Power Through, Over and in Ideas: Conceptualizing Ideational Power in Discursive Institutionalism

Martin B. Carstensen, Vivien A. Schmidt

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    Owing to the tendency of discursive institutionalists to conflate the notion that ‘ideas matter' for policy-making with the ‘power of ideas’, little has been done to explicitly theorize ideational power. To fill this lacuna, the contribution defines ideational power as the capacity of actors (whether individual or collective) to influence other actors’ normative and cognitive beliefs through the use of ideational elements, and – based on insights from the discursive institutionalist literature – suggests three different types of ideational power: power through ideas, understood as the capacity of actors to persuade other actors to accept and adopt their views through the use of ideational elements; power over ideas, meaning the imposition of ideas and the power to resist the inclusion of alternative ideas into the policy-making arena; and power in ideas, which takes place through the establishing of hegemony or institutions imposing constraints on what ideas are considered.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of European Public Policy
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)318-337
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Bibliographical note

    The research presented in the contribution was funded by the H2020 grant ‘European Legitimacy in Governing through Hard Times (#649456 – ENLIGHTEN).


    • Discursive Institutionalism
    • Ideas
    • Power

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