Policy legacies, policy learning and policy ideas

The discussion in this book supported the interpretation of the policy process as a social learning dynamic, in which actors made a deliberate attempt to transform the aims and means of policy on the basis of past policy experiences and new information. Failures of housing policy in the Soviet Union made Soviet specialists search for alternative, market-based ways to organise the housing sphere. Russian reformers in the final years of communism built on this legacy of policy thinking. They developed the first set of reformist housing principles, where the overarching objective was to introduce market-based operations in this area. I defined this initial ideational state of Russian housing policy as a 'hollow' paradigm.

Over the two post-Soviet decades, Russian policy-makers established distinct paradigmatic frameworks and complementary policy instruments and settings within each of the three issue areas and thus effectively 'filled in' the 'hollow' paradigm. As a result, initial paradigms were adopted in each of the three dimensions of Russian housing in the early 1990s. Over the post-Soviet period, these paradigms underwent different degrees of change in response to failures in policy implementation and alternative ideas. In the sub-cases where alternative paradigmatic frameworks were present (the property rights sub-case and the housing finance sub-case), I observed a switch, in the case of the former and an attempted switch in the latter case, to new paradigmatic bases taking place from the mid-2000s.1 This process was referred to as a 'reiterating paradigmatic revision'. In the sub-case where an alternative paradigm was absent among the members of the relevant policy sub-system (the housing and utility services (HUS) issue area), the initial paradigmatic framework remained stable. The occasional revisions undertaken in this sub-case related only to the level of policy instruments and, most frequently, the level of policy settings.

My analysis supports the argument that actors construct their policy positions on the basis of policy ideas that they hold. However, the analysis shows that ideas policy actors carry evolve and the process of learning from policy failures is an important factor contribution to such evolution. The analysis demonstrated that those actors whose ideas had failed were prepared to reconsider their ideational positions and adopt new ones. In the sub-case of housing ownership structure, those actors who in the early 1990s squarely supported owner-occupation of housing later on during the 2000s embraced other forms of housing tenure, such as rents and cooperatives. A similar situation was observed in the housing finance sub-case. Government policy-makers in response to failures were prepared to revise their sole focus on the agency model of mortgage finance and embrace alternative ideas such as mortgage bonds and building societies.2 In the HUS sub-case, even though learning took place within the confines of the liberal paradigmatic framework throughout the post-Soviet period, learning from failures led policy-makers to support alternative policy instruments, which were not among the actors' preferences in the early 1990s.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >