Johanna Kuhlmann

University of Braunschweig
Institute of Social Sciences

Bienroder Weg 97
Braunschweig
Germany
38106
j.kuhlmann@tu-bs.de

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My research focuses on recent developments of the welfare state, which I analyse from a comparative perspective. I am also interested in the development of theories of the policy process (Multiple Streams Framework, Punctuated Equilibrium Theory, Advocacy Coalition Framework) and historical-institutionalist approaches.

Citation:
van der Heijden, Jeroen and Johanna Kuhlmann. 2016. "Studying Incremental Institutional Change: A Systematic and Critical Meta-Review of the Literature from 2005 to 2015." Policy Studies Journal.
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, theorizing on incremental institutional change has made inroads in comparative historical analysis. In particular, the ideas, concepts, and theory introduced by Kathleen Thelen and her collaborators have been widely adopted by scholars. These scholars are not, however, univocally positive about the theory. Three main critiques have been plaguing the theory since its early days: the concepts it builds on lack clarity, the model of agency it uses is too static, and the theory lacks analytical power overall. Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis method, this article presents a meta-analysis of the peer-reviewed empirical literature from 2005 to 2015 that applies this theory. It seeks to better understand the reach of the critiques expressed, as this may provide a starting point for improvement. It finds considerable quantitative support for the critiques, and uncovers an additional problematic issue: the tendency for concept stretching and concept proliferation by scholars seeking to overcome the shortcomings of the theory. Paradoxically, concept stretching and proliferation only further reduce the analytical power of the theory. The article concludes with suggestions for improvement of the development and application of the theory.
DOI: 10.1111/psj.12191

Substantive Focus:
Health Policy
Social Policy PRIMARY
Comparative Public Policy SECONDARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY