Document Type


Publication Date




Punctuated equilibrium theory (PET) suggests that the policy process is characterized by long periods of incremental change and short periods of punctuated change. The impetus for the latter is usually a focusing event that breaks open policy monopolies, allowing for major changes in legislative decision-making. While a burgeoning body of literature, a shortcoming in the PET literature is that it has yet to explain why focusing events and subsequent breakdowns in policy monopolies sometimes fail to result in punctuated policy. We integrate theories on cultural change with punctuated equilibrium to explain why focusing events do not always result in the dramatic policy changes that we might expect. Specifically, we use the context of national energy policy and the lexical database, Google Ngram Viewer, to trace punctuating energy-related events and the occurrence or lack thereof subsequent policy change from 1952 to 2000.

Copyright Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:

Fowler, L.; Neaves, T.T.; Terman, J.N.; and Cosby, A.G. (2017). Cultural Penetration and Punctuated Policy Change: Explaining the Evolution of U.S. Energy Policy. Review of Policy Research, 34(4), 559-577.

which has been published in final form at doi: 10.1111/ropr.12240. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.