Expertise and Interests: For a Sociology of Think Tanks

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:00-17:30
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
RC14 Sociology of Communication, Knowledge and Culture (host committee)
RC18 Political Sociology

Language: English

Think tanks are becoming ever more relevant policy actors in much of the world, even if their organisational diversity renders their contours difficult to define. Originally circumscribed to the Anglo-American sphere, think tanks are now ubiquitous in places as far between as Brussels, Beijing, Nairobi and Santiago. In the process, they have become significant actors in informing and framing public policy debates, as well as being part of elite networks inside a polity. As a consequence, many sociologists and political scientists argue that think tanks can help the legitimation of particular policy agendas – sometimes aligned with their funders – thus helping to blur the distinction between interests and knowledge. 
Hence, over the past decades, policy institutes have become significant agents to research, as their murky character – hovering over the edges of academia, the media, economic interests and politics – allows them to use a diverse array of credentials, styles of public performance, intellectual tools and strategies in their efforts to attain political relevance. Moreover, their effectiveness – even for those seen as little more than lobbies – depends on seeming credible and respectable across audiences. This makes these organisations sociologically fascinating, as they make manifest the complex connection between political and economic institutions and the intellectual sphere.  
We accept submissions that confront these issues and the tensions underpinning think tanks from both theoretical and empirical standpoints, exploring their role in modern political systems and, more broadly, the part played by professional expertise and advocacy organisations in modern policymaking.
Session Organizers:
Fiorenza GAMBA, University of Sassari, Italy and Marcos GONZALEZ HERNANDO, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Vehicles for Change or Preservation? the Role of Think Tanks in Poland
Katarzyna JEZIERSKA, University of Gothenburg, Centre for European Research, Sweden
Think Tanks in the Knowledge Society: A Comparative Approach for Analyzing the Role and Impact of Scientific Expertise
Michael HOELSCHER, German University of Administrative Sciences Speyer, Germany; Thomas LAUX, University of Chemnitz, Germany; Alexander RUSER, Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen, Germany, Germany
Think Tanks Between Science and Politics: The German Governmental Research Institutes
Holger BÄHR, Institute for Employment Research, Germany; Peter KUPKA, Institute for Employment Research, Germany