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Ideological Call to Arms: Analyzing Institutional Contradictions in Political Party Discourse on Education and Accountability Policy, 1952–2012

How Institutions Matter!

ISBN: 978-1-78635-430-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-429-7

Publication date: 15 December 2016


Despite a legacy of research that emphasizes contradictions and their role in explaining change, less is understood about their character or the mechanisms that support them. This gap is especially problematic when making causal claims about the sources of institutional change and our overall conceptions of how institutions matter in social meanings and organizational practices. If we treat contradictions as a persistent societal feature, then a primary analytic task is to distinguish their prevalence from their effects. We address this gap in the context of US electoral discourse and education through an analysis of presidential platforms. We ask how contradictions take hold, persist, and might be observed prior to, or independently of, their strategic use. Through a novel combination of content analysis and computational linguistics, we observe contradictions in qualitative differences in form and quantitative differences in degree. Whereas much work predicts that ideologies produce contradictions between groups, our analysis demonstrates that they actually support convergence in meaning between groups while promoting contradiction within groups.




We would like to thank Richard Arum, Lauren Lowenstein Bauer, Amy Binder, Fay Lomax Cook, Roger Friedland, Daniel Humphrey, Brady Jones, Stefan Kaufmann, Andrea Rorrer, James Rosenbaum, Marc Schneiberg, and James Spillane for comments and feedback on this work. We would also like to thank attendees to the Alberta Institutions Conference. Support for this research came from Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research and the Institute of Education Sciences’ Multidisciplinary Program in Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation [SES 0849036].


Kim, D.H., Colyvas, J.A. and Kim, A.K. (2016), "Ideological Call to Arms: Analyzing Institutional Contradictions in Political Party Discourse on Education and Accountability Policy, 1952–2012", How Institutions Matter! (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 48A), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 329-391.



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