Fifty years ago, Lindblom (1959) explained and justified the merits of muddling through as a method for policymaking. It represents successive limited comparisons (SLC) of incremental policy improvements.
At the time, he asserted the lack of intellectual capacity and computing power could not support a rational-comprehensive (RC), or root, approach.
Despite intensive computing requirements for mission control in the early 1960s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had no computers in any of its facilities, providing strong support for Lindblom’s assertion (Krantz, 2000). Lindblom uses the terms SLC, incrementalism, and branch analysis synonymously. Similarly, he equates RC…
Charles Edward Lindblom (March 21, 1917 – January 30, 2018) was an American academic who studied Economics at the University of Chicago and was Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Economics at Yale University. He served as President of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Comparative Economic Studies, as well as Director of Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies.
Lindblom was one of the early developers and advocates of the theory of incrementalism in policy and decision-making. This view (also called gradualism) takes a “baby-steps”, “Muddling Through” or “Echternach Theory” approach to decision-making processes. In it, policy change is, under most circumstances, evolutionary rather than revolutionary. He came to this view through his extensive studies of Welfare policies and Trade Unions throughout the industrialized world. These views are set out in two articles, separated by 20 years: “The Science Of ‘Muddling Through'” (1959) and “Still Muddling, Not yet through” (1979), both published in Public Administration Review.