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A ‘Babylonian’ variety of policy network concepts and applications can be found in the literature. Neither is there a common understanding of what policy networks actually are, nor has it been agreed whether policy networks constitute a mere metaphor, a method, an analytical tool or a proper theory. The aim of this article is to review the state of the art in the field of policy networks. Special attention is given to the German conception of policy networks which is different from the one predominant in the Anglo-Saxon literature. While British and American scholars usually conceive policy networks as a model of state/society relations in a given issue area, German works tend to treat policy networks as an alternative form of governance to hierarchy and market. It is argued that this conception of policy networks goes beyond serving as a mere analytical tool box for studying public policy-making. Yet, both the German and the Anglo-Saxon conception of policy networks face a common challenge: first, it still remains to be systematically shown that policy networks do not only exist but are really relevant to policy-making, and second, the problem of the ambiguity of policy networks has to be tackled, as policy networks can both enhance and reduce the efficiency and legitimacy of policy-making.