Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

From Maastricht to Brexit by Richard Bellamy and Dario Castiglione

Deliberation or Shouting from the Outside? Progressive Think Tanks and Public Policy

Civil Society
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Dieter Plehwe
WZB Berlin Social Science Center
Panel Co-Chair
Frank Fischer
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Panel Discussant
Dorota Stasiak
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS)

24/08/2018 09:00 - 10:40
Building: VMP 9 Floor: 3 Room: A315
The role and relevance of partisan think tanks has been widely acclaimed with regard to the neoliberal transformation in public policy. Early studies emphasized the success of neoliberal think tanks in building up expertise needed to push privatization and deregulation policies in the UK and North America, for example. In the environmental and climate change policy fields in turn think tanks gained prominence in the development and promotion of denial and delay strategies. Early on Fischer (1993) based his argument of political technocracy on competing think tank circuits. How does a perspective of political technocracy and knowledge power regimes square with the dynamic complexity perspective that underlies deliberative policy analysis? Do the three pillars of interpretation, practice-orientation and deliberation suffice to make sense of policy actor constellations and participation? When and why do critical and possibly radical outsiders come into play and when do they remain outside? Why do certain discourses resonate with the policy community and others do not? Prominent among the reasons stated to account for the success and staying power of neoliberal perspectives is the absence of convincing alternatives that would likely result from the work of progressive think tanks. While survey literature confirms a corporate / conservative / neoliberal bias in the landscape of think tanks at large, there is certainly no shortage of progressive think tanks. Advances in certain policy areas (e.g. renewable energy) would suggest that the neoliberal victory is not complete (compare Plehwe 2016). The failure of European progressive think tanks to effectively counter the prevailing austerity regime on the other hand does support a viewpoint of marginalization of the left. Are progressive think tanks indeed less successful than their neoliberal / conservative counterparts, and why is this the case? What are the criteria and conditions of success? Can progressive think tanks improve their impact? What kind of strategies are they pursuing? We invite exploratory and comparative case studies and more general reflections on progressive think tank efforts.

Fischer, Frank (1993), ‘Policy discourse and the politics of Washington think tanks‘, in Frank Fischer and John Forester (eds), The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, pp. 21–42.

Plehwe, Dieter (2016), ‘The politics of policy think-tanks: organizing expertise, legitimacy and counter-expertise in policy networks’, in Frank Fischer/Douglas Torgerson/Anna Durnová/Michael Orsini (Hg.): Handbook of Critical Policy Studies, S. 358-379. Handbooks of Research on Public Policy Series.

Paper List

Title Details
Explaining the Fate of Outsider Experts: Germany’s Progressive Think Tanks in Economic and Social Policy View Paper Details
Feminist Budgeting in the Age of Austerity – The Work of the Women’s Budget Group in the UK View Paper Details
Interpretative Analysis of Decentralised Policy with the Use of an Online Delphi View Paper Details
Progressive Think Tanks: Comparing Progressive European, German and Finnish Think Tank Proposals during the Financial Crisis View Paper Details
Share this page

Back to top