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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, just a little expensive, January 7, 2003
By 
Carl A. Redman (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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John Kingdon attempts to answer very difficult questions in his work "Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies." What makes an idea's time come? What makes people in and around government attend to some subjects and not to others? In short, Kingdon explores how ideas become policy in his 1994 award-winning book.
The book makes many interesting conclusions, as Kingdon uses scientific research methods to discuss how ideas become policy. It is amazing that Kingdon is able to quantify how influential certain groups are to policy formulation and implementation. In doing this, he looks at the influence of groups in and outside of government. Kingdon then goes onto his major two concepts of the policy primeval soup and the political stream. Both of these are wonderful illustrations of how policymaking happens.
In the end, this is a great book for public policy students. My only complaint is that Kingdon is oftentimes too wordy. It seems that he could have written a much more effective piece by summing it up in a 40-page journal article. In any event, the book is worth the read, even if some chapters are only skimmed.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good theory, easy to read, October 9, 2004
By 
Newsman78 "newsman78" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
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Kingdon has produced an innovative and useful theory of the policy process. This book is clearly not intended for the lay reader, but for political scientists and policy specialists interested in theorizing about policy formation.

Kingdon's writing style is somewhat formal, and at times stiff, but the book is easy to get through. Kingdon provides many concrete examples of the ideas he discusses, making the abstract principles easier to understand.

Recommended for classes on the policy process, especially in conjunction with Baumgarter and Jones' Agendas and Instability in American Politics.
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33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book on public policy formulation, July 6, 1999
By A Customer
In this very readable book, Kindgon provides an insightful perspective on how agendas are set and public policies made in the government. Using the "garbage can model" as the basis and starting point, Kindgon develops his "policy window" concept of policy making that has three fundamental components: problems, policies, and politics. Each component has a life of its own and is independent from each other. The concept of "policy entrepreneurs" is also introduced.
I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in public policy formulation.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Was Not Riviting but the Theory Is Good, December 24, 2002
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I am in the graduate program at American University's School of Public Affairs. This book was required for one of the core classes. The theory--the dynamic, fluid model that Kingdon builds in this book has been practically adopted as THE mantra within policy formation/agenda setting research.
The book is well organized and easy to follow. It is not a challenging read but I found sections of the book to be a bit dry. Also, be ready to contend with literally hundreds of fluid metaphors that Kingdon employs throughout the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Major work on political agenda setting, June 4, 2007
By 
Steven A. Peterson (Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
Agenda setting, in the world of politics, is when a problem becomes identified as an issue that calls for government attention, discussion, and--possibly--decision making. This book is one of the most important works on agenda-setting.

John Kingdon has stated that:

Political events flow along according to their own dynamics and their own rules. Participants perceive swings in national mood, elections bring new administrations to power and new partisan or ideological distributions to Congress, and interest groups of various descriptions press (or fail to press) their demands on government.

The author sees three streams that must come together for an issue to be placed on the agenda--a political stream (just noted above), a policy stream (in which some policy proposal emerges as "best"), and a problem stream (a problem develops that people label as important). If they come together and if the window of opportunity for success is there, then the issue can become an agenda item. If the streams do not come together, agenda placement is unsuccessful--as with President Clinton's health care plan. That plan had two of three requirements in place. One, the political stream was supportive. A new President had been elected with his party having a majority in both houses of Congress; furthermore, Clinton outlined as a campaign issue support for a more ambitious health care program for Americans. The confluence of these two factors produced something like a "mandate" for change. Two, the problem stream saw health care bubbling up toward the top. That is, increasingly, people seemed to define health care as a serious problem about which something had to be done.

Nonetheless, no major initiative emerged to be fully considered. Clinton's plan was very nearly DOA (dead on arrival) once serious discussion began. Why? No single policy proposal garnered enough support. Democrats supported several different plans--such as a single payer system (in which government becomes the insurer), "pay or play" (in which businesses would largely fund health care insurance), and the Clinton plan itself (which focused on managed care). Thus, the policy stream never did "come together" around any single proposal. As a result, the initiative died and no substantial changes were forthcoming in the health care system.

What emerges in each stream is, to a large extent, "contingent," depending upon many factors--including chance. The result is unpredictability.

It may be that this work overemphasizes chance and contingency and underplays the role of human agency (for instance, the role of policy entrepreneurs who labot to get issues placed on the agenda and acted upon). Nonetheless, this is an exemplary work and well worth attending to if one is interested in setting the political agenda.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agenda Setting in the Policy Process, October 25, 2009
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This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
Kingdon attempts to explain two steps in the policy process: (a) why some issues are placed on the policy agenda while others are not, and (b) why some policy options - out of many alternatives - are considered and selected while others are not.

Like Cohen, March, and Olsen (1972) Kingdon contends that multiple, independent "streams" flow through the policy process. The streams consist of (1) problems, (2) policy proposals, and (3) political events (pg. 92).

Kingdon contends that the agenda - "subjects that are getting attention" - arise from the problems and politics steams (21). In regards to problems, Kingdon argues that indicators, focusing events, and feedback bring problems to the attention of government officials. Problems to not only gain attention and rise on the governmental agenda, but they can also fade away as conditions change or interest wanes. Political events - changes in public mood, partisan and ideological shifts, administration changes, etc. - also shape the agenda. Under various political conditions, some issues will prove important, while others will not. Furthermore, actors play a role in shaping the agenda. Visible participants - politicians, the media, parties, etc. - are most influential in setting the agenda. They are in positions to bring issues to light.

The policy stream is primarily concerned with generating alternatives, i.e. a set of conceivable government actions. The policy stream is occupied by "hidden participants," i.e. bureaucrats, academics, congressional staffers, etc. These "hidden participants" generate many alternatives, often before a problem emerges. Within this group of "hidden participants" ideas are bounced around regarding a particular policy area. "Within the policy arena, or "policy primeval soup" alternatives face a certain level of natural selection. They are subject to a number of criteria - feasibility, congruence with values, political receptivity - that shape their acceptability. Those alternatives which meet these criteria - and are actively pursued by policy entrepreneurs - remain possibilities, while those that fail are no longer considered.

The question then becomes, how do problems, alternatives, and politics come together to create public policy. The answer lies in the "coupling" of streams. Although Kingdon contends that the streams generally operate independently, at times, they are joined together at "critical junctures" (20), that is, they are formed together into a single package. In such a "coupling," a problem is identified, a solution is "coupled" to it, and the political environment is ripe for action, thus creating a "policy window" in which new public policies can emerge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agenda Setting: The Comprehensive Model, May 13, 2008
This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
This book was used as the underlying basis to understanding the policy process in my graduate level class that I took recently.

Overall I would give this book 5 stars because it is relatively thorough and it encompasses a great deal in a concise model that is easy to understand.

Kingdon discusses that his model is set within three streams, problem, policy and political. Each of these streams have their own unique characteristics that work to help merge with the others. When these streams, ideally all three, a policy window opens where action on policy can occur by a decision-making body such as Congress. With the help of policy entrepreneuers, national mood, policy communities, and much more as agents amongst these streams, each work to produce change on the agenda.

As this class was titled the policy process that I took, it explained how it began but this book does not cover how the process moves once something has been acted upon on the agenda.

If you are looking for understanding more about activity leading up to action, this is a great book. If you are looking to understand the process afterwards, this may not be the right book, but it will help you understand the forces leading up to a process of change.

Definitely, I would recommend this for any political science class at the undergraduate level. I am glad that I was fortunate enough to have it assigned in my grad level policy process class.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classic in public policy, February 11, 2010
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This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
This is a classic in public policy research, really worth reading and checking once and over again. Useful also for Master or PhD students of management sciences that are pursuing a gov position, or a job related or even indirectly affected by the challenges of political affairs. It covers one of the topics that frustrated me the most when I had the chance of working in a ministry: how do politicians build their agendas? why it happens that a seemingly irrelevant topic is devoted a huge effort in terms of an agency's budget and people, and other far more important topics are sometimes tangently touched or even purposefully ignored?

Not too long, very clear, good examples, a really worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is the latest edition of a famous book. ..., July 15, 2014
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This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
This is the latest edition of a famous book. Kingdon offers a simple framework for when an issue "come on to the agenda"--by which he means comes up for serious consideration in a Congressional committee. The argument is that the problem has to be recognized, the politics supportive and a solution has to be available. When my students have gone to use it to explore real situations around the world they find that some of his categories and distinctions are not-so-easy to use, and do not always fit complex real situations exactly. For example it is not always clear whether a specific development is part of the "problem stream" or the "politics stream". But his ideas do provide a helpful way for them to organize their own work, even if they have to modify them occasionally to fit their context.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic, February 5, 2014
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This review is from: Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd Edition (Longman Classics in Political Science) (Paperback)
I wanted to own my own copy of this classic of American political science. Kingdon's "window of opportunity " theory of the policy process still explains what happens in decision-making.
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