Networks: structure and action: steering in and steering by policy networks

Adrie Dassen

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This thesis explores the opportunities to build a structural policy network model that is rooted in social network theories. By making a distinction between a process of steering in networks, and a process of steering by networks, it addresses the effects of network structures on network dynamics as well as on the production of policy outputs. Steering in policy networks refers to the process of horizontal bargaining over policy positions in which resources are exchanged between individual network actors. Steering by policy networks refers to the policy making processes in which policy networks are utilized as policy instruments. The details of network configuration profoundly influence individual actors’ capacities to influence such bargaining processes and the social structures of policy networks change due to the process of steering in networks. The individual, sequential actions that characterize bargaining over various resources nevertheless do not explain how policy networks produce policy outputs. The study investigates how actor-based models of network dynamics provide a theoretical point of departure for explaining firstly the structural outcomes of steering in networks, and secondly the utility of any potential policy outputs for both government and individual actors. Because of the interdependency between actors in heterogeneous policy networks, outputs require subgroup-level coordination. There is therefore a mismatch between individual and group utility – whilst some individuals will benefit from a sparse network structure in negotiation processes, the optimum system outcome is produced by dense and cohesive social structures. The study elaborates on this paradox and shows the utility of different characteristics of network structures for both individual actors and government, and presents hypotheses on the relations between policy goals, policy positions, network structures, and the utility of policy outputs.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Enders, J., Supervisor
  • Westerheijden, D.F., Co-Supervisor
Award date22 Jan 2010
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-2962-4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2010


  • IR-69564


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