XWe have detected your location as outside the U.S/Canada, if you think this is wrong, you can choose your location.

Red Globe Press
Bloomsbury announces the acquisition of Red Globe Press from Springer Nature Group. Find out more

Understanding Public Policy (2nd Edition)

Theories and Issues


Red Globe Press

Pages: 316

Textbooks in Policy Studies


Sample chapter

Further Information Author webinar


Paperback - 9781137545183

08 November 2019


Hardcover - 9781137545190

08 November 2019


Ebook - 9781137545206

15 January 2018


Ebook - 9781137545213

08 November 2019


All prices are shown excluding Tax

We regret that at present you cannot buy books direct from the website. This is while Red Globe Press books move to Bloomsbury’s website and warehouse, following the acquisition. RGP titles will be available on bloomsbury.com from early fall.

Please purchase from your local or preferred online bookshop.

For exam copies, please email askacademic@bloomsbury.com with course details (course name, level, module, no. of students, start date) and your academic address.

The fully revised second edition of this textbook offers a comprehensive introduction to theories of public policy and policymaking. The policy process is complex: it contains hundreds of people and organisations from...

Show More

The fully revised second edition of this textbook offers a comprehensive introduction to theories of public policy and policymaking. The policy process is complex: it contains hundreds of people and organisations from various levels and types of government, from agencies, quasi- and non-governmental organisations, interest groups and the private and voluntary sectors. This book sets out the major concepts and theories that are vital for making sense of the complexity of public policy, and explores how to combine their insights when seeking to explain the policy process. While a wide range of topics are covered – from multi-level governance and punctuated equilibrium theory to ‘Multiple Streams’ analysis and feminist institutionalism – this engaging text draws out the common themes among the variety of studies considered and tackles three key questions: what is the story of each theory (or multiple theories); what does policy theory tell us about issues like ‘evidence based policymaking’; and how ‘universal’ are policy theories designed in the Global North?

This book is the perfect companion for undergraduate and postgraduate students studying public policy, whether focussed on theory, analysis or the policy process, and it is essential reading for all those on MPP or MPM programmes.

Show Less

  • Outstanding breadth of coverage of policy studies
  • Helps students engage with policy theories for the first time, with useful pedagogical features including chapter aims, in-text definitions of key terms and boxes throughout highlighting important themes and case studies from around the world
  • Focusses on 'evidence based policymaking'
  • Complemented by a series of blog posts and podcasts

  • New sections on power, feminist institutionalism, the institutional analysis and development framework, the narrative policy framework, social construction and policy design
  • A consideration of policy studies in relation to the Global South in an updated concluding chapter
  • More coverage of policy formulation and tools, the psychology of policymaking and complexity theory
  • Engaging discussions of punctuated equilibrium, the advocacy coalition framework and multiple streams analysis
1. Introduction to Policy and Policymaking
2. What is Policy and Policymaking?
3. Power and Public Policy
4. Bounded Rationality and the Psychology of Policymaking
5. Institutions and New Institutionalism
6. Structures, Environments, and Complex Systems
7. Collective Action Problems in Public Policy
8. Multi-level Governance and Multi-centric Policymaking
9. Punctuated Equilibrium Theory
10. The Advocacy Coalition Framework
11. Ideas and ‘Multiple Streams’ Analysis
12. Policy Learning and Transfer
13. Conclusion: policy theory as accumulated wisdom.
Paul Cairney has done the near impossible and made an outstanding textbook even better. The public policy landscape is always evolving and this second edition captures the new features, colours and dynamics in rich and vivid detail. It should be the go-to work for experienced scholars and students alike. – Allan McConnell, University of Sydney, Australia
The study and content of public policies are central elements of political science. This volume stands as the essential guide for students who seek to understand the forces that shape political decisions and the policy process. Cairney untangles and demystifies the complex business of policy-making by using theories to take us through the key dimensions of structure, agency , networks and ideas. Clearly written and full of theoretical and empirical insights from contemporary issues, I have no doubt this book will have a prominent place in policy scholars’ reading lists. – Claire A. Dunlop, University of Exeter, UK
Rarely does a policy textbook title match its content better. Understanding Public Policy provides an efficient introduction to complex policy theory that is accessible to new learners by demystifying (necessary) policy jargon through plain language and current examples. Cairney’s work incorporates the views of top scholars across the policy process literature and around the world. New learners and experienced readers will find the book a useful reference for understanding and researching public policy. – Chris Koski, Reed College, USA
Paul Cairney’s book is the essential work for any public policy course. It clearly maps out all the key theories, and is packed with definitions and examples based on the latest research. It also offers a crucial insight into how policy works, and what happens when theory meets reality. It is usable, lucid and very well written. – Ben Worthy, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Understanding Public Policy does what is says on the tin. It allows students, social scientists and those involved in public policy to access, understand and apply the most important findings of contemporary theories and empirical studies of the policy process. Cairney also outlines extremely valuable suggestions for improving the dialogue between policy researchers, policy-makers and society at large. This volume can be read with different purposes: to rapidly metabolise an impressive amount of knowledge on how policies are made and change; to get inspiration for new research; and, finally, to shape policy. In each of these perspectives, Cairney’s volume delivers with crystal clear language, powerful narratives and a rich repertoire of examples. – Claudio Radaelli, University College London (UCL), UK
The value of Understanding Public Policy comes from the fact it is the only introductory text about public policy that properly locates the subject within the larger theories and ideas of political science. This means that policy and politics can be taught and understood simultaneously through a single high-quality source. By introducing new sections on policy learning, psychology, complexity and narrative, this second edition extends this quality and ensures that Understanding Public Policy remains an essential text for any social science student seeking to understand the relationship between policy, politics and society. – Alastair Stark, University of Queensland, Australia
In the first edition of this text Paul Cairney showed us that the untamed study of public policy could be conveyed in a way that is both accessible and useful, and yet also comprehensive and sophisticated. In this second edition he extends these qualities – notably by incorporating views and knowledge usually boxed out of such discussions. At this point it is safe to say that Cairney’s aerial view of the study of public policy is itself becoming a standard in the field. – Michael D. Jones, Editor-in-Chief, Policy Studies Journal
Cairney’s second edition synthesizes the rich body of scholarship on public policy and policymaking to distil lessons on the multifaceted factors that structure, influence and produce public policy. This book masterfully weaves together insights from decades of policy research into a coherent explanation of both the component parts of policymaking and the functioning of policy processes as a whole. In doing so, this book serves as an essential resource for diagnosing the nature of policymaking while honouring its complexity and the diversity of lenses through which we can explore it. – Tanya Heikkila, University of Colorado Denver, USA
Paul Cairney’s book is exceptional in capturing the theoretical and conceptual complexity of the approaches to understanding the policy process. Cairney’s approach is unique in laying the foundation for understanding these approaches
Add a review

Paul Cairney is Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling, UK.

Show More

Paul Cairney is Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling, UK.

Show Less

Best Sellers