John Maynard Keynes famously said: “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood.” In politics, policymaking and in the economy, ideas matter indeed.
Yet until now, little attention has been paid to how ideas are produced and disseminated, and how this process varies between countries. The National Origins of Policy is a pathbreaking book by two leading social scientists John L. Campbell & Ove K. Pedersen (Copenhagen Business School) that provides the first comparative analysis of how “knowledge regimes”—communities of policy research organizations like think tanks, political party foundations, ad hoc commissions, and state research offices, and the institutions that govern them—generate ideas and communicate them to policymakers. (Free access to the first chapter)
The authors examine how knowledge regimes are organized, operate, and have changed over the last thirty years in the United States, France, Germany, and Denmark. They skillfully show how there are persistent national differences in how policy ideas are produced. Some countries do so in contentious, politically partisan ways, while others are cooperative and consensus oriented. They find that while knowledge regimes have adopted some common practices since the 1970s, tendencies toward convergence have been limited and outcomes have been heavily shaped by national and local contexts.
Drawing on extensive interviews with top officials at leading policy research organizations, this book demonstrates why knowledge regimes are as important to capitalism as the state and the firm, and sheds new light on debates about the effects of globalization, the rise of neoliberalism, and the orientation of comparative political economy in political science and sociology.
Campbell and Pedersen provide the empirically grounded rich study that compares policy-producing institutions across several countries, drawing on a wide reservoir of theoretical work that brings together perspectives from political science and sociology in invaluable ways. The book is a major accomplishment and it is a contribution of real significance to economic sociology and political economy.