Public policy studies explore political responses to specific public problems, like environmental degradation, poverty, or disease. Faculty in this subfield are interested in the political dynamics of policy-making and policy implementation, including such topics as agenda-setting, regulatory decision-making, and federalism. Since public problems often ignore jurisdictions, a policy-oriented approach to political science is often concerned about the interplay between different levels of government (local, regional, national, and international). The Public Policy & Organization subfield therefore draws on, and contributes to, scholarship in urban politics, American politics, comparative politics, and international relations.
Policy outcomes are typically mediated by organizations that mobilize stakeholders, make authoritative decisions, administer programs, and enforce laws. These organizations range from complex government bureaucracies to professional associations and social movement organizations. The organizational and inter-organizational aspects of policy-making and policy implementation are a particular concern of this subfield. Important debates in this field often focus on understanding how specific institutional arrangements are created to govern policy arenas and on whether these institutions produce effective, efficient, and equitable governance.
Sophisticated explanations of policy-making and implementation call for specific analytical tools and intellectual frameworks. This subfield draws on theories of policy-making and implementation, governance, public administration, public law, institutionalism, and organization theory as a framework of analysis.