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Building Capacity for Alternative Knowledge: The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

William K Carroll, David Huxtable


This article presents a case study of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) – the main left-oriented think tank of national scope in Canada. We first recount the development of the organization from 1980 to present, emphasizing the challenges it has faced in building capacity for alternative knowledge production and mobilization. We next locate the CCPA within its neighborhood of online communicative relations, which comprises a region of the broader political field in which neoliberalism has been hegemonic since the 1980s. Against this hegemony, the CCPA’s project has been to expose the problems of neoliberalism, on the basis of applied research, and to advance a project of social-democratization by engaging with the general public and cultivating counterpublics in civil society. The emancipatory project motivating the CCPA has set it on a trajectory distinct from that of conventional think tanks, whose practices and networks facilitate elite policy-planning in and around the state.


think tanks; alternative knowledge production; alternative knowledge mobilization; counter-hegemony; social democracy; Canada

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