Leonie Holthaus, Jonas Wolff | 2023

Practices of Policy Orientation: A Study of the Heterogeneous Field of Democracy Promotion Research

In: International Studies Review, Volume 25, Issue 1

In this article, we address the question of how policy orientation shapes academic research from a sociological perspective. Policy orientation involves the mobilization of scientific resources and the “mobilization of the world.” Our analysis is based on Bourdieusian field theory and focuses on democracy promotion research (DPR). It shows that DPR is a heterogeneous academic field characterized by the field-specific demand for policy orientation. (Western) Scholars and, particularly, scholar-practitioners occupy central positions, and field-specific practices of policy orientation include stocktaking, evaluation, problem identification, and critical intervention. While we derive these insights from analysis of DPR, our findings are useful for the study of policy orientation in similar academic fields. For the reflexive and systematic analysis of how policy orientation shapes, for example, development studies and human rights research, we suggest a focus on interrelations between academic fields, field-specific struggles, and relationships with the respective policy fields.

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