Cool historical review of think tank evolution

In: Review

8 May 2013

Just came across the 2012 National Affairs contribution of Tevi Troy, a conservative think tank pundit (affiliations with Hudson and AEI). Troy asks if the evolution of the think tank landscape has been detrimental to the species. He distinguishes between the first generation of university without students, organizations that were by and large devoted to scholarly work no matter the normative bias (of the American Enterprise Institute, for example).  The second generation of advocacy think tanks (like Heritage Foundation) redirected attention to political causes in a much more straight forward and strategic way. The most recent — third generation — of think tanks Troy calls marketing think tanks. If the interest in new political ideas and instruments has already been qualified in the second generation type think tank, the marketing think tank is basically shedding any pretense of “thinking”, or research. Troy’s title is his comment: Davaluing the think tank. Read at

Dieter Plehwe


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Think Tanks have become influential organizations both in expert circles and in public media. Social scientific research on think tanks at the same time has remained underdeveloped, and is not currently up to the task of adequately capturing and explaining the think tank phenomenon. The Think Tank Network Initiative has been founded to meet this challenge and to narrow the gap.

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