The contribution of multiple theories of the policy process stems, in part, from the identification of alternative concepts and relations that provide distinct—though often partially overlapping—explanations of (and predictions about) policy development. Thus the competing theories single out alternative concepts as critical to the policy process, and specify widely different hypotheses for test. When theory-building is at a rudimentary level, as is generally the case for the study of the policy process, the alternative theories may provide enriching supplemental insights and hypotheses that, if confirmed, lead to better theory. In that spirit, this article provides some illustrations of the application of alternative theories to an ongoing policy dispute over adoption and development of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) as a testing and storage facility for defense nuclear wastes. My focus is on how the alternative theories emphasize different sets of concepts (and therefore data) and hypotheses, and on some of the implications for research design. These comments are based on my own preliminary research on the WIPP issue, and are meant to be illustrations and suggestions, rather than conclusions, about the policy process regarding the WIPP.



Hide All
Fleck, John. 1991. “DOE Fields Concerns on Weapons Complex Cleanup,” Albuquerque Journal, January 16, p. B1.
Heclo, Hugh. 1978. “Issue Networks and the Executive Establishment,” in King, A. (ed.) The New American Political System. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute.
Heclo, Hugh. 1974. Social Policy in Britain and Sweden. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Jenkins-Smith, Hank. 1990. Democratic Politics and Policy Analysis. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Jenkins-Smith, Hank, Pratt, Deborah and Silva, Carol. 1990. “Responding to Oil Crises: The Politics of Energy Emergencies in OCS Leasing Policy,” paper presented at the 1990 Annual Meeting of the Association for Policy Analysis and Management, San Francisco, CA.
Jenkins-Smith, Hank, Rouse, Amelia, Epsey, Jennefer, and Moland, Douglas. 1990. Perceptions of Risk in the Management of Nuclear Wastes: Mapping Elite and Mass Beliefs and Attitudes. Albuquerque, NM: Sandia National Laboratories, 1991.
Jenkins-Smith, Hank, Clair, Gilbert St. and Woods, Brian. 1991. “Explaining Change in Policy Subsystems: Analysis of Coalition Stability and Defection Over Time.” American journal of Political Science. Vol. 35, 1991 (forthcoming).
Kiser, Larry, and Ostrom, Elinor. 1982. “Three Worlds of Action: A Metatheoretical Synthesis of Institutional Approaches,” in Ostrom, E. (ed.) Strategies of Political Inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Prentice, Rachel. 1991. “WIPP's Readiness is Again Disputed.” Carlsbad Current-Argus, March 3, 1991, p. A1.
Riker, William. 1984. “The Heresthetics of Constitution-Making: The Presidency of 1787, With Comments on Determinism and Rational Choice,” American Political Science Review, v. 78, n. 1 (March) pp. 116.
Sabatier, Paul. 1987. “Knowledge, Policy-Oriented Learning, and Policy Change.” Knowledge, v. 8, n. 4, (June) pp. 649692.
Sabatier, Paul, and Jenkins-Smith, Hank (eds.). 1988. “Policy Change and Policy-Oriented Learning: Testing an Advocacy Coalition Framework.” Policy Sciences, Vol. 21, Nos. 2–3.
UNM Institute for Public Policy. 1991. Legislative Update: WIPP (Albuquerque, NM: UNM Institute for Public Policy, January, 1991).
U.S. Department of Energy. 1990. Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Program (Draft): An Introduction. Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office, U.S. Department of Energy, October, 1990.
Wentz, Chris. 1990. “Chronology of the WIPP Project,” New Mexico Radioactive Waste Consultation Task Force, September 1990.
Wildavsky, Aaron, and Dake, Karl. 1990. “Theories of Risk Perception: Who Fears What and Why?Daedalus, v. 119, n. 4 (Fall), pp. 4160.
Williams, Karrie. 1990. “Officials Firm on WIPP Route Despite Protests,” Las Vegas Optic, December 17, p. A1.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed