The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview
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VII
THE SCIENCE OF THE GROUP
PROCESS OF POLITICS: A. F. BENTLEY

When the groups are adequately stated, everything is stated. When I say everything I mean everything. The complete description will mean the complete science. . . .

A. F. BENTLEY, The Process of Government

The Sophists . . . have conceived it be 'an easy matter to legislate simply by collecting such laws as are made famous because, of course, one could select the best', as though the selection were not a matter of skill, and judging aright a very great matter, as in Music. . . .

ARISTOTLE, Nichomachean Ethics


1. The Contemporary Importance of Bentley

'THERE ARE few fields which American political scientists have cultivated as intensively and profitably', Professor Merle Fainsod has written, 'as the analysis of the dynamic interplay of interest groups as they give shape to public policy at almost all governmental levels. The interest group is almost a unique characteristic of American political science.'1 By the 1900's the unity of American experience and the stress on tactical considerations of politics in a Federal system gave a meaning to politics that was radically unlike the ideological and doctrinal struggles of Europe. Progressive reformers might still try to hold fast to the ultra-individualism of direct democracy, but the new political scientists began to see politics as a contest for marginal privilege by a great many pressure groups, mostly regional and economic rather than primarily ideological and doctrinal. To the student these could all appear as very much equal in their claims. They all operated broadly within the same assumption of the one liberal-democratic tradition. They made it easy for the student of politics to think of himself as just the dispassionate

____________________
1
Merle Fainsod, "The Study of Government and Economic Life in the United States", in UNESCO, Contemporary Political Science ( Paris: 1950), p. 473.

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