Political economy and ideational analysis: towards a political theory of agency

My working paper for BISA’s IPE Group on the place of ideational analysis within political economy.
This paper discusses the place of ideational analysis within political science, with particular reference to our ability to explain agency. It argues that political economy contains a materialist bias, and as such endorses the ontological position – that is, quintessentially, theory of causation – inherent in Colin Hay’s so-called constructivist institutionalism, and to a lesser extent Robert Cox’s ‘historical structures’ approach. However, following discussion of a range of attempts to elevate the status of ideational analysis within political economy – including constructivism more generally – it will examine the work of political theorist Michael Freeden. Freeden’s innovative approach to the study of ideologies and ideological change provides a methodology for ideational analysis sensitive to both the material and ideational contexts of ideological change/formation, and the role of agents in promoting particular ideas. His methodology is therefore ideally suited to bridging the gap
between political theory and political economy (or political science in general), which is necessary if the materialist bias is to be fully overcome.
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