- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190264608
- ISBN-13: 978-0190264604
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
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The Ideas Industry: How Pessimists, Partisans, and Plutocrats are Transforming the Marketplace of Ideas. 1st Edition
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"Drezner is a lively and engaging writer...Throughout the book he is balanced and measured, recognizing that the new era comes with benefits as well as drawbacks." -- Nikita Lalwani and Sam Winter-Levy, Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Daniel Drezner is Professor of International Politics at Tufts University and a regular contributor to the Washington Post. Along with having one of the most heavily trafficked blogs in the world of academia, he is also the author of The System Worked; Theories of International Relations and Zombies; All Politics is Global; and The Sanctions Paradox.
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This is an interesting, easily readable book. It is not a fountain of wisdom on what "should be" however, it is reasonably balanced assessment from an academic. The book inventories sources of policy ideas, in particular focusing on the role of academia as experts. The section on think tanks is interesting, brought back memories, McKinsey both praised and panned. Other think tanks are portrayed positively/negatively (Tetlock’s analyses on accuracy of “experts” for forecasting are incisive … experts less accurate than amateurs … references Superforecasting but "Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?" is the book to get). Drezner explains Heritage Foundation, how it went downhill after DeMint took over moving to ideological instead of pursuit of intellectual rigor in advancement of ideas. He explains that ideological polarization has come to universities however, still advocates professors entering into the public ideas game, being the foxes in the Berlin parable in contrast to TED talkers and idea evangelists who are hedgehogs capably pushing their one idea (Tetlock offers detailed histories and data for how the hedgehogs fail, fixated on the one thing they are "experts").
A example from my past of pushing the 1 big idea is a professor turned consultant pushing a "new" methodology, actually a warmed over version of Porter’s work, new packaging. It was obvious he had no idea how to operationalize it, learning from his clients, not an uncommon consultant practice. Some of the orthodoxy was unusable but company staff plugged on, doing what they were told. This was during the heady days of mid 1990's re-engineering and "revolutionary" management thinking. Reading this book brought back the memory of evangelism triumphing over common sense.
Among other things, this is a survey of how new ideas on public policy are brought forth. Denzer goes on to describe major policy "thought leader types", with significant criticisms surrounding each. Then he launches into an exposition on whether the ideas industry “works”. There is a discussion of the business side, more detailed on Clayton Christensen and the theory of disruption ... including how “disruption” hit a pothole with criticisms about whether it was well founded and its (in)applicability outside of business.
Second last short chapter is on tweeting, retweeting, online debates. Interesting anecdotes, not insights you can use. Last one is a recap of views found throughout the book. The book is readable because filled with real stories to illustrate points, sometimes more than needed, entertaining throughout.
It's worth your time but don't look for anything you can put to immediate use.
The Ideas Industry is not as funny but it is even more insightful. I write it as someone who is on the fringes of the world he writes about and, at times, hopes to be closer to its center. After reading this thought provoking book, I'm happier being on the fringes.
Drezner does a terrific job of outlining the way organizations like AEI, Brookings, and the Carnegie Endowment work (all of which I can see out my office window). He also does a terrific job of laying out the strengths and weaknesses of what he calls public intellectuals and thought leaders.
I really recommend the book, first, because I don't agree with all of his conclusions, especially his criticisms of "disruptive" thought leaders like Clayton Christensen. However--and this is the key--he made me think. Here, in particular, he talks about the so-called Overton Window that essentially defines what the ideas industry and the rest of us think should be at the heart of the public policy debate. He opened mine a bit more.
I really recommend it, second, because of the last chapter. Rarely do last chapters of books add much. This one does. It has much of the wit I found in zombies and, more importantly, a lot more self-reflection and self-awareness than one normally finds in books by or about the ideas industry. And, he draws heavily on one of my favorite books that he also takes very seriously, Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong.
I've never met Drezner, but I hope to so he can talk about zombies with my grandson, and he and I can have fun discussing being wrong. I'm not sure which conversation will be more fun.