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Ideational de-legitimization and legitimization as causes of policy change

Line Renate Gustafsson
Aarhus Universitet
Line Renate Gustafsson
Aarhus Universitet
Open Panel

Abstract

While having convincingly argued that ideas matter, scholars still struggle to understand exactly how ideas matter in shaping policy (Mehta, 2011). To overcome these difficulties, it is suggested to focus less on ideas content and more on the mechanisms whereby ideas induce policy change. My paper will focus on political parties in a multiparty context and their efforts to persuade other parties. Empirically, I will analyze the cases of school political changes in Sweden and Denmark. The discursive interaction – or as I call it ideational mechanisms - I am interested in is termed ideational legitimization (Bhatia & Coleman, 2003; Stiller, 2010) and de-legitimization (Blyth, 2002). Ideational de-legitimization is defined as a process of undermining the legitimacy of existing ideas that underwrite a policy, whereas ideational legitimization is defined as a process of exhorting the legitimacy of existing ideas that underwrite a policy. In contrast to Stiller (2010) who sees these mechanisms as part of the same process, I see them as distinct and independent discursive practices to convince opposing actors and change policy. Further, in contrast to Schmidt (2008) who investigates discourse in different political systems, I will analyze variation in institutional context within the same political systems, arguing how the success of the mechanisms is connected to the institutional context. Specifically, it is argued that de-legitimization has a better chance of policy influence if applied in the macropolitical arena while legitimization should be utilized in the policy subsystem to be able to persuade political opponents.