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Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research$
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Daniel Béland and Robert Henry Cox

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199736430

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199736430.001.0001

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The Varied Roles of Ideas in Politics

The Varied Roles of Ideas in Politics

From “Whether” to “How”

(p.23) 1 The Varied Roles of Ideas in Politics
Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research

Jal Mehta

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines ideas of varying levels of generality that define how policymakers should act. Building upon and drawing together the best work in the field, it seeks to offer a synthetic analysis of how ideas matter in politics: what is known, what is not known, and what areas are in need of further research. It considers ideas at three levels of generality: policy solutions, problem definitions, and public philosophies or zeitgeist. It also consider interactions between the levels of ideas, with a particular interest in “upward-flowing” interactions, showing that not only does the conception of a problem constrain policy alternatives, but the fate of specific policy solutions also can have an impact on problem definitions or even broader public philosophies.

Keywords:   ideas, policymakers, politics, policy solutions, problem definitions, public philosophies, zeitgeist

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