Incrementalism is when changes occur gradually. Most often referring to the policy of social change happening in degrees. The use of the term incrementalism is first attributed to Lindblom (1959) and then Wildavsky (1964). According to them, people break down complex problems into manageable steps. They simplify the process. From its inception, there has been a debate on whether incrementalism works to create change or if it actually detracts from change.
Yes, incrementalism works.Show moreShow less
Incrementalism is the basis of change and negotiation. It is the realistic way to achieve policy changes.
Policy conflicts are complex with many different sides and interests. If both sides dig in and try to hold out for their idealistic idea of what is the best solution, they can end up with nothing.
Solutions occur over time and through comprise. This bargaining and negotiation can be achieved with incremental changes. Even if the entire problem cannot be solved, incremental changes can be made that improve the current situation. Starting with smaller points of agreement that can then be built on is a common negotiation strategy.
Gradual change is often less controversial than sudden changes. It can help stop hostility and build corroboration. An example of this is the U.S. child safety net that was crafted from 1982 to 1997 through incremental, bipartisan legislation starting with Medicaid eligibility expansions and resulting in the State Child Health Insurance Program. Creating this in steps meant that each step had a smaller expense and gave people time to get used to it before the next advance.
[P1] Without compromise, both sides could end up with nothing.
[P2] Starting with smaller points of agreement that can be built upon is a common negotiation strategy.
[P3] Gradual change is often less controversial than sudden changes.