The Dynamics of American Politics: Approaches and Interpretations

By Lawrence C. Dodd; Calvin Jillson | Go to book overview
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of contemporary politics, both formalists and interpretivists could, in this way, reconceptualize their understandings of the nature and study of politics and embrace a collective and developmental paradigm; together they could then construct a new science of politics more appropriate to understanding the new worlds which human learning creates across time.12 The need for a new science of politics will become particularly evident should the broad systemic changes of the late twentieth century activate a fundamental restructuring in American politics -- and thereby challenge the empirical and epistemological truths that dominate contemporary political science ( Heclo, 1989; Maisel, 1990:307-323; Petracca, 1992:345-361; Rose, 1991).


I wish to thank those who provided critiques of earlier drafts of this chapter, including Leslie Anderson, Douglas Ashford, Frank Beer, Ron Brunner, Walter Dean Burnham, Simone Chambers, Murray Edelman, Richard Fenno, Joan Fiore, Edward Greenberg, Richard Harris, Hugh Heclo, Ronald Inglehart, Bryan Jones, Cal Jillson, Peter Katzenstein, Sean Kelley, Jeffrey Kopstein, Mark Lichbach, Robert Lopez, Vince McGuire, John McIver, Sid Milkis, Carolyn Mohr-Hennefeld, T. J. Pempel, Paul Quirk, James Rosenau, Catherine Rudder, James Scott, Teodor Shanin, Michael Strine, James Thurber, and David Van Mill. I am also grateful to the graduate students in my seminar on scope and methods and in my American politics core seminar at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

See Alexis de Tocqueville ( 1945:12).
This effort reflects over a decade of attention on my part to building a theory of American political change; most of that work centered on the Congress. For a discussion of this theory-building process, see Dodd ( 1987, 1991). My initial theoretical effort came as a response to David Mayhew arguments in Congress: The Electoral Connection ( 1974).
These cross-disciplinary theorists include Carl Jung ( 1963), Michael Lerner ( 1986), Thomas Kuhn ( 1970), and W. R. Ashby ( 1952). My numerous debts to fellow political scientists are evident in the citations throughout this essay.
Considered one of the leading scientific theorists of the twentieth century,lb /> though far better known in biology, ecological science, anthropology, psychiatry, and the philosophy of science than in political science, Bateson was one of the pioneers in the creation and social application of cybernetics and systems theory, game theory, and communications theory. It was out of the combination of these fields that he created modern cybernetic learning theory, which he then applied across a wide variety of phenomena, from the study of schizophrenia and family dynamics to work on dolphins and biological communication to large-scale social and ecological systems. See Bateson ( 1971, 1972, 1979), Bateson and Bateson ( 1987), and Donaldson ( 1991). The best overview of Bateson's life and work is contained in Lipset ( 1980). Bateson died in 1980 at the age of seventy-six.
Useful examples of political learning and resistance at an individual and group level can be found in Fenno ( 1991, 1992) and Fenno ( 1973), pp. 281-291; see


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