Punctuated equilibrium theory and foreign policy
in Foreign policy as public policy?
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Chapter 3, by Jeroen Joly and Friederike Richter, discusses punctuated equilibrium theory (PET). This theory, which was first proposed by Baumgartner and Jones, explains how the same institutional set-up, usually preventing new policy issues from gaining political attention, is also responsible for the occasional outbursts of attention that cause disproportionately large policy shifts. PET has been successfully applied to a wide range of public policies and has increasingly generated cross-sectional and cross-national analyses, which aim at understanding and comparing the causes of stability and change in different political systems. However, the focus of these studies has mostly been on domestic policies, with only very little attention for PET in FPA. The aim of this chapter is to show that PET is not only relevant in the realm of domestic politics, but also useful for studying and understanding foreign policy-making. To illustrate this claim, this chapter looks at yearly changes in attention to foreign policy issues and examining the relationship between changes in foreign aid allocations and the size of aid administrations.

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