Is implementation distinct from political bargaining? A micro-level test

René Torenvlied*, Robert Thomson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Two approaches to research on policy implementation are compared in this article. In the first approach, corresponding with the multi-stage view, implementation is understood as a sub-process requiring specific tools of analysis such as principal-agent theory. In the other approach, which we label the political bargaining view, implementation is seen as an integral part of the policy debate that occurs when political decisions are taken. Using data on the implementation of decisions taken in three Dutch local authorities, we show how the different views can be tested using models. We compare the predictions of agency performances made by bargaining models with those made by implementation models. The results show that the models of political bargaining produce significantly less accurate predictions of agency performances than the implementation models, suggesting that implementation is best understood as a distinct stage of the policy process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-84
Number of pages21
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Collective decision-making
  • Implementation
  • Political bargaining
  • Principal-agent theory
  • n/a OA procedure


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