Policy Drift

Shared Powers and the Making of U.S. Law and Policy

304 pages

February, 2018

ISBN: 9781479839834



Add to Cart Available: 1/19/2018

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Norma M. Riccucci is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor in the School of Public Affairs and Public Administration at Rutgers-Newark. She is the author of several books and textbooks, including Public Administration: Traditions of Inquiry and Philosophies of Knowledge and How Management Matters:  Street-Level Bureaucrats and Welfare Reform.

All books by Norma M. Riccucci

The role of formal and informal institutional forces in changing three areas of U.S. public policy: privacy rights, civil rights and climate policy
There is no finality to the public policy process. Although it’s often assumed that once a law is enacted it is implemented faithfully, even policies believed to be stable can change or drift in unexpected directions. The Fourth Amendment, for example, guarantees Americans’ privacy rights, but the 9/11 terrorist attacks set off one of the worst cases of government-sponsored espionage. Policy changes instituted by the National Security Agency led to widespread warrantless surveillance, a drift in public policy that led to lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of wiretapping the American people.
Much of the research in recent decades ignores the impact of large-scale, slow-moving, secular forces in political, social, and economic environments on public policy.  In Policy Drift, Norma Riccucci sheds light on how institutional forces collectively contributed to major change in three key areas of U.S. policy (privacy rights, civil rights, and climate policy) without any new policy explicitly being written. Formal levers of change—U.S. Supreme Court decisions; inaction by Congress; Presidential executive orders—stimulated by social, political or economic forces, organized permutations which ultimately shaped and defined contemporary public policy.
Invariably, implementations of new policies are embedded within a political landscape. Political actors, motivated by social and economic factors, may explicitly employ strategies to shift the direction of existing public polices or derail them altogether. Some segments of the population will benefit from this process, while others will not; thus, “policy drifts” carry significant consequences for social and economic change.
A comprehensive account of inadvertent changes to privacy rights, civil rights, and climate policy, Policy Drift demonstrates how unanticipated levers of change can modify the status quo in public policy.  


  • "Policy Drift is a timely and important book on how policies evolve and change after they are enacted. Norma Riccucci shows that, as time passes between enactment and initial implementation, policies can drift far from the apparent intent of their advocates. Riccucci demonstrates how the three branches of government and stakeholders continually jockey for influence over policy, while changes in broader political, economic, and social forces influence the relative power of contestants in policy making, often with profound consequences...a fresh and readable approach to the policy process.”

    —Thomas A. Birkland, Author of An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy

  • “A welcome addition to a field largely constructed around a mechanistic view of policy, law and institutions. Norma Riccucci’s attention to three significant policy areas – surveillance and privacy rights, civil rights, and climate policy – illustrates the surprises that are likely to emerge in an adaptive world that is more like the exploding universe than a two-dimensional assembly line.”

    —Beryl A. Radin, Author of Beyond Machiavelli: Policy Analysis Reaches Midlife

  • “In Policy Drift, award winning author, Norma Riccucci, emphasizes that ‘governance unfolds overtime’ and that there is no one size fits all model of public policy formulation and implementation that will guarantee, predict, or explain policy durability, stability, and instability. Rather, there are a multiplicity of actors, institutions, conditions, and particularistic factors that contribute to policy drift. Riccucci’s exceptionally well-crafted, cogent analysis provides an excellent framework for future theory building and research and is a very welcome—indeed, necessary--contribution to the fields of public administration and policy studies.”

    —David H. Rosenbloom, Author of Administrative Law for Public Managers

  • "Great book for collections on US politics and government."