The Dynamics of American Politics: Approaches and Interpretations

By Lawrence C. Dodd; Calvin Jillson | Go to book overview
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ularly self-aware of our own situatedness, nor have we tried to historicize our conversation about political dynamics. We have skirted the question of audience -- whether we should be addressing a largely closed professional community, or whether we have an obligation to a larger public that is deeply worried about what is happening to this country and its politics.

If nothing else, our conversation has had the negative merit of not trying to erect a "system," a kind of "sacred grating behind which each novice is commanded to kneel in order that he may never see the real world, save though its interstices" ( Overman, 1988:495). There is an intrinsic complexity to interlocking historical processes that the yearning for a tidy intellectual solution too often distorts. If we are to kneel with respect, it should be before the complexity, not the scholar's system -- for there is much we may never understand. In the early 1980s, while policy experts, Sovietologists, and other political scientists plied their trade in Cold War theories and no one wrote about the coming breakup of communism, the Polish poet Artur Miedzyrzecki wrote a piece entitled "What Does the Political Scientist Know?" It is a fitting place to end.

What does the political scientist know?
The political scientist knows the latest trends
The current states of affairs
The history of doctrines

What does the political scientist not know?
The political scientist doesn't know about desperation
He doesn't know the game that consists
In renouncing the game

It doesn't occur to him
That no one knows when
Irrevocable changes may appear
Like an ice-floe's sudden cracks

And that our natural resources
Include knowledge of venerated laws
The capacity for wonder
And a sense of humor6

"The great problem in American politics is: What makes things happen? We might understand the dynamics of American politics if we knew what is going on when things are happening. What is the process of change?" ( Schattschneider, 1960:vii).


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