Current Research Deficits
The empirical as well as the theoretical field of interest are confronted with remarkable research deficits and methodological problems.
Analysis of Morality Policy
Compared to other policy areas, our empirical field of interest - morality policies – has received only limited scholarly attention. First, systematic assessments of changing patterns over time are lacking. Also research endeavours are often restricted to certain subfields of morality policy (cp. Mooney 2001). Additionally, research addresses only a small number of countries, with a strong geographical bias towards the United States and the United Kingdom (Studlar 2001, Smith and Tatalovich 2003). Second, there exist no studies that systematically compare morality policy developments across a broader number of countries and over time. Most studies are case studies or small-N-studies dealing with only one to three country examples. Medium N-comparative studies are rare (one of few examples is Fink 2008); large N-studies (e.g. all countries with democracies) are non-existent. Third, there is a lack of theoretical concepts to account for policy change. As a result of the highly unsystematic empirical evidence gathered so far, very few attempts have been made to develop theoretical concepts in order to account for morality policy changes over time. In this respect, it is a highly important issue to what extent classical approaches provide feasible tools to account for changes in policy areas that are dominated by value rather than tangible interest conflicts.
Analysis of Policy Change
The theoretical focus of MORAPOL lies on the concept of policy change. This concept is of fundamental relevance in the fields of policy analysis and comparative politics. This importance, however, coincides not only with a broad variety of different definitions and conceptions of the phenomenon in the literature, but also with a surprising lack of critical discussion of the analytical consequences that emerge from different conceptual choices. Although these problems have to some extent been acknowledged in recent years (Pierson 2001), the core problem of developing a basic and encompassing definition of policy change that allows for systematic comparisons across sectors and countries is hardly addressed. A direct consequence of this situation is a low comparability of research findings and hence difficulties in advancing our theoretical understanding of policy change. This general statement still holds, although especially Sabatier (1988) and Hall (1993) made important contributions to improve our understanding of the phenomenon by distinguishing between different orders or dimensions of policy change.