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Unpacking ambiguity in ideational change: the polysemy of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’

Cino Pagliarello, M; (2021) Unpacking ambiguity in ideational change: the polysemy of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’. West European Politics 10.1080/01402382.2021.1918429.

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Abstract

What is ambiguity, and why does it matter in policy change? Often treated as an exogenous factor, the ambiguity of ideas has been considered a taken for granted entity instrumental to actors’ strategic action. Less attention has been devoted to elucidating the nature and drivers of ambiguity in the policy process. Building on the concept of ‘boundary objects’, originally developed within the sociology of science, this article identifies polysemy as one explanatory factor through which multiple and contradictory meanings are shared across a constellation of different actors. Empirically, the article examines how the idea of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’ in European education policy was first rejected in the mid-1990s and then adopted only a few years later thanks to its polysemy. By ‘objectifying’ an idea into a boundary object, polysemy can thus create entry or exit options in the institutional arena by legitimising actors’ cooperation and enabling (policy) entrepreneurship.

Type: Article
Title: Unpacking ambiguity in ideational change: the polysemy of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’
DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2021.1918429
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2021.1918429
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: ideas, ambiguity, polysemy, knowledge economy, education, European Union
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10130636
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