Modern Political Science: Anglo-American Exchanges since 1880

Modern Political Science: Anglo-American Exchanges since 1880

NOOK BookCourse Book (eBook - Course Book)

$24.49 $39.95 Save 39% Current price is $24.49, Original price is $39.95. You Save 39%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


Since emerging in the late nineteenth century, political science has undergone a radical shift--from constructing grand narratives of national political development to producing empirical studies of individual political phenomena. What caused this change? Modern Political Science--the first authoritative history of Anglophone political science--argues that the field's transformation shouldn't be mistaken for a case of simple progress and increasing scientific precision. On the contrary, the book shows that political science is deeply historically contingent, driven both by its own inherited ideas and by the wider history in which it has developed.

Focusing on the United States and the United Kingdom, and the exchanges between them, Modern Political Science contains contributions from leading political scientists, political theorists, and intellectual historians from both sides of the Atlantic. Together they provide a compelling account of the development of political science, its relation to other disciplines, the problems it currently faces, and possible solutions to these problems.

Building on a growing interest in the history of political science, Modern Political Science is necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand how political science got to be what it is today--or what it might look like tomorrow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400827763
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 01/10/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 392
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Robert Adcock is a visiting lecturer in political science at Stanford University. Mark Bevir and Shannon C. Stimson are professors of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read an Excerpt

Modern Political Science

Anglo-American Exchanges Since 1880

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2007 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

Chapter One

A History of Political Science: How? What? Why?


BRITISH AND AMERICAN political scientists recently have shown an unusual degree of interest in the history of their discipline. The dawn of a new millennium prompted leading figures in the British study of politics to reflect on their past and to situate themselves in relation to it. In America, work on the history of political science has appeared off and on for some time, but the last decade has witnessed a positive flourishing of such studies. These studies include some in which luminaries in the discipline look back on their teachers and predecessors. They also include a distinct subgenre of historical studies written from within the discipline, but by scholars outside its limelight. The past of political science has attracted further attention recently from intellectual historians outside of the discipline in both Britain and America. Modern Political Science brings together political scientists and intellectual historians from both sides of the Atlantic to pursue a comparative and transnational account of the development of political inquiry in Britain and America since the late-nineteenth century. In doing so, it not only explores "what" happened in the history of political science, it also embodies a distinctive analysis of "how" and "why" we mightstudy this history.

The recent attention given to the history of political science is both the temporal companion to and in some tension with the avowedly historical approaches that are increasingly popular within political science itself. For several decades now, as we discuss more fully in chapter 12, various neostatists and institutionalists have presented themselves as offering a historically sensitive alternative to the formalist excesses of certain variants of behavioralism or, more recently, of rational choice theory. While Modern Political Science shares these scholars' concern to understand the present in light of the past that produced it, beyond this rather generic overlap parallels give way to significant differences of approach. Indeed, this volume is, in part, motivated by a worry that avowedly historical approaches in contemporary political science run the risk of naturalizing one particular conception of historical inquiry by proceeding as if their own way of distinguishing "historical" from "ahistorical" studies was obvious and uncontested. Even worse, these approaches can appear to be adopting this conception simply for their own polemical purposes, without the aid of extended reflection upon the practice and purpose of historical inquiry and its relation to social science. Modern Political Science attempts, then, to locate the self-described "historical institutionalism" as a contingent, recently emergent approach that is but one of multiple ways of bringing the past to bear on the study of politics. More generally, it attempts to recall the plurality and range of approaches to the past that have, at one time or another, claimed the loyalty of political scientists in Britain and America.

How to Study the History of Political Science

Modern Political Science draws on developments within the history of ideas that have transformed the ways in which we might think about disciplinary history. It is indebted to a radical historicism that stands in contrast to the naturalizing perspective from which political scientists commonly view their discipline and its past. The naturalizing perspective understands political science as constituted by a pregiven empirical domain-politics-and a shared intellectual agenda, to make this domain the object of a cumulative and instrumentally useful science. It thus encourages a retrospective vision that focuses, first, on the establishment of an autonomous discipline, free from the clutches of history, law, and philosophy, and, second, on charting progress made in the subsequent development of that discipline.

Radical historicism, in contrast, has made intellectual historians and political theorists wary of postulating a given empirical domain or a shared intellectual agenda as the defining feature of any putative discipline. It has turned the constitution of a discipline from an assumption or a fulfillment into a problem. "Disciplines are unstable compounds," as Stefan Collini recently put it, for "what is called a 'discipline' is in fact a complex set of practices, whose unity, such as it is, is given as much by historical accident and institutional convenience as by a coherent intellectual rationale." The creation of an apparently given empirical domain and shared intellectual agenda thus appears as the contingent victory of particular intellectual traditions, where these traditions legitimate themselves precisely by telling the history of the discipline as if their own assumptions were unproblematic. For radical historicists, the history of political science might unpack the contingent origins of dominant traditions, recover alternative traditions that get left out of other histories, or question the naturalizing histories by which practitioners of a discipline legitimate their own approaches as contributing to progress in the study of politics. Such radical historicist endeavors do not seek to invert naturalizing narratives of intellectual progress into despairing narratives of stagnation or decline. Rather, they typically aspire to interpret the history of political science in ways that bypass the narrative options of progress, stagnation, or decline.

The radical historicism that informs Modern Political Science belongs within a tradition that has played a recurring role in the human sciences during the twentieth century. This tradition arose as a distinctive perspective following on a heightening of the concern with context and change that characterizes historicism more generally. Where the developmental form of historicism prevalent in the nineteenth century sought to bring particular contexts and changes together as parts of a larger historical whole, radical historicists worry that such synthetic efforts tame the contingency of human history: they are cautious of framing particular historical developments in relation to any overarching category, let alone of framing them in terms of an apparently natural or progressive movement. Radical historicists thus break with those grand narratives, often reminiscent of a notion of providence, by which developmental historicists seek to reconcile an attention to change and context with a desire to locate particular developments in a meaningful and progressive whole.

Radical historicism's wariness toward overarching categories and grand narratives raises the question: What sort of aggregate concepts, if any, should we use when studying the past? It draws our attention, in particular, to the dangers of an excessive focus on the idea of a discipline. Disciplinary histories here risk privileging the category of the discipline as if its institutional presence-the American Political Science Association or membership of departments of Political Science-demarcates boundaries to the flow of ideas or explains the ways in which ideas have developed within such boundaries. In contrast, radical historicism encourages us to disaggregate the institutions of a discipline and thereby to portray them as the contingent products of debates that often include ideas that have come from other disciplines. It encourages us, we would suggest, to deploy traditions as our aggregate concepts, allowing that while these traditions might parallel the institutions of a discipline, they also might parallel the contours of specific subfields or cut across disciplinary and subdisciplinary boundaries. Radical historicism also casts doubt on accounts of disciplinary change that concentrate on debates about objects or topics that appear to be given outside of the context of any tradition and of which scholars can be said to be acquiring better and better knowledge. It encourages us, instead, to understand traditions as changing as and when their exponents respond to intersubjective dilemmas that arise within the context of those particular traditions.

Modern Political Science thus employs concepts such as tradition and dilemma to demarcate its aggregate units. Radical historicists conceive of beliefs as contingent in that people reach them against the background of a particular intellectual inheritance, rather than by means of pure reason or pure experience. We thus need a concept akin to tradition in order to demarcate the background that helps to explain how people reach the beliefs they do. Of course, other related concepts can do much the same work-language, discourse, and so on. While the particular word we use is of little importance, there is, at times, a substantive issue at stake. Structuralists, and some of those influenced by them, adopt one version of the argument that people can only form beliefs and so act against the background of a social inheritance; they use concepts such as language and discourse in part to indicate that inherited modes of thought fix beliefs and actions in ways that sharply limit the possibility of human agency. It appears to us, in contrast, that such concepts rely on a false dichotomy between structures or quasi structures and the notion of an autonomous self: after all, we can reject autonomy, insisting that actors always are embedded in social contexts, and still accept agency, arguing that they can modify these contexts for reasons they form against the background of such contexts. Our preference for the word tradition thus represents a self-conscious attempt to allow for agency by viewing social inheritances as only ever influencing, as opposed to fixing, the beliefs and actions that individuals go on to hold and to perform. People inherit traditions that they then develop or transform before passing them on to others.

When we invoke abstract concepts such as tradition, discourse, or language, we raise the question, How should we analyze change within them? Concepts such as dilemma or problem suggest that change occurs as agents seek to respond to novel circumstances using the resources of the traditions they have inherited. A dilemma arises when a new idea stands in opposition to existing beliefs and so forces a reconsideration of them leading to at least somewhat new beliefs, and so typically inspiring at least slightly different actions and practices. While dilemmas can derive from theoretical and moral reflection, it is useful to recall that they often arise from our experiences of the world. Thus, although we cannot straightforwardly associate them with social, economic, or political pressures in the "real" world, we can link intellectual history to social, economic, and political history. Ideas, beliefs, traditions, and dilemmas are profoundly impacted upon by our competing experiences of the world about us.

Because the essays in Modern Political Science operate at a range of levels of aggregation, pursuing differing mixes of descriptive and explanatory goals, the traditions and dilemmas they invoke vary in scope from broad characterizations of widespread patterns of thought, such as developmental historicism, to narrower depictions of networks of scholars, such as historical institutionalism. Whatever the scope of the traditions and dilemmas invoked, radical historicists should be wary of attempts to equate them with a fixed core and a penumbra that then varies over time, for doing so postulates an allegedly given content or trajectory in much the same way as do naturalizing narratives. Instead, we might think of an undifferentiated social context of crisscrossing interactions, rather than a series of discrete and identifiable traditions or dilemmas. Historians then slice a particular tradition or dilemma out of this undifferentiated background so as to explain whatever set of beliefs, actions, or practices interests them. In this view, traditions and dilemmas are aggregate concepts that are crafted by historians to suit their particular purposes; they should not be mistaken for given chunks of the past as if they were fixed in the past so that they and they alone were part of an adequate history, nor should they be mistaken for structures of thought that fix the diversity and capacities for change of the individuals located under them. The criteria for deploying the concept of a tradition, and for identifying the content of particular accounts of traditions, are thus expected to vary with the purposes of the narrative being told. When the purpose is to offer a historical explanation of specific developments in a particular context, for example, the criteria for membership will need to be grounded in the conceptual and personal links between specific individuals.

Once we have shifted attention from a reified discipline to traditions and problems that we craft for our own purposes, we then might proceed to reconsider the place of national and transnational themes in the history of political science. At times, earlier historiographies have characterized political thought as cosmopolitan or universal in character, as if it comprised a set of political ideas addressed to perennial philosophical problems or to scientific empirical truths possessed of a universal validity. Radical historicism queries any such characterization by emphasizing that particular beliefs are always embedded in wider webs of belief and traditions, which are themselves contingent and historical. Political thought appears, in this view, as an activity by which people make their future out of their past: political actors inherit a tradition or a set of ideas that they then can modify, perhaps through abstract and conscious reflection or perhaps through unreflective action; when they modify their inheritance so as to act in new ways, they thereby remake the world. The history of political ideas is thus, at least in part, the study of the activity by which people collectively make and remake their communities. What is more, because the nation-state has been a leading expression of community in the modern world, it can be helpful to situate much political thought within the context of loosely national traditions of inquiry. Modern Political Science thus focuses on the way in which particular traditions of political science have flourished and developed in two nations: Britain and America.

At other times, earlier histories of political science have had a predominantly national orientation. Naturalizing narratives can lead to a focus on the institutions that are supposed to be the telos of the emergence of an autonomous profession, and since these institutions are generally national in scope, the result can be a history of a putative "British study of politics" or "American science of politics." Likewise, widespread assumptions about the exceptionalism of Britain and America have obscured, for historians of each, the transatlantic exchanges that have informed the development of their traditions of inquiry. Radical historicism queries such purely national histories insofar as it prompts us to look skeptically upon any straightforward equation of traditions with institutional boundaries. While political thought is an activity by which people make the future out of their past, the relevant actors need not know any particular institutional or national boundary. On the contrary, political discussions take place in a variety of overlapping networks, many of which are transnational; institutions are just the contingent and changeable products of actions that embody competing views (reached through such discussions), of the ways in which we ought to maintain or to transform our communities. National influences are thus not the only ones, nor necessarily even the most important ones, upon the character of political science. By pursuing transnational exchanges, historians can query what otherwise might appear to be purely national debates and institutions. Modern Political Science thus combines chapters that focus on Britain or America with others that study the transnational flow of ideas between the two.

What Happened in the History of Political Science

Radical historicism leads to narratives of the history of political science that explore interacting traditions as their adherents remake and transform them, often in response to specific dilemmas or problems. The following essays provide narratives of the emergence, development, and transformation of Modern Political Science in Britain and the United States. They do so, moreover, by locating various approaches to political science in relation both to national traditions and transnational exchanges.


Excerpted from Modern Political Science Copyright © 2007 by Princeton University Press . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

List of Contributors ix

Chapter One: A History of Political Science: How? What? Why? Robert Adcock, Mark Bevir, and Shannon C. Stimson 1
Chapter Two: Anglo-American Political Science, 1880-1920 Dorothy Ross 18
Chapter Three: The Origins of a Historical Political Science in Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain Sandra M. den Otter 37
Chapter Four: The Historical Science(s) of Politics: The Principles, Association, and Fate of an American Discipline James Farr 66
Chapter Five: The Emergence of an Embryonic Discipline: British Politics without Political Scientists Dennis Kavanagh 97
Chapter Six: A Tale of Two Charlies: Political Science, History, and Civic Reform, 1890-1940 Mark C. Smith 118
Chapter Seven: Making Democracy Safe for the World: Political Science between the Wars John G. Gunnell 137
Chapter Eight: Birth of a Discipline: Interpreting British Political Studies in the 1950s and 1960s Michael Kenny 158
Chapter Nine: Interpreting Behavioralism Robert Adcock 180
Chapter Ten: The Remaking of Political Theory Robert Adcock and Mark Bevir 209
Chapter Eleven: Traditions of Political Science in Contemporary Britain Mark Bevir and R.A.W. Rhodes 234
Chapter Twelve: Historicizing the New Institutionalism(s) Robert Adcock, Mark Bevir, and Shannon C. Stimson 259
Chapter Thirteen: Institutionalism and the Third Way Mark Bevir 290
Bibliography 313
Index 349

What People are Saying About This


There is a social democratic politics that has been connected at various times, and on both sides of the Atlantic, with the radical historicism advocated by this book. While both the politics and philosophy have been out of fashion for much of the last two decades, they have not been without distinguished champions. I hope that the contributors to this book succeed in returning such ideas to the center of academic—and political—debate for the twenty-first century.
James T. Kloppenberg, Harvard University

Terence Ball

Modern Political Science makes a novel and valuable contribution to the disciplinary history of political science by comparing American and British approaches to the 'scientific' study of politics. The essays succeed admirably in advancing our knowledge of the emergence of political science as a distinct discipline.
Terence Ball, Arizona State University

From the Publisher

"Modern Political Science makes a novel and valuable contribution to the disciplinary history of political science by comparing American and British approaches to the 'scientific' study of politics. The essays succeed admirably in advancing our knowledge of the emergence of political science as a distinct discipline."—Terence Ball, Arizona State University

Customer Reviews