The Science of Muddling Through

TitleThe Science of Muddling Through
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1959
AuthorsLindblom, C. E.
JournalPublic Administration Review
Pagination79 - 88

Looks at the rational models of the decisional processes of government. The author rejects the notion that most decisions are made by rational (total information) processes. Instead, he sees such decisions—indeed, the whole policy-making process—as dependent upon small incremental decisions that tend to be made in response to short-term political conditions. Lindblom’s thesis essentially holds that decision making is controlled infinitely more by events and circumstances than by the will of those in policy-making positions. Disjointed incrementalism as a policy course is in reality the only truly feasible route, since incrementalism “concentrated the policymaker’s analysis on familiar, better-known experiences, sharply reduced the number of different alternative policies to be explored, and sharply reduced the number and complexity of factors to be analyzed.” Moreover, Lindblom argues that incrementalism is more consistent with the pluralistic nature of American democracy where individuals are free to combine to pursue common interests, whose contention “often can assure a
more comprehensive regard for the values of the whole society than any attempt at intellectual comprehensiveness.”