Innovation, Incrementalism or Deadlock? Policy Change in Joint Decision Systems

Innovation, Incrementalism or Deadlock? Policy Change in Joint Decision Systems

In federations and in international politics, policies often require agreements between governments. The concept of joint decision-making describes a particular pattern of intergovernmental policy-making. In view of its practical relevance, it has attracted increasing attention in comparative federalism, EU studies and international relations. In joint decision-making governments are compelled to come to an agreement with other governments either due to institutional rules or – what is more relevant – because they cannot solve problems on their own.

According to the original theory, governments risk to end in the joint decision trap when they negotiate intergovernmental agreements. Faced with diverging interests they either end up with bargains “at the lowest common denominator” of their preferences or in a deadlock hindering them from solving problems. Significant chance (policy innovation) is highly unlikely according to this theory. Yet recent research gives reasons to reconsider this theory. As will be explained and illustrated by cases, particular patterns of joint decision-making and specific conditions not only avoid deadlocks, but facilitate significant policy change and innovation.

About the presenter:

Arthur Benz is Professor of Political Science at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. He has held visiting appointments at the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, and the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz. In 2003-04 he was a member of the Joint Bundestag-Bundesrat Commission on the Reform of the German Federation. In 2007 he received the John G. Diefenbaker Award of the Canada Council of the Arts. His research focuses on federalism and multilevel governance. Results were published in several books, among them Constitutional Politics in Multilevel Government (2016), Federal Dynamics (ed. with J. Broschek, 2013). His articles appeared in international journals like European Political Science Review, Journal of European Public Policy, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, West European Politics, German Politics, and Regional and Federal Studies.

Date & time

Thu 18 Oct 2018, 12pm


LJ Hume Centre, Copland Building, ANU


Arthur Benz, University of Darmstadt


Feodor Snagovsky


Updated:  19 July 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications