chapter  20
14 Pages



While the notion of policy networks can be traced back to Greek philosophy (Parry 1969; Kimber and Richardson 1974), it has its modern roots in the writings of Bentley: at the beginning of the twentieth century he described government as “networks of activity” (Bentley 1908: 261). At the time, other authors toyed with similar ideas. For example, in his Impasse of Democracy, Griffith (1939) advocated the concept of “whirlpools of activity” within the political system. However, it was only during the 1950s that the idea of policy networks started to gain momentum when structural and sociopolitical changes following World War II led to an increasing complexity in the organization of government and the governing of society. The key features of this included: a move toward a pluralist and collaborative approach to developing and implementing policies, division of labor, sectoralization, and functional differentiation (Kenis and Schneider 1991; Pappi and Henning 1998). These changes were picked up in the works of authors such as Freeman (1955), Truman (1951), Maass (1951), Dahl (1956), Schattschneider (1935) and Lindblom (1965), who, driven by a dissatisfaction with more traditional conceptions of the policy process, started to explore the idea of placing groups of actors with shared interests at the heart of policy-making. Out of this, the policy network approach, with its focus on the links between actors involved in both policy formulation and implementation, developed.