20 October 2009

Political Science?

"I have to ask, why on earth we should expect the sciences
to have anything
more than a family resemblance to one
another? They all share a common
heritage, in that they
owe allegiance to a minimum of empiricism (the 'put

questions to nature'; they are conducted in a fallibilistic
spirit; and so on);
they frequently depend on very
careful observation and/or
experimentation ... ; and
they interact strongly with other disciplines
to be 'sciences.' But there is no set of 'essential' properties
that all the sciences have in common."~ Hilary Putnam

It has been a month in the news for my discipline of political science. Look here and here. Yesterday, the media attention continued with this story in The New York Times. Of course, the basic issue - what would it mean to talk sensibly about political science - remains as ill-conceived as ever. My colleagues ramble on and on about the "scientific method" and about "relevance" but they seem clueless enough to be embarrassed - that is, if only they would listen to how silly they sound.

I will say that this article from The Times is wrong about one thing The journal they mention Perspectives on Politics was not instituted in response to the emergence of 'Perestroika.' Plans for the journal were afoot prior to that 'revolt.'*
* See Jennifer Hochschild. 2005. "Inventing Perspectives on Politics." In Perestroika: The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science. (Yale UP). Full disclosure: I was, until this past June, editor of the journal.

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