Christian Melbeck
Comparing Local Policy Networks

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 1998: 10, issue 4, p. 531-552

This paper examines features common to both policy analyses and community power studies, focusing on the conceptualization of power, the boundary specification of the system, the content of relationships and the effects of institutional frameworks. The two community studies ‘Altneustadt’ and ‘Towertown’ provide the empirical basis. Following the presentation of the study design regarding concepts of power and boundary specification, the effects of the institutional frameworks on policy domain networks and the relation between policy domain networks and policy networks will be analyzed empirically, with information relationships as the most important contents of the networks. With regard to boundary specification, this analysis will show that actors in issue-specific networks differ from the discussion partners of actors within the social system to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the phase in the political process.
Pluralistic approaches will be taken into account when considering participation in concrete decisions; in addition, structural aspects of the policy domains will be analyzed independent of the specific issues. Neo-corporatist views are introduced with the inclusion of networks generated by shared leadership positions. In theory, the different institutional conditions in the German and American communities lead one to expect differences that can in fact be demonstrated empirically.