Carstensen, Seabrooke and Béland edit a special issue of Journal of European Policy
Ideas, political power and public policy
Throughout the last couple of decades, scholars have increasingly emphasized the importance of political ideas in understanding processes of change and stability in politics and public policy. The aim of ideational analysis in policy studies has not just been to theorize the representation or embodiment of ideas and the interactive processes by and through which ideas are generated and communicated. It has also underlined the importance of considering both ideas and discourse in the institutional context within which political actors both ‘power' and ‘puzzle’. Naturally, the causal ‘power of ideas’ has been an important subject of study in the ideational tradition, spawning important studies on how ideas and ideologies are institutionalized and how they define the interests of strategic policy actors. The power of ideas has always reigned among the most important issues in ideational analysis. With this in mind, it may come as a surprise that relatively little has been done to more clearly conceptualize the relationship between the concept of political power and the role of ideas in public policy.
The ideational side of power relations (which may be called ideational power) requires further study. At least part of this relative lack of connection to power theory seems attributable to ideational scholars’ strong focus on supporting the more general claim that ‘ideas matter' as causes, thus carving out a clear position vis-à-vis more traditional interest-oriented approaches. This effort has clearly been fruitful – as seen not least by the growing attention to ideas within policy studies and political science more generally – but the central task of delineating how ideational scholarship can contribute to understandings of power remains.
The present edited collection sets out to do so in two principal ways. First, building on existing ideational scholarship, contributors to this collection take on the task of investigating the relation between ideas and political power to develop clearer understandings of ideational power in policy research. Second, this collection is focused on conceptualizing the relationship between political power and ideas. In other words, the contributions combine a strong grounding in ideational analysis with an equally strong commitment to connect with and draw on the approaches to power developed in other traditions of policy studies and political science.
Belánd, Daniel, Marin B. Carstensen & Leonard Seabrooke: “Introduction - Ideas, political power and public policy” pp. 315-318 in Journal of European Public Policy vol. 23, no.3, 2016. ISSN 1350-1763.