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International Trade and Political Institutions

Instituting Trade in the Long Nineteenth Century

Fiona McGillivay, Iain McLean, Robert Pahre and Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey

International Trade and Political Institutions broadens the public choice theory of trade politics to allow for the study of ideas and institutions within a longer time horizon. The authors use theoretically rigorous historical analysis of international political economy and four important case studies to help untangle the role of ideology, institutions and interests. This illuminating book connects the fields of economics, political economy and history to shed new light on trade theory.
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Chapter 5: The Strategic Use of Ideas: Nationalizing the Interest in the Nineteenth Century

Fiona McGillivay, Iain McLean, Robert Pahre and Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey


Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey 1. INTRODUCTION Politics is about choices and choices are about preferences. But, oddly enough, political scientists rarely question the genesis of preferences. Having borrowed heavily from economic theory, rational choice-oriented political science considers preferences to be intuitively self-evident. But are they? Few would disagree that economic interests are central to explaining preferences, yet several authors have started to identify the limitations of theories of political behaviour that rely solely on economic interests. Ideas and ideology are beginning to capture the attention of authors who are dissatisfied with the sometimes sterile and mechanistic framework of rational choice political science.1 But if rational choice can be accused of being sterile and mechanistic, so too can the ideas literature be criticized as woolly and unscientific. For those who accept the broader and less controversial proposition that interests and ideas (in some combination) determine preferences, the challenge of dissecting their respective influences is formidable. This study takes a small step in that direction by focusing on how interest groups use ideas to pursue policy objectives. I argue that some interest groups are able to nationalize their interest – that is, they use ideas or ideologies to gain support for their policy objective (support that is not available from interests alone).2 Interests-based approaches such as pluralism, public choice and élite theory all purport to explain why some groups are more successful than others in shaping public policy. For pluralists, larger groups are likely to enjoy greater success than smaller groups....

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