Colechin, Jane (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This thesis seeks to challenge the entrenched academic consensus that there are no opportunities for welfare state expansion in liberal welfare regimes in the face of neo-liberal economic ideology and new public management reforms to decision-making. It does so though an examination of social policy expansion in early years education and care (EYEC) in England and Canada/Ontario; two liberal welfare states. This thesis contends that EYEC policy, often neglected in comparative welfare literature, is an important social dimension of the welfare state which can potentially alter the relationship between the state, parents and children. Utilising a multi-level discursive institutionalist framework the thesis examines the processes underlying EYEC policy innovations in the two cases. Its first major contribution is an innovative framework of six competing and contrasting discursive EYEC frames and the evidence and expertise pivotal to them. Though this lens, the thesis identifies common institutional reforms that have altered practices of policy making; presenting openings in the bureaucratic structure to new forms of expertise and particular EYEC frames. It also extends the analysis above the national context to examine the influence of the OECD as a form of ideational pressure and the extent of ideational circulation between the two cases. In so doing this thesis captures complex rather than linear trajectories of development and moments of convergence and divergence between the two cases. This thesis finds that in both cases a multiplicity of competing frames and ‘evidence-based’ forms of policy innovation have led to strategic incoherence and an unstable basis for the concrete implementation EYEC policy.
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