API-525: Ideas and Interests

Government policies are often said to be determined by powerful vested interests. But where do political actors get their ideas about what’s in their interest? This seminar focuses on ideas of three different kinds – on who we are, how the world works, and what the feasible options are – and analyzes how each shape the formulation of policy interests. We will first develop an analytical framework on the interaction of ideas and interests in policy formulation. The bulk of the course will then focus on cases drawn from different policy domains in advanced and developing societies: regulation, taxation, and the welfare state; economic growth and development; financial, monetary and fiscal policy; international relations and human rights; identity politics and civil wars; and others. We shall ask how policy-relevant ideas originate, how they are disseminated, and what determines when they are politically effective. This is an intensive seminar, in which students will be expected to do a substantial amount of reading every week, prepare weekly writing assignments, make class presentations, and actively participate in class discussions. Prerequisite: API-101Z/102Z , API-109/110, or equivalent economics background.