Spring – 2021
Course Website: http://internationalstudiesandsociology.blogspot.com/
Instructor: Tugrul Keskin
Office: College of Liberal Arts
“I know where a lot of them [the elite or elitists] live. Where's that? Well, in our nation's capital and New York City. I've seen it. I've lived there.” ― John McCain (An American politician and military officer, who served as a United States senator for Arizona from January 1987 to 2018)
Of the many influences on the US foreign policy formulation, the role of think tanks is among the most important and appreciated. - Richard N. Haass (The current president of CFR and a former Director of Policy and Planning - U.S. Department of State)
Course Description and Objective:
In this course, we will examine the emergence and development of think tanks from a comparative perspective. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the concept of the modern state emerged out of the growth of capitalism and industrialization and led to the creation of a complex bureaucracy and an interconnected social, political and economic environment within the global political arena. However, WWI and II gave birth to the UN (originally the League of Nations) as a venue for negotiation between nation-states in the international arena in order to prevent political conflicts.
Particularly after the 1929 economic crisis, and the move from Keynesian capitalism to the neoliberal era in the second half of the 20th century, we started to see the materialization of political institutions above and beyond the state bureaucracy. The result was the Washington Consensus, which created the World Bank and the IMF. Over the next half-century, the world economic community was dominated by the policies of these institutions. In the 1950s, we also saw the birth of the European Union as a new political actor within world politics. This led to the rise of regional economic, political and cultural competition over economic resources.
Think tanks (semi-governmental institutions) are the other important economic and political actors within and between the modern nation-state. We will review the concept of the nation-state in this class. The emergence of think tanks or policy institutes dates back to the time of imperial Britain. These institutions were affiliated with security studies at the beginning stages of their emergence because they support the colonial dream of imperialism; however, this has changed slightly with the establishment of American think tanks and the rise of the US as a global power. Hence, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910), the Brookings Institute (1916), the Hoover Institution (1919), The Century Foundation (1919), the Council on Foreign Relations (1921) and the Rand Corporation (1946) were all founded in the first half of the 20th century. They were, and still are affiliated with the security establishment of the US. However, these organizations started to play a more effective role within domestic politics in the second half of the 20th century, because of the rise of the neoliberal economy. Less Keynesianism in the modern American Economy led to an increase in the power and number of these policy-oriented institutions, and they expanded to the social and economic field within the US. As a result, the Heritage Foundation (1973) and Cato Institute (1974) were established. However, the power of think tanks did not become apparent until the first half of the 1980s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, think tank politics began to dominate the American political landscape inside the beltway, taking on issues like drug policy to immigration, foreign policy and health care. This power led to considerable attention from American corporations. As a result of this trend, many more think tanks were established, and some changed their structures to collaborate with and meet the needs of corporations. Private funding has poured into these policy institutions ever since, and the term, ‘inside the beltway politics,’ coined in the 1980s and popularized in the 1990s, describes these circumstances. Today, the power and role of think tanks cannot be ignored, and should be studied academically from the standpoint of their origins, particularly their domestic and now international political usage.
We will also study the emergence, development and role of think-tanks in China, UK, Germany, Turkey, Israel, Australia and think-tanks in Latin America and Africa.