I Policy Networks

Policy Networks in Britain. The Early Years

This chapter identifies and discusses the distinctive British contribution to the study of policy networks up to 1990 before reviewing the problems of, and possible developments in, the concept and its application. I excuse the parochialism of the chapter because it will draw attention to two major research initiatives in Britain, which might otherwise escape attention. Moreover, the parochialism does not involve description of the practice of British government. Details of the operation of policy networks are renounced for an exploration of the concept itself. Such theoretical concerns transcend national boundaries. The early stages of my journey began here.[1]


The first problem is to provide an organizing format for the literature on networks. A thematic format is ruled out by the diffuse nature of the subject. A chronological approach is not helpful when the survey has to cover a heterogeneous subject and to encompass the range of contributions, recognizing that there will be some loss of detail. The various approaches have been classified by academic discipline and by level of analysis (Figure 2.1).

  • [1] This is an edited version of: R. A. W. Rhodes (1990) ‘Policy Networks: A British Perspective’,Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2: 292-316. © Sage Publication. Reprinted with permission.
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