The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

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THE CONCEPTUAL BEHAVIOUR OF
HAROLD LASSWELL

The friends of democracy who have turned to science have been acutely dissatisfied with the ambiguity of inherited political, social, and philosophical literature. To speak of the movement toward science as a revolt against philosophy is to fall into error. It was not impatience with democratic morals that led to the de-emphasizing of general definitions; it was discontent with the chronic incompleteness of formulation in the traditional literature. The turning to the specific is more properly to be understood as a stampede to complete philosophy, to reconsider every generality for the purpose of relating it to observable reality.

HAROLD LASSWELL, The Analysis of Political Behaviour
. . . He did the very best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turned, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.

BYRON, Don Juan


1. The Promise of Methodology

TWO distinguished sociologists, of by no means the most uncritically 'scientific' persuasion, have recently referred to the 'special position' that Harold Lasswell occupies in American social science. 'There is hardly anyone', they said, 'who equals him as a living symbol for continuity and interdisciplinary integration in social research.'1 Lasswell is the most well known of contemporary American political scientists. Though not all political scientists would agree even with his general position, yet he is the acknowledged master of' the specifically scientific school and has probably influenced more work in other people than any political scientist alive today. His own writings have achieved an eminence, in their size

____________________
1
Richard Christie and Marie Jahoda, editors, in the symposium, Studies in the Scope and Method of 'The Authoritarian Personality' ( Glencoe, Ill.: 1954), p. 22; see also p. 18.

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