“Public Policy is Like Having a Vaudeville Act”: Languages of Duty and Difference among Think Tank-Affiliated Policy Experts
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-010-9166-9
This research note uses in-depth interviews, ethnographic observations, and archival records to examine the self-understandings of think tank-affiliated policy experts. I argue that policy experts draw on a series of idioms—those of the academic scholar, the political aide, the entrepreneur, and the media specialist—to construct a unique albeit synthetic professional identity. The essence of the policy expert’s role lies in a continuous effort to balance and reconcile the contradictory imperatives associated with these idioms. An analysis of the policy expert’s mixed “professional psyche” offers a useful point of entry into the objective social structure of the think tank.