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ECPR Press > Monographs > Policy Making in Multilevel Systems

Policy Making in Multilevel Systems Policy Making in Multilevel Systems
Federalism, Decentralisation, and Performance in the OECD Countries
André  Kaiser (Author)
Jan  Biela (Author)
Annika  Hennl (Author)
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Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781907301339
Page Extent: 242 pp

Table of Contents:  View (pdf)
Sample Pages:  View (pdf)


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About the Book

Does the territorial state organisation matter for effective policy making, and if so, in what way? So far, we know relatively little about its effects on policy making and policy outputs.

Starting from the hypothesis that decentralised policy making has positive effects whereas federalism has a slightly negative impact on policy performance, this book systematically tests the independent and interdependent effects of different combinations of federal/unitary and decentralised/centralised structures of decision making and implementation.

Based on a mixed methods design it first quantitatively tests the relationships for the OECD countries in cross-sectional as well as panel designs. In a second step, qualitative case studies are conducted for four countries: federal-centralised Austria, federal-decentralised Switzerland, unitary-decentralised Denmark, and unitary-centralised Ireland. The authors study two space-related policy areas, both with regard to the decision making and the implementation stage of the policy-making process: regional policy and transport policy.

'As reformers around the world grapple with ways to improve the effectiveness of public policy, this book offers a timely and insightful comparative analysis of public policy making in four different states. The states are chosen to reflect federal/unitary and centralised/decentralised systems of government, and the authors assess whether these differences in institutional arrangements matter in policy performance in areas such as transport and regional economic development. The authors use an analytical framework that transcends the conventional federal-unitary dichotomy, and draw on both quantitative and qualitative data to show the positive effects of decentralisation on policy performance, rather than federalism per se. The book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of policy development and the often overlooked question of policy implementation in different institutional settings. There is plenty of stimulating material here for those interested in policy making, implementation, public administration and intergovernmental relations.'
Dr Mark Callanan
Institute of Public Administration

'The book represents a theoretically and empirically ambitious attempt to answer the persistent question 'does federalism matter?' Distinguishing between and combining the political-science focus on unitary versus federal modes of policy making and the public-finance focus on centralised versus decentralised modes of policy implementation, the authors seek to identify the impact of different configurations on the policy performance of OECD states. On the basis of a great variety of quantitative cross-sectional and panel analyses and of matched case studies, they show that decentralisation generally has positive effects on policy performance, whereas the effect of federalism tends to be ambiguous or negative. This innovative study is bound to dominate debates in comparative federalism research for years to come.'
Professor Dr Fritz W Scharpf
Emeritus Director, Max Planck Institute for the Studies of Societies

'Does federalism matter for policy performance, and how? This is the key question which Biela, Hennl and Kaiser have sought to answer in their landmark study of Policy-making in Multilevel Systems. Using a mixed-method research design, the authors separate the effects of federal and unitary, from centralised and decentralised multilevel systems, generating a much more nuanced understanding of the virtues and perils of federalism than what is known from previous research. To test for causality they complement their quantitative analysis with qualitative research in two policy areas (regional development and transport policy) in federal and unitary Austria, unitary but decentralsed Denmark, unitary and centralised Ireland and federal and decentralised Switzerland. The authors provide a much more nuanced understanding of the effects of multilevel systems derived from political science and economics, and they demonstrate that by itself there is nothing deterministic in the impact of federalism or decentralisation on policy performance. For students of federalism, decentralisation and public policy analysis this is a must read.'
Wilfried Swenden
Senior Lecturer, University of Edinburgh and Co-Convenor, ECPR Standing Group on Federalism & Regionalism


  Pub Date:

January 2012


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