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Can incrementalism work? Show more Show less
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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 more Show less

Incrementalism is the basis of change and negotiation. It is the realistic way to achieve policy changes.
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Incrementalism is the only realistic option.

Incrementalism simplifies complex problems into manageable steps. It allows for comprising and trial and error.
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The Argument

Incrementalism was established as a model because there were too many limitations (conflict, time, and lack of knowledge) to allow for comprehensive, rational changes to be made. These rational changes are when people decide what is best and then make that change no matter how big and contested it is. This is not realistic. With incrementalism, policymakers simplify the process by compromising, focusing on only a limited number of options, and creating manageable steps.They focus on the feasible. Another realistic consequence of incrementalism is that it allows for the process of trial and error. Corrections can be made as the gradual changes are implemented. Substantial changes can still be made, but they are implemented in steps.

Counter arguments

Viewing incrementalism as the only realistic option limits people to never try for sweeping reforms.


[P1] People have limited time and knowledge to deal with complex problems. [P2] Complex problems are controversial. [P3] Incrementalism breaks these problems into smaller steps and allows for compromise. [P4] Incrementalism allows for trial and error. [P5] Incrementalism is the only realistic option.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P5] Incrementalism is not the only realistic option. Having this view means that people won't try for sweeping reforms.


This page was last edited on Friday, 15 May 2020 at 00:03 UTC

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