Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Book Review: The National Origins of Policy Ideas: Knowledge Regimes in the United States, France, Germany and Denmark and International Development: Ideas, Experience and Prospects

The National Origins of Policy Ideas: Knowledge Regimes in the United States, France, Germany and Denmark by John L. Campbell, Ove K. Pedersen Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014. 401pp., £19.95 (p/b), ISBN 9789780691161167
International Development: Ideas, Experience and Prospects by Bruce Currie-Alder, Ravi Kanbur, David M. Malone, Rohinton Medhora (eds). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 943pp., £39.99 (p/b), ISBN 9780199671663
    1. Sojin Shin
    1. National University of Singapore
    In The National Origins of Policy Ideas, John Campbell and Ove Pedersen pose a central question on the role of ideas in public policy making. The authors focus on ‘knowledge regimes’ – particularly research organisations from which policy ideas are generated – by considering the concept of regime type that can either enable or constrain the activities of such organisations through governance (p. 30). The authors have selected four cases – the United States, France, Germany and Denmark – in which they define the types of knowledge regime as competitive, statist, coordinated and negotiated, respectively.
    The United States shows the most competitive structure of knowledge regime because research organisations are substantially funded by the private sector. Due to this, competition for securing financial resources among policy research organisations in the United States is very high. In addition, the proliferation of such research organisations not only encourages aggressive competition but also affects American politics since the research organisations span the ideological spectrum. At the same time, political partisanship, which has become extremely polarised since the mid-1990s, has brought the ‘crisis of partisanship’ in the structure of knowledge regime (pp. 69–74).
    The knowledge regime in France presents a more ambiguous nature (p. 85). This is because dirigisme, which represented central state-led economic development in particular for several decades after the Second World War, was significantly influenced by globalisation in the 1980s. The French state lost its capacity to control firms and French firms had to lean on foreign equity markets. At the same time, the state fostered a diverse set of policy research organisations. However, this resulted in a ‘crisis of ideas’ situation where the state’s policy research organisations failed to provide helpful advice for stagflation and other problems.
    The knowledge regime in Germany shows a coordinated nature between the state and civil society, similar to its production regime, which is operated by tripartite corporatist bargaining between the state, unions and employer associations. Therefore, ‘a hallmark of German corporatism is the deal cut between the state and corporatist organizations like unions and employer associations’ (p. 169).
    Finally, the knowledge regime in Denmark is oriented towards ‘compromise and consensus’ because many research organisations involve negotiation with the state and society(p. 172). In terms of such cooperation, the Danish system is similar to the German knowledge regime. Also, the Danish knowledge regime resembles its counterpart in France, in the sense that the central state substantially coordinates the activities of research organisations. However, globalisation has weakened the political ideologies in both left- and right-wing parties because the parties could not simply respond to the uncertainty and problems of the market based on their ideologies. The authors call this ‘a crisis of political ideology’. However, the crisis of political ideology, in turn, seems to enhance persuasion and consensus among research organisations, although competition increases at the same time. Despite the differences between the four types of knowledge regime, the authors conclude that there is ‘no best regime’ (p. 329).
    In International Development, Bruce Currie-Alder et al. explore how the idea of ‘development’ has changed and transferred into practice over time in different regions of the world. A central question for the authors in this book is what development is. The authors maintain that recent thinking on development deals with the particular local, historical and institutional context rather than grand theories. They point out that ‘the fundamental question is increasingly how to manage the fruits of economic growth as a means to achieve development by investing in health and education, providing safety nets and social protection, and enriching democracy and other dimensions of governance’ (p. 7).
    The book consists of three parts across 52 articles. The first part discusses critical issues in development theories. For example, it examines problems between growth and inequality; states and markets. The second part focuses on important concepts and theories in relation to state and society, peace and security, the environment and health, and innovation and technology. The third part deals with the differing experiences of various countries in Asia and Africa and discusses the influence of those institutions which have a role in shaping ideas on development, such as the state, civil society and multilateral institutions.
    Despite the variety of development outcomes in these regions, the book’s authors conclude that there has been tremendous progress on all dimensions of well-being for the past 50 years since ‘incomes have risen, poverty has fallen, health and education have improved for men and women’ (p. 899). For example, East and Southeast Asia, China and India have especially shown substantial progress, although India and China still need to tackle the problems of regional imbalance in many issues of development. Interestingly, the authors point out that the role of women and ethnic group–based identities have recently become more important in policy making, as civil society has been considered within conventional debates on development, in which the state and market used to be the main subjects discussed.

    Both books will be helpful for those who would like to learn not only about the different schools of development theory that have evolved over time but also about the empirical evidence in various regions through a comparative perspective. The books will be of great interest to students in public policy, governance and area studies in particular.