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Ganging up on interests:a concetual approach to policy analysis

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  • Political Science


Ganging up on interests: A conceptual approach to policy analysis Ganging up on interests: A conceptual approach to policy analysis Martin B. Carstensen and Jesper Møller Pedersen Centre for Comparative Welfare Studies, Aalborg University Paper prepared for the 4th International Conference on Welfare State Change at St. Restrup Herregaard, Jan. 30‐Feb. 1, 2008 Abstract: Research on the role of ideas has contributed greatly to understand processes of policy change. However, ideational analyses have tended to neglect an important source for analysing political reform: They have paid too little interest to the concrete manifestation of ideas and concepts, too often analysing ideas as closed entities (like paradigms). This paper will advance the argument that the crossing between independent streams of ideas and their often silent recombination should be studied as a central variable, especially in order to understand the direct relation between between ideas and policy. Analysing the case of the Danish jobcentre reform it is demonstrated how ideas may be introduced by actors in order to promote their interest, but once in play, actors are no longer able to fully control their further development. When ideas recombine and create new meaning, they often ’gang up’ on interests. Conceptual analysis may thus be helpful in identifying the power of ideas. Introduction The growing acceptance that ideas play a substantial role in politics has contributed greatly to our theoretical and empirical knowledge of policy processes. Interest oriented theories ‐ the research tradition which most theories of how ʹideas matterʹ are formulated in opposition to ‐ have been challenged on an number of issues: How can we explain how preferences are formed? Where does the substantial content of policy originate? What are the effects of macrosocial and ‐cultural factors on political process? Interest does matter, but it

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