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|Title:||Producing and Promoting Policy Ideas: A Study of Think Tanks in Canada|
|Authors:||McLevey, VP John|
|Keywords:||think tanks;knowledge;ideas;science;organization;policy;Sociology of Culture;Theory, Knowledge and Science;Work, Economy and Organizations;Sociology of Culture|
|Abstract:||<p>This dissertation is about how think tanks produce and promote policy ideas. It is informed by 53 semi-structured interviews, financial and employee data for 30 think tanks over 11 years, documentary materials (including newspaper data, annual reports, strategic plans, communication reports, and publications), office visits at think tanks, and observation at public events. In substantive chapters, I address (i.) the funding environment underpinning think tank policy research in Canada, (ii.) the epistemic cultures shaping knowledge production, and (iii.) the rhetorical strategies of intellectuals --- affiliated with or oriented to think tanks --- challenging the scientific consensus on climate change in "the space of opinion."</p> <p>In chapter two, I present a comparative analysis of think tank funding that challenges predictions derived from elite and pluralist theories, and builds on recent field theory. I find that the availability of state and private donor funding creates an environment where think tanks mostly cater to two types of sponsors with diverging preferences. The relative separation of state and donor funding is politically patterned, with conservative think tanks being funded by private donors and centrists by the state. Rather than being "independent" or members of a "corporate-policy elite,"" think tanks face extreme versions of common organizational problems, in particular resource dependencies and conflicting institutional logics.</p> <p>In the third chapter, I draw on the sociology of ideas to propose that the production and promotion of policy ideas in think tanks vary in three ways. First, there are diverging tendencies towards universalism and contextualism in a broadly utilitarian epistemic culture. Secondly, think tanks vary in the extent to which they integrate their research and communication strategies in short and long term projects. Finally, among those active in the ``space of opinion,'' some are seeking leverage for negotiations with elites, others to shape public opinion in specific ways, and others to rise to the top of an intellectual attention space as authoritative intellectuals.</p> <p>Chapter four is a case study of intellectuals --- affiliated with or oriented to think tanks --- discussing climate change and climate science in "the space of opinion."" Based on an inductive qualitative analysis of 417 systematically collected articles, I discuss two tactics writers have used in an effort to de-legitimate the scientific consensus on climate change. Without a vetted body of knowledge ready to take centre stage, and without appealing to non-scientific cultural authorities, writers (i.) re-frame consensus as a political construct, and their own skepticism as supremely scientific, and (ii.) personalize climate science by smearing high profile environmentalists and scientists, and chipping away at the character of mainstream climate scientists. Together, these tactics portray skeptics as more scientific than climate scientists.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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