Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method

By Sanford F. Schram; Brian Caterino | Go to book overview

12
Unearthing the Roots Of Hard Science
A Program For Graduate Students

Gregory J. Kasza

Quantitative analysis, formal modeling, and other forms of hard science dominate the leading journals and research institutions of American political science. These approaches to the study of politics raise fundamental philosophical issues, but one by-product of the hegemony of hard science has been the banishment of political philosophy to the margins of the discipline. Indeed, political philosophy is the most distinguished victim of today's “normal science.” This essay offers graduate students a program by which to test the claims of hard science, demonstrating how you might use personal experience, the study of history, and the study of philosophy to scrutinize today's dominant scholarly ideology.

Today's Perestroika movement presents a radical critique of hard science as a means to study politics. This critique revolves around the definition of “science” as it is applied to the study of human beings. Today's protest movement is not antiscientific, as some adherents of the hard-scientific establishment have tried to stigmatize it. Contrary to David Laitin's claim that the rebels have “abandoned the project of a scientific discipline” (Laitin 2003, 163), most protesters associated with Perestroika think of themselves as scientists. But what sort of science is possible when the object of study is a human society? Science has always been a contested concept, even in the realm of the physical sciences, and it remains so today. The Perestroika critique raises three core questions related to the reach of “science” in the study of politics:

First, what is the character of political life? This is the ontological question. In particular, does politics exhibit the high degree of consistency and

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