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The Scientization of Central Banks (Cumulative Thesis)


Ibrocevic,  Edin       
International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Ibrocevic, E. (2024). The Scientization of Central Banks (Cumulative Thesis). PhD Thesis, University of Cologne, Cologne.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000F-1C9A-5
How do state organizations utilize their knowledge production to deal with possible legitimacy concerns? Typically, it is assumed, that such organizations use knowledge, be it scientific or explicit policy expertise, to produce policy outputs. Such outputs then provide legitimacy by producing outcomes beneficial to the environment of these organizations. This conceptualization of organizational behavior, however, does not correspond with other forms of legitimization such as symbolic legitimacy. To overcome this conceptual gap, this dissertation leverages the sociology of knowledge and organizational sociology. It argues, that state agencies utilize different forms of knowledge, explicit policy expertise and abstract science, to produce output legitimacy and symbolic legitimacy respectively. Empirically, this dissertation focuses on central banking as a policy making field. Central banks are ideal cases to generate insights into the relationship between legitimacy concerns and knowledge production, because their organizational position within their polities relies on their policy expertise and, historically, on the production of one outcome: low and stable inflation rates. And yet, central banks, over the last decades have adopted one of the most extremes forms of scientization, an organizational norm dictating an increased production and utilization of scientific knowledge, of any policy making field. Typically, the increased production of science is considered to serve improved policy making, thereby contributing to output legitimacy. This dissertation, however, argues for a more complex perspective, in which central banks partially produce science and policy expertise in an effort to signal their belonging to an organizational field of central banking. Utilizing a range of methods such as ethnography, expert interviews, archival research, quantitative text analysis and social network analysis, this dissertation makes three contribution to sociology: First, it theorizes under which conditions knowledge accumulated for purposes of generating symbolic legitimacy, can be translated into policy expertise used for output legitimacy. Second, it shows that knowledge production within the scientized field of central banking does not become more homogeneous, but rather becomes increasingly clustered into regional forms of knowledge. Third, it shows that central banks are not just passive producers of knowledge within their polities, but rather actively engage and enroll their academic environment into their research activities.