The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

XII
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE AND
AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT

Should history ever become a true science, it must expect to establish its laws, not from the complicated story of rival European nationalities, but from the methodological evolution of a great democracy. North America was the most favourable field on the globe for the spread of a society so large, uniform and isolated as to answer the purposes of science.

HENRY ADAMS


1. The Virtues of the Ordinary

IT WOULD be unjust, after having spent so many pages in criticism of American political scientists, not to enlarge very briefly upon our clear initial qualification that political science in the United States is and has been wider than those who seek for a science of politics. Indeed, there are some signs that the advocacy of a science of politics has now lost its earlier momentum and its dominance even may soon be in question.

The solid tradition of institutional analysis that stems from Wilson, Lowell, Goodnow and parts of Beard's work in the 1900's (and was much aided by the example of Bryce), has continued all the while and has far more to show for itself than the highly abstract theories and the mainly trivial research of the scientific school. Unencumbered by any more methodology than 'realism', 'pragmatism' and 'commonsense', there have been a series of special studies of particular aspects of American politics of a scholarly standard only surpassed by the very best of contemporary American historians. It would be both impudent and imprudent to essay a list, but a few obvious examples that come to mind are V. O. Key Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups ( 1942) and his monumental Southern Politics; E. P. Herring Group Representation Before Congress ( 1929); A. N. Holcombe The Political Parties of Today ( 1924); P. H. Odegard Pressure Politics,the Story of the Anti-Saloon League

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