American think tanks and foundations have been significant in key moments of the liberal international order from the First World War to the present. They are symptoms and drivers of domestic and global power shifts, managing change and developing governing concepts. Their power-technology is the ‘elite knowledge network’ in and through which spaces are created for the construction of the boundaries of ‘thinkable’ thought. Elite networks house the core actors at the heart of Gramsci’s ‘hegemonic projects’ which conceptualize and manage imperial power. This chapter outlines the Gramscian case through three instances: the transition from British to American racialized, elitist and imperial-hegemonic power through the roles of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Royal Institute of International Affairs in Paris 1919 and up to 1945; the roles of foundations and think tanks in the transition to post-Cold War ‘democracy promotion’ to replace ‘containment’; and a consideration of the potential and role of the recently-formed Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
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