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The Science of Muddling Through

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Political decision-making as an important political act has been concerned by more and more political scientists and sociologists. Lindblom’s seminal work “The Science of Muddling Through” initiated a new systems approach to help the policymakers knowing how to make decision. His incremental decision-making is always as the basic form of political decision by western country. There are two main aspects in the incremental decision-making. First is about the design of policies. It claims the reality of political decides the incremental analysis of policies. The policymakers only focus on revising and complementing the given policies when they face the basic consensus value which pre-exists. Second is about the choices and options on the policy. Incrementalism thinks decision-making is a kind of agreement and compromise by the various of political forces’ mutual effect.

Linbdlom gives us the two distinct varieties of decision-making. One is called the rational comprehensive, namely root method, and another is the successive limited comparisons, that is branch method. There are definite differences between the root and branch decision-making. Normally, the root method is found in the traditional administration. Rational comprehensive has a clear distinction between goals and actions. It regards the goals as the premise of policy analysis. It always establishes the ends at first, and then, finds the means for achieving the goals. The root method also thinks the “good” policy is the best way to make the goals coming true. Like the name of rational comprehensive, it undoubtedly advocates integrated or comprehensive analysis during the decision-making. I think it is too much emphasis the role of theory.

On the contrary, the successive limited comparisons method neither distinguish the goals and actions nor differentiate the ends and means. It thinks they link with each other. It’s inappropriate that too much distinction in the process. The objective is established, but the discussions about this objective become compromised. Branch method considers the “good” policy is generated by a kind of consensus of policymakers. It emphasizes a limited analysis, and ignores the value standards, solutions and consequences. Branch method advocates people through the continuously comparing to reduce the principal reliance. Later, Linbdlom updated the successive limited comparisons as incremental decision-making. Apparently, he prefers branch method because it has two advantages.

According to the article, he said, “If he proceeds through a succession of small incremental changes, the administrator therefore has the advantage of avoiding serious lasting mistakes.”(Stillman, 224) Another positive side is that it fits “hand and glove” with the American political system, which operates chiefly by means of gradual changes, rather than dramatic shifts in public policies. (306 outline) Even though the root method is not workable for complex policy questions, but it is still the most common method of decision-making. Regard to the name of the article “Muddling Through,” successive limited comparison is how policies are developed.

Linbdlom’s branch method teaches policymakers focus on the amount of thing’s accumulation. It advocates the change of quantitative leads to the change of qualitative. Incremental decision-making emphasizes government maintaining the social stability while it reforming. Therefor, the incrementalism likes continuous modification. The style of incremental decision-making is indeed same to play the Muddling Through. I think that’s why the author gave this name to his article.

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