Political Consulting Between Public Service and Deligitimization: Empirical Observations in a Secret Chamber
Think tanks are relevant political actors in world wide politics and contribute to a wide range of important political decisions. However, their influence is often hidden from the public’s eyes and hard to quantify or measure. Therefore, qualitative data on the process of consulting is particularly valuable.
In this talk I would like to present chosen results from an empirical study on political think tanks and political parties. In this field, the question of legitimate and/or illegitimate influence is evident, since political consultants, scientific advisors and lobbyists have not been elected or delegated by the demos. How do politicians and consultants/scientists handle this problem of legitimacy, practically? Referring to a corpus of 25 qualitative interviews with political consultants, politicians and scientific advisors in I will discuss how the immanent paradox of consulting a political decision-maker is processed and resolved both by the consultants and by the political personnel. How is the legitimacy of lobbying a certain cause justified? How do the consultants and the politicians (or think tank officials) describe their work? How do they explain the ‘blurriness’ and secrecy of the field?
In a second step and with regard to auto-ethnographic memos of activities in an international political think tank, I aim to provide an insight into organisational logics and characteristics of a political think tank. With an interpretation of selected memos I will demonstrate how diverging habitual ways of working and thinking are able to complicate the collaboration of scientists and politicians. With this empirical approach the political think tank becomes visible as a complex organisation that coordinates diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and purposes.