Transnational Expert-, Consulting- and Lobby/Advocacy-Networks and the Role of Think Tanks


Strong growth of policy related research institutes since the 1990s and growing, increasingly transnational networking of experts and think tanks provide key reasons for the research project. Which  constituencies (in analogy to membership logics in associations) determine these policy institutes and what are the (institutional) logics of influence that leave a strong mark on processes and evolving structures of the transnational think tank networks? Do we experience a new pluralism or do we confront new hierarchies? The contemporary discussion of “post-democratic” circumstances focused on the national polity suggesting less opportunities of democratic participation through traditional political actors (political parties, associations) and institutions (national parliaments). Comparatively little attention has been paid to new types of political actors operating in the limited democratic spaces of the nation state, but also within the expanded realm of postnational democracy in Europe. Apart from an examination of the varieties of participation across borders by a specific combination of firstly experts, secondly consulting and mediating capacities, and thirdly advocacy or lobby groups the research is focused on key questions and impulses of governing in the 21st century: How are impulses generated with regard to the demands of sustainable (social and ecological) development and economic regulation (e.g. of the globalized financial markets or fiscal policy after the global crisis)? What are the preconditions for successful intellectual, political and institutional entrepreneurship in contemporary societies? The project will reconstruct and compare different networks of organizations and individuals in order to answer these questions including successful ecological and market liberal think tank clusters.

Individual projects (co-financed):

New Direction Foundation Project
(2014, supported by Open Society Institute, Brüssel)
Survey and analysis of the Think Tank Network of the European Political Party Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformist Party (founded in 2009).

The „New Europe“ Think Tank Project
(11/2015-05/2016, supported by Think Tank Fund, Budapest)
Survey and analysis of a sample of progressive European think tanks founded in reaction to the financial crisis of 2007/8.

German Business Foundation Project (08-11/2015)
Survey of German  foundations related to corporations that are involved in academic research and policy advice both with regard to substantive contributions (projects and project funding) and with regard to general governance issues (internship Anja Hirsch, Ph.D. student, co-financed by Hans Böckler Foundation).

Main content

Selected Publications

Schlögl, Matthias/Plehwe, Dieter (2015): "Schlagseite programmiert. Eine neue Generation parteiischer Think Tanks in Österreich". In: Kurswechsel - Zeitschrift für gesellschafts-, wirtschafts- und umweltpolitische Alternativen, H. 2, S. 28-43.
Plehwe, Dieter (2014): "Think Tank Networks and the Knowledge-Interest Nexus. The Case of Climate Change". In: Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, S. 101-115.
Fischer, Karin/Plehwe, Dieter (2013): "The 'Pink Tide' and Neoliberal Civil Society Formation. Think Tank Networks in Latin America". In: State of Nature - An Online Journal of Radical Ideas, No. Winter, Special Issue "Welfare and Inequality".
Plehwe, Dieter (2013): "Angriff und 'Roll Back'. Das konstruktive und destruktive Potenzial von Think Tank-Netzwerken". In: Juridikum - Zeitschrift für Kritik, Recht, Gesellschaft, H. 1, Themenheft "Demokratie in der Krise", S. 98-108.
Plehwe, Dieter (2013): "Europäische Krise oder europäische Dimension der Krisen? Amerikanische Perspektiven". In: Das Argument - Zeitschrift für Philosophie und Sozialwissenschaften, Jg. 55, H. 1-2, S. 61-72.
Plehwe, Dieter/Fischer, Karin (2013): "Redes de Think Tanks e intelectuales de derecha en América Latina". In: Nueva sociedad, No. 245, S. 70-86.
Plehwe, Dieter (2012): "Attack and Roll Back. The Constructive and Destructive Potential of Think Tank Networks". In: Global Responsibility - Newsletter of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility, No. 64, S. 10-12.
Plehwe, Dieter (2011): "Transnational Discourse Coalitions and Monetary Policy. Argentina and the Limited Powers of the 'Washington Consensus'". In: Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 5, No. 2, S. 127-148.
Project Management
since 2011
WZB, External funds (2013, 2015/16)
Cooperation partners
Frank Fischer, KIVA Visiting Professor, Technical University of Darmstadt
Matthias Schlögl, Austrian Center for Digital Humanities, Vienna
Werner Krämer, Think Tank Network Research, Essen
Hartwig Pautz, University of West Scotland, Hamilton, UK