Anali Hrvatskog Politološkog Društva (Jan 2007)

How to Understand Incrementalism?: Politics of Charles Lindblom’s Theory

  • Krešimir Petković

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 4, no. 1
pp. 343 – 373


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The paper is dedicated to the political process theory by the American political scientist and economist Charles E. Lindblom. After providing a contextual insight into Lindblom’s complete theoretical opus, which is a necessary prerequisite for the interpretative manoeuvre in the central part of the text, the paper is primarily focused on Lindblom’s theory of incremental decision-making, developed in The Science of Muddling Through (1959) and in A Strategy of Decision (1963), which is related to his concept of “partisan mutual adjustment” developed in The Intelligence of Democracy (1965). The paper offers an interpretation of Lindblom’s argument which moves away from its past understanding in Croatian political science literature. There, Lindblom’s decision-making model has been basically interpreted descriptively, as a description of the actual decision-making practices, and opposed to the prescriptive rational decision-making model, which is a characteristic feature even of some foreign interpretations. This paper, however, suggests that Lindblom’s theory contains a strong prescriptive element. Lindblom’s theory of incrementalism, taken together with the pluralist model of partisan mutual adjustment, offers a complete and consistent model of politics with marked normative implications, which justifies the use of the syntagm the politics of theory, substantiated in greater detail in the final section of the paper.