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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2010

5 - Spreading the Word: The Diffusion of American Conservatism in Europe and Beyond


For decades, conservatives were frustrated by what they believed were international networks of leftist experts who preached and implemented schemes for government expansion. These ideas, “vetted” by authoritative sources, came to dominate the policy alternatives available to national policy makers. Because alternatives were filtered through advocates of an expanded state role, conservatives concluded that policy processes across the Western world – and beyond – were hard-wired for expansion. To reverse this bias, free-market actors with substantial resources and a “missionary spirit” sought to inject their ideas into the domestic politics of other states through investing in indigenous ideological allies' efforts at organization building and a global network to knit them together. By providing seed financing, these international network entrepreneurs hoped to overcome the risk of organizing around ideas that lack strong national roots or well-established, indigenous support networks.

More broadly, these agents have sought to create international social capital by connecting domestic actors to international networks that can provide relationships, organizational templates, sources of funding, examples of reform strategies, and evidence of their ideas' viability. By constructing a web of international social capital and by spurring the creation of organizations within nation-states that then can link to that web, conservative organizational entrepreneurs have reduced the costs of diffusing ideas across national borders. As their network increases in strength, agents at the nation-state level have more leverage to bring their state's behavior in line with their ideological goals.