Understanding the Role of Ideas in Policy-Making: The Case of Germany’s Domestic Policy Formation on European Monetary Affairs

Lukas Molthof

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This research aims to provide a better understanding of the role of ideas in the policy process by not only examining whether, how, and to what extent ideas inform policy outcomes but also by examining how ideas might simultaneously be used by political actors as strategic discursive resources. Traditionally, the literature has treated ideas – be it implicitly or explicitly – either as beliefs, internal to the individual and therefore without instrumental value, or as rhetorical weapons, with little independent causal influence on the policy process. In this research it is suggested that ideas exist as both cognitive and discursive constructs and that ideas simultaneously play a causal and instrumental role. Through a process tracing analysis of Germany’s policy on European monetary affairs in the period between 1988 and 2015, the research investigates how policymakers are influenced by and make use of ideas. Using five longitudinal sub-case studies, the research demonstrates how ordoliberal, (new-)Keynesian, and pro-integrationist ideas have importantly shaped the trajectory of Germany’s policy on European monetary affairs and have simultaneously been used by policymakers to advance strategic interests. By empirically examining the dual and simultaneous role ideas play in the policy process, and by demonstrating that agents are both informed by and make use of their ideational environment, this research aims to make an original contribution to the literature and to strengthen the basis for a promising ‘strategic constructivist’ research agenda.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Miskimmon, Alister, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017


  • ideas
  • strategic constructivism
  • Germany
  • eurozone
  • euro crisis
  • ordoliberalism
  • pro-integrationism

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