By Katherine Smith
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A rather more sophisticated theoretical account of the way in which past decisions can shape current policy emerged from policy studies over the past two decades. ‘Historical institutionalism’ suggests that policy decisions are significantly shaped by the historically constructed institutions and policy procedures within which they are embedded (Immergut 1998; March and Olsen 1984). As Immergut explains, individual agency is still acknowledged but, it is argued, decisions can only be understood by considering the context within which actors are situated: This does not mean that institutions radically resocialise citizens in a revived version of social determinism or that norms dictate to actors what should be their behaviour.
G. Hird 2005; Petticrew et al. 2004; Walt 1994; Young et al. 2002). Radaelli’s (1995) concept of ‘knowledge creep’, falls within this category, suggesting that the impact of research on policy should be thought about as a time-consuming process of gradually changing actors’ perceptions and ways of thinking. Accounts which draw on this model tend to suggest, as Weiss (1977, 1979, 1982) directly claims, there is little potential for research to have immediate, direct impact on policy outcomes. So, while this body of work does not discount the possibility that research might contribute to what 20 Beyond Evidence-Based Policy in Public Health eventually become significant shifts in policy approaches, it suggests that assessments aiming to trace the impact of research on particular policy outcomes are overly restrictive and likely to miss a potentially broader, more diffuse kind of influence.
G. Navarro 2004). Hence, such theories suggest that academic research is unlikely to offer any significant challenge to dominant ways of thinking about the organisation of society. g. Latour 2005). Neo-Marxist accounts have also been accused of economic reductionism and of downplaying the agency of individuals and nondominant groups (Cerny 2000; Jessop 2004). g. Bambra, Fox and Scott-Samuel 2005; Carlisle 2001; Navarro 2004, 2009; Scott-Samuel 2004). e. research may be referred to but only where it supports policy responses).