Tuesdsay, Nov. 17, 4:30PM, Pierre-Christian Fink: Ministers of the Mind: Ideational Theories and Governmental Practice

Please join us for the Money, Markets, and Governance Workshop, on Tuesday, Nov. 17th, at 4:30PM – 6PM, at Social Science Research Building, class 106

Pierre-Christian Fink
PhD Student, Columbia University, Sociology

Ministers of the Mind: Ideational Theories and Governmental Practice

Discussant: Peter Fugiel
PhD Candidate, University of Chicago, Sociology

Abstract: A burgeoning literature in sociology investigates the role of ideas in policy-making, which had long been sidelined by interest in power resources and institutions. A recent trend in this emerging literature is to conceive of ideas as motivators of action. An award-winning article applied this approach to the Prussian child labor law of 1839, claiming that the law passed because it was proposed by a conservative official, whose motivation resonated with the political climate of 1830s Prussia, while a draft by a liberal minister failed. I revisit the archival record and find this account at odds with central empirical facts. I use these discrepancies not only to suggest a more convincing explanation of the child labor law but also to develop theory further. Instead of assuming that political actors are driven by a fixed mindset, my theory starts from the premise that political actors self-consciously employ ideological labels. My theoretical argument differentiates between the role of ideas when political contestation is open (e.g., U.S. Congressional politics today) and when it is covert (e.g., 1830s Prussia, Federal Reserve and European Commission today). Hence I contribute to the ongoing academic efforts to deepen the often polemical contemporary debate about depoliticization.

Questions about the workshop or accessibility concerns can be addressed to yanivr at uchicago dot edu

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