Call For Papers: Case-Oriented & Set-Theoretic Approaches To Comparative Policy Analysis

Together with Eva Thomann and Valérie Pattyn, I invite you to submit a paper proposal for our panel Case-Oriented and Set-Theoretic Approaches to Comparative Policy Analysis at the International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP4) in Montreal, organized by the International Public Policy Association. The deadline for your paper proposal is January 30th, 2019. More information about the Call for Papers can be found here. If you have any questions about the call, please do not hesitate to contact me.

The policy process is characterized by a considerable degree of complexity regarding institutional settings, actor and preference constellations, policy goals, contents, and tools. Simultaneously, there is a practical demand for better knowledge of “what works” in public policies and under what conditions or in what contexts. In order to better match methods with theories and empirical realities, the analysis of public policies faces several challenging tasks (Brans & Pattyn, 2017). First, it needs to model the complexity that characterizes the policy process and trace the underlying mechanisms. Second, comparative policy analysis detects regularities and achieves a modest degree of generalization. Finally, comparative policy analysis often deals with small or intermediate numbers of cases.

Case-oriented and set-theoretic approaches to comparative policy analysis, such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), Coincidence Analysis (CNA), explanatory typologies, and comparative process tracing, are designed to address these challenges. Situated within a “critical realist” paradigm of social research (Gerrits & Verweij, 2013), they model different aspects of causal complexity, such as configurations of different factors leading to policy outputs or outcomes, equifinality (multiple configurations can result in the same outcome), contextual contingencies, and causal asymmetry. Moreover, they can be applied within a variety of small-N or large-N research approaches to evaluate as well as generate theories through a combination of systematic comparison with targeted in-depth case studies (Thomann & Maggetti, 2017). As interactive and iterative methods, they also lend themselves to interpretative comparative analysis (Brans & Pattyn, 2017).

Set-theoretic and case-oriented methods are increasingly common in comparative policy analysis (see e.g., Rihoux et al., 2011; Thomann, 2019), particularly in policy implementation and evaluation research (Gerrits & Verweij, 2018; Pattyn et al., 2017). This panel gathers both theoretical, conceptual, and empirical contributions that deal with the state of the art of case-oriented and set-theoretic approaches and illustrate their potential and limitations to contribute to the theory and practice of policy analysis.