Rational Comprehensive and Disjointed Incrementalism in Social Administration and Policy
Rational comprehensive and disjointed incrementalism are two different approaches to policymaking in social administration. Learn about the key features of each model, how they are used in practice, and which approach is better for different situations.
Rational comprehensiveness and disjointed incrementalism are two different approaches to policymaking in social administration. Rational comprehensiveness is a normative model that prescribes a logical and systematic approach to decision-making. Disjointed incrementalism is a descriptive model that describes how policymaking actually occurs in the real world.
Rational, comprehensive model
The rational comprehensive model is based on the assumption that policymakers can make optimal decisions by following a series of logical steps:
Identify the problem. The first step is to identify the problem that needs to be addressed. This involves collecting data and analyzing the situation.
Define the goals. Once the problem has been identified, the next step is to define the goals that the policy should achieve. The goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Generate alternatives. Once the goals have been defined, the next step is to generate a list of all possible policy alternatives. This involves brainstorming and considering all potential solutions to the problem.
Evaluate alternatives. The next step is to evaluate each alternative against the goals of the policy. This involves considering the costs and benefits of each alternative, as well as the risks and uncertainties.
Choose the best alternative. Once the alternatives have been evaluated, the next step is to choose the alternative that is best suited to achieving the goals of the policy.
Implement the policy. Once the alternative has been chosen, it needs to be implemented. This involves putting the policy into action and monitoring its progress.
Evaluate the policy. The final step is to evaluate the policy to see if it is achieving its goals. This involves collecting data and analyzing the outcomes of the policy.
Disjointed incrementalism model
The disjointed incrementalism model is based on the assumption that policymaking is a complex and messy process that is often influenced by a variety of factors, such as time constraints, limited information, and political pressures. As a result, policymakers are unable to follow the rational, comprehensive model perfectly. Instead, they make incremental changes to existing policies based on their own experiences and the experiences of others.
Disjointed incrementalism is characterized by the following features:
Limited attention to problems and alternatives. Policymakers are unable to give full attention to all of the problems and alternatives that they face. Instead, they focus on a limited number of problems and alternatives that are most pressing or that they are most familiar with.
Focusing on small changes. Policymakers are more likely to make small changes to existing policies than to implement major new policies. This is because small changes are less risky and more likely to be accepted by stakeholders.
Fragmentation of decision-making. Policymaking is often fragmented, with different stakeholders involved in different stages of the process. This can make it difficult to coordinate policymaking and ensure that policies are coherent and consistent.
Learning from experience. Policymakers learn from their own experiences and the experiences of others. This learning process can lead to incremental changes in policies over time.
Application in social administration and policy
Both the rational comprehensive and disjointed incrementalism models are used in social administration and policy.
The rational comprehensive model is often used to develop new policies or to evaluate existing policies. For example, it might be used to develop a new national poverty alleviation policy or to evaluate the effectiveness of a new social welfare program.
The disjointed incrementalism model is often used to make small changes to existing policies or to implement policies in complex and uncertain environments. For example, it might be used to decide to increase the amount of benefits paid to social security recipients by a small amount or to implement a new social welfare program in a pilot.
Rational, comprehensive policy-making is commonly applied in situations where there is a need for well-defined objectives and outcomes, such as in economic planning, infrastructure development, and public health initiatives.
Rational, comprehensive model
Provides a structured framework for decision-making.
Emphasizes the importance of a logical and evidence-based approach.
Allows for long-term planning and goal-setting.
Can be time-consuming and resource-intensive.
Assumes perfect information, which may not be realistic.
May overlook the dynamic and evolving nature of societal issues.
Disjointed Incrementalism Approach
In contrast to the rational comprehensive approach, disjointed incrementalism, also known as incremental decision-making, acknowledges the limitations of comprehensive planning and embraces a more gradual and adaptive approach to policy development. This approach recognizes that policymaking is often characterized by uncertainty, limited resources, and evolving circumstances.
Incremental Change: Disjointed incrementalism involves making small, incremental adjustments to existing policies or practices rather than pursuing large-scale, radical changes.
Path Dependence: Policymakers using this approach often build upon existing policies and solutions rather than starting from scratch, leading to a path-dependent policymaking process.
Pragmatism: Decisions are made pragmatically in response to immediate problems and constraints, with less emphasis on long-term planning.
Stakeholder Involvement: This approach often values the input of various stakeholders, including interest groups and local communities, in shaping policy decisions.
Applications: Disjointed incrementalism is well-suited for policy areas characterized by uncertainty, limited resources, and the need for flexibility. It is commonly used in social welfare programs, environmental management, and education policy.
Adapts to changing circumstances and emerging issues.
Allows for experimentation and learning from experience.
Can be more politically feasible in situations where radical change is unpopular.
May lack a clear long-term vision or strategic direction.
Can lead to policy fragmentation and inefficiencies over time.
May not address the systemic or root causes of complex problems.
Which approach is better?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The best approach to policymaking will depend on the specific context. In some cases, the rational comprehensive model may be the best approach, while in other cases, the disjointed incrementalism model may be the best approach.
It is important to note that the rational, comprehensive, and disjointed incrementalism models are not mutually exclusive. Policymakers can often use a combination of both approaches. For example, they might use the rational comprehensive model to develop a new policy and then use the disjointed incrementalism model to implement the policy and make adjustments over time.