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The niche of think tanks in a consensus – seeking and neo-corporatist policy advisory system

In this article, Bert Fraussen and Valérie Pattyn theoretically contribute to the existing literature on policy advice by drawing inspiration from niche theory, and empirically complement previous work by focusing on think tanks in Belgium.

Bert Fraussen, Valérie Pattyn
09 November 2023
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While think tanks are no longer solely a feature of Anglo-Saxon countries, they still appear less prevalent in consensus-oriented and neo-corporatist political regimes. To what extent do central characteristics of these countries shape the organisational characteristics and political activities of think tanks?

Relying on a combination of data sources, the analysis of Bert Fraussen and Valérie Pattyn highlights three central features of think tanks: (1) the long-term and anticipatory character of their policy advice, (2) the evidence-based nature of their policy work, and (3) their consensus-oriented mode of operating. The first two features echo what earlier studies in pluralist setting identified as key distinguishing characteristics. The third feature, their consensus-oriented mode of operating, represents a new element that turns out critical for understanding the niche of think tanks in Belgium. Its consensus-style tradition shows not only in how think tanks position themselves externally, but also in their internal organisational structure.

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