1 Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus University2 Department of Political Science and Government - Postgraduate Studies, Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Ideas as weapons and blueprints
In this paper, it is argued that a better understanding of the struggle of ideas is needed. While ideas can have impact on policy design, the struggle over ideas to a large extent determine which ideas come to have policy influence. Based on the papers theoretical framework of ideas as well as the logic of process tracing, a conceptual model for studying the struggle of ideas has been developed. The model should make it more tangible to trace the process of ideational struggle by analyzing it in a two-level game. The analytical framework will be applied on the case of Danish primary schooli policy by investigating how the policy of national tests was adopted by focusing on the main actors the parties of Venstre and the Social democrats. The research question this paper seeks to answer is the following: what caused primary school policy to change? Extending over a decade or more, Danish pupils were repeatedly ranked below the international average in comparisons (PISA, IEA) of issues like pupils reading skills. Alongside these international investigations, Danish policymakers were struggling over how to perceive these results and if they were problems and why. The impetus for policy change came as liberals contested the existing policies based on the ideas of progressive education as cause of the policy failure illuminated by the PISA investigations. As proponents of competitive education they pointed to the lack of accountability and argued for the need of measurable targets and tests to monitor development. However, before policies of national tests were adopted a battle of problem definition and subsequently battles of policy solutions were fought with the social democrats which initially adhered to the ideas of progressive education. It is argued that only by knowing the ideas policymakers adhere to can we understand this radical change in primary school policy. Without reference to competitive ideas of education it is not possible to understand how the liberal party Venstre and the social democratic party defied their ideological and historical policy positions.
Main Research Area:
"Ideas, Policy Design and Policy Instruments: Casting Light on the Missing Link", ECPR Joint Sessions, 2010