The politics of policymaking

Kai Wegrich co-authors article on the rivalry between generalists and specialists in government.

Policy generalists and policy specialists have long vied for influence in executive government. A new paper co-written by Werner Jann of the University of Potsdam and Kai Wegrich, Hertie School Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy, examines how this rivalry plays out in the politics of policymaking. Their article, “Generalists and specialists: Why ambitious meta-policies so often fail”, was published in August 2019 in the international quarterly Public Administration.

Jann and Wegrich assert that policy specialists have certain advantages over generalists, based on their position within an organisation. “Policy specialists are in a structurally advantaged position to succeed in executive politics and to fend off attempts by generalists to influence policy choices through cross‐cutting reform measures,” they say.  

Rather than the traditional approach of examining the views of generalists and specialists through their training, the authors do so by looking at their positions within an organisation.

“We combine established approaches from public policy and organization theory to substantiate this claim and to define the dilemma that generalists face when developing government‐wide reform policies (‘meta‐policies’) as well as strategies to address this problem,” they say.  

Read the article in Public Administration.

More about Kai Wegrich

  • Kai Wegrich , Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy