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Moral panics and punctuated equilibrium in public policy: an analysis of the criminal justice policy agenda in Britain

Moral panics and punctuated equilibrium in public policy: an analysis of the criminal justice policy agenda in Britain
Moral panics and punctuated equilibrium in public policy: an analysis of the criminal justice policy agenda in Britain
How and when issues are elevated onto the political agenda is a perennial question for the study of public policy. This paper considers how moral panics contribute to punctuated equilibrium in public policy; whereby a specific event contributes to, or reinforces, change in the dominant set of issue frames on an issue – by encapsulating broader societal anxieties or fears – creating opportunities for policy entrepreneurs to disrupt the existing policy monopoly. In a test of this theory, we assess the factors behind the rise of crime on the policy agenda in Britain between 1960 and 2010. We adopt an integrative mixed methods approach, drawing upon a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. This enables us to analyse the rise of crime as a policy problem, the breakdown of the political-institutional consensus on crime, the moral panic that followed the murder of the toddler James Bulger in 1993, the emergence of new issue frames around crime and social/moral decay more broadly, and how – in combination – these contributed to escalation of political rhetoric and action on crime, led by policy entrepreneurs in the Labour and Conservative parties.
1541-0072
1-28
Jennings, Will
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7
Farrall, Stephen
c0bf4481-60fd-46f3-bc13-114bf4e58dd3
Gray, Emily
04ff194d-9985-4638-b702-751948aa5f25
Hay, Colin
1dc2c1eb-c9bc-4f6a-ad7a-aa0038689217
Jennings, Will
2ab3f11c-eb7f-44c6-9ef2-3180c1a954f7
Farrall, Stephen
c0bf4481-60fd-46f3-bc13-114bf4e58dd3
Gray, Emily
04ff194d-9985-4638-b702-751948aa5f25
Hay, Colin
1dc2c1eb-c9bc-4f6a-ad7a-aa0038689217

Jennings, Will, Farrall, Stephen, Gray, Emily and Hay, Colin (2017) Moral panics and punctuated equilibrium in public policy: an analysis of the criminal justice policy agenda in Britain. Policy Studies Journal, 1-28. (doi:10.1111/psj.12239).

Record type: Article

Abstract

How and when issues are elevated onto the political agenda is a perennial question for the study of public policy. This paper considers how moral panics contribute to punctuated equilibrium in public policy; whereby a specific event contributes to, or reinforces, change in the dominant set of issue frames on an issue – by encapsulating broader societal anxieties or fears – creating opportunities for policy entrepreneurs to disrupt the existing policy monopoly. In a test of this theory, we assess the factors behind the rise of crime on the policy agenda in Britain between 1960 and 2010. We adopt an integrative mixed methods approach, drawing upon a combination of qualitative and quantitative data. This enables us to analyse the rise of crime as a policy problem, the breakdown of the political-institutional consensus on crime, the moral panic that followed the murder of the toddler James Bulger in 1993, the emergence of new issue frames around crime and social/moral decay more broadly, and how – in combination – these contributed to escalation of political rhetoric and action on crime, led by policy entrepreneurs in the Labour and Conservative parties.

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Accepted/In Press date: 21 August 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 22 December 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 413434
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/413434
ISSN: 1541-0072
PURE UUID: 6a6c27f5-0c0e-4a45-81db-576a711d7518
ORCID for Will Jennings: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-9007-8896

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Date deposited: 24 Aug 2017 16:30
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 04:19

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Contributors

Author: Will Jennings ORCID iD
Author: Stephen Farrall
Author: Emily Gray
Author: Colin Hay

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