Research Programme 4

Power and Ideas

The Power and Ideas Research Programme seeks to explain and understand phenomena and processes concerning power and ideas, as well as the links between power and ideas across the globe – that is, at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

Power is a complex and contested concept. It can be understood as the production of effects that shape the capacity of actors to determine their own futures – within and through social relations. Such effects rest on material and ideational foundations and are context-dependent. Power can be expressed through an actor’s behaviour and during interactions in which that power can be contested. Power affects both the capacities and the identities of actors. Ideas arguably define which actions are deemed (im)possible and/or (un)desirable.

Ideas, as they are manifested in world views, normative convictions, and beliefs about causality, thus matter in global politics, but not all ideas matter equally. Demand for new ideas is especially high when power relations are fluid, when new powerful actors enter the scene, and when strategies are unclear or lack consensus. Whether ideas have an impact depends, in large part, on socially constructed and mediated power relations and the institutional embedding of ideas in rules and norms. Power wielders and powerful states can spread ideas and also seek to embed them institutionally. Ideas can, in turn, impact power relations and structures by buttressing or constraining them. Ideas can provide intellectual road maps and behavioural guideposts for power wielders and powerful states. Powerful new ideas may lead to changes in the very constitution of relevant actors and the interests they pursue.

Dr. Miriam Prys-Hansen

Head of RP 4
Lead Research Fellow

Selected Publications

Nicola Nymalm / Johannes Plagemann

Comparative Exceptionalism: Universality and Particularity in Foreign Policy Discourses

International Studies Review, 21, 2019, 1, 12–37

Patrick Köllner / Xufeng Zhu

Understanding the Development of Think Tanks in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Japan: Special Issue

Pacific Affairs, 91, 2018, 1 / Special Issue (guest editors)

Sandra Destradi

Reluctance in international politics: A conceptualization

European Journal of International Relations, 23, 2017, 2, 315-340