Policy Modification: Initiation and Incrementalism

Topic: Public Policies
Words: 286 Pages: 1

Initiation vs. Modification

Policy initiation is the process of establishing a right, an obligation, or a law. Initiation establishes rules for new circumstances, decisions, or any conditions. Adopting a new right takes place publicly and is formed as a completely new phenomenon that has not previously been discussed or contained in the legislation (Adam et al., 2021). In contrast to the initiation, policy modification occurs when past laws require revision in the context of new circumstances or clarifications. In addition, modifications can be made in response to new evidence that makes the legislation obsolete or inappropriate (Erismann et al., 2021). In the case of modifications, it is recommended that the name “amendments” be used to refer to the topics or sections subject to modification. In the lawmaking process, initiation goes through all the stages from formulation, while modifications affect already subsequent stages.

Incrementalism in Policymaking

Incrementalism is a theory of policymaking based on the origin of the relationship between small advances and extensive changes. In the context of public policy, this theory refers to how, through minor reforms and edits, the state improves citizens’ lives and well-being (Desmarais, 2019). The theory relies on the idea that complete agreement cannot be achieved regardless of the topic of discussion, so pluralism must be used to achieve harmony. Incrementalism, due to pluralism, is more rational and inquisitive than radical decision-making. Phasing policy changes with differentiated opinions is the basis for shaping an incremental political path. It is crucial for the state to be cautious in its decision-making and have systematicity in its actions (Adam et al., 2021). Incrementalism is most important for public policy because it allows timely tracking of reactions to change and verification of gain or loss.


Adam, C., Hurka, S., Knill, C., & Steinebach, Y. (2021). On democratic intelligence and failure: The vice and virtue of incrementalism under political fragmentation and policy accumulation. Governance, 35(2), 525-543.

Desmarais, B. A. (2019). Punctuated equilibrium or incrementalism in policymaking: What we can and cannot learn from the distribution of policy changes. Research and Politics, 1(6).

Erismann, S., Pesantes, M.A., Beran, D., Leuenberger, A., Farnham, A., de White, M. B. G., Labhardt, N. D., Tediosi, F., Akweongo, P., Kuwawenaruwa, A., Zinsstag, J., Brugger, F., Somerville, C., Wyss, K., & Prytherch, H. (2021). How to bring research evidence into policy? Synthesizing strategies of five research projects in low-and middle-income countries. Health Research Policy and Systems, 19(29).

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