Uncovering the political dimension of social-ecological systems: Contributions from policy process frameworks

Author(s): Orach, K., M. Schlüter
In: Global Environmental Change
Year: 2016
Type: Journal / article
Link to centre authors: Orach, Kirill, Schlüter, Maja
Full reference: Orach, K., M. Schlüter. 2016. Uncovering the political dimension of social-ecological systems: Contributions from policy process frameworks. Global Environmental Change 40 (2016) 13–25.


Research on the governance of social-ecological systems often emphasizes the need for self-organized, flexible and adaptive arrangements to deal with uncertainty, abrupt change and surprises that are characteristic of social-ecological systems. However, adaptive governance as well as transitions toward alternative forms of governance are embedded in politics and it is often the political processes that determine change and stability in governance systems and policy. This paper analyses five established theoretical frameworks of the policy process originating in political science and public policy research with respect to their potential to enhance understanding of governance and complex policy dynamics in social-ecological systems. The frameworks are found to be divergent in their conceptualization of policy change (focusing on incremental or large-scale, major changes), highlighting different aspects of bounded rationality in their model of individual behavior and focusing their attention on different aspects of the policy process (role of information, attention, beliefs, institutional structure, particular actors, etc.). We discuss the application of these frameworks and their potential contribution to unravelling the political dimension in adaptive governance and transformations.

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