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CITAP celebrates the release of Power in Ideas, by Kirsten Adams and Daniel Kreiss. The book offers three case studies on how ideas emerge, acquire legitimacy, travel across fields, and ultimately become powerful in political communication. They trace the histories of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s case for reparations, Mark Zuckerberg’s definition of free expression, and universal basic income policy to understand the role of ideas in public discourse.

The project began as an attempt to understand and explain the importance of Coates’s work:

We could not explain Coates’s essay and its influence if we reduced reparations to a frame, although that concept was crucial to elucidating the dynamics of the subsequent debate over reparations. Even more, the Coates essay was compelling because it fundamentally addressed the question of racial justice, with the Black Lives Matter movement clearly shaping the context for the reception of the idea of reparations while forcing a long overdue racial reckoning for America, which was made clear during the 2020 presidential race. As such, this case presents the history of reparations as an old idea on the margins of American political discourse that was given new life through Coates’s essay, shifts in the political field, a social movement for racial justice, and the discursive opportunities provided by electoral politics. Taken together, all of this made reparations a compelling case for us both theoretically and substantively.

Adams and Kreiss draw on interpretative, quantitative, and computational methods and propose a new framework for studying ideas in political communications.

Power in Ideas is part of the Elements in Politics and Communication series. Cambridge University Press is making the full text available for free download through April 29.

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