Shifting Resources and Venues Producing Policy Change in Contested Subsystems: A Case Study of Swedish Signals Intelligence Policy


Daniel Nohrstedt is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the Department of Government at Uppsala University, Sweden.


In the last decade and across countries, changes in national intelligence policies have spurred widespread political opposition and public protest. Instances of intelligence policy change warrant close academic attention to cast light on the dynamics of policymaking in contested policy areas. In an effort to contribute to further development of a theory of policy change within the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), this article analyzes the adoption of legislation in Sweden to expand the mandate for signals intelligence gathering. Three explanatory variables are derived from the ACF to explain policy change in this case: shifts in advocacy coalition membership, distribution of coalition resources, and access to policy venues. Whereas shifts in coalition membership were unrelated to policy change in this case, the case-study lends partial support to the role of resource distribution and policy venues. To promote the progress of an ACF theory of policy change, the study concludes by drawing two theoretical implications: (i) introducing hierarchical classification of coalition resources and (ii) identification of revised policy narratives and exploitative policy entrepreneurship as causal mechanisms linking external shocks to venue shifts and policy change.