Policy drift: Shared powers and the making of US law and policy

Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
AuthorDaniel Béland
Policy drift: Shared powers and the making of US
law and policy
Norma M. Riccucci
New York University Press, 2018, 277 pp., £22.59 (pk), ISBN: 9781479839834
Much has been written recently about the factors and processes leading to policy stability and change. One of the
most intriguing concepts to emerge as part of this literature is policy drift, which refers to the Transformation of sta-
ble policy due to changing circumstances(Hacker 2004, p. 248). Popularized by Jacob Hacker (2004), this concept is
at the centre of Policy Drift: Shared Powers and the Making of US Law and Policy, a new research monograph by Norma
The starting point of Riccuccis book is the claim that public policy is in constant flux and that Changes in politi-
cal, economic, and social contexts over time force modifications in policies or the interpretation of laws without fun-
damentally changing the existing structures of law or policy, although interpretations under the law may change
(p. 3). This is the authors own definition of policy drift and is adapted from Hackers work, from which Riccucci bor-
rows to develop her analytical framework.
At the same time, as the presence of the term shared powersin the sub-title of the book suggests, her approach
also stresses the mobilization of various stakeholders within the policy process. These stakeholders participate in
policy networks that represent the shared powers of policy making(p. 16). Riccucci describes her main contribution
as using the existing concept of policy drift to help explain how shared powers affect public policy in three contem-
porary areas(p. 17). These three policy areas are privacy rights, civil rights law, and the politics of climate control.
The book explores these three areas using four qualitative, US-based case studies that address surveillance and pri-
vacy rights after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001; pay equity for women; LGBT employment rights; and
post-Kyoto climate change policy, respectively.
The final chapter formulates a framework to assess the durability of policy driftsover time (p. 182). This frame-
work focuses on four main issues: (1) stakeholder structure; (2) stability in the broader policy area; (3) policy feed-
back; and (4) social constructions of a policys stakeholders or beneficiaries. After revisiting each of her four
empirical cases using this framework, Riccucci concludes that it is not necessarily true that certain policy frameworks
(e.g. advocacy coalition) will always apply to a particular policy domain. This call for analytical flexibility and pragma-
tism is an apt way to conclude a book where the author engages with many different theories about the policy pro-
cess, while keeping a clear focus on shared powers and policy drift.
This is a well-researched book that directly contributes to our understanding of the three policy areas and four
case studies under consideration. Analytically, the discussion about shared powers and related concepts is extremely
useful for the analysis of policy development in the United States. The study of how different actors interact to
shape policy outcomes is subtle and generally convincing. Although the prose can be repetitive at times, the book is
well written and grounded in a deep knowledge of the case studies.
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12539
Public Administration. 2018;96:837840. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/padm © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 837

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT