Article

Why and How Ideas Matter

Dietrich Rueschemeyer

in The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780199270439
Published online September 2009 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199270439.003.0012

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

 Why and How Ideas Matter

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  • Comparative Politics
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This article describes why and how ideas matter in political analysis. It explains that though the importance of ideas in politics is beyond question, its importance compared to other factors shaping social processes has been a matter of debate throughout the history of social thought. It suggests that the importance of ideas in society and history can be found in fundamental reflections on human social action. The doubts on the importance of ideas may be attributed to the fact their effect seems mediated by the way they are embedded in organizations and institutions. This embedding serves as a selection mechanism and the very content of ideas is partially shaped by these forms of social grounding and support. This article also suggests that ideas may be cognitive in character, can have normative nature, and can influence people's preferences.

Keywords: ideas; political analysis; social processes; social thought; selection mechanism; people's preferences

Article.  11570 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Theory

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