Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method

Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method

Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method

Making Political Science Matter: Debating Knowledge, Research, and Method


"A significant and thoughtful discussion of key issues in the philosophy of social science, one designed to encourage a richer variety of methodological work in political science." - Kristen Renwick Monroe, editor of Perestroika! The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science

"A bold call to rethink political science. The authors imagine a discipline that challenges power, challenges society, and challenges the ways we think. Making Political Science Matter is a wise, erudite, broad-ranging, sometimes witty gauntlet tossed before contemporary scholarship. It is more than a book, it is a movement." - James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History

Making Political Science Matterbrings together a number of prominent scholars to discuss the state of the field of Political Science. In particular, these scholars are interested in ways to reinvigorate the discipline by connecting it to present day political struggles. Uniformly well-written and steeped in a strong sense of history, the contributors consider such important topics as: the usefulness of rational choice theory; the ethical limits of pluralism; the use (and misuse) of empirical research in political science; the present-day divorce between political theory and empirical science; the connection between political science scholarship and political struggles, and the future of the discipline. This volume builds on the debate in the discipline over the significance of the work of Bent Flyvbjerg, whose book Making Social Science Matterhas been characterized as a manifesto for the Perestroika Movement that has roiled the field in recent years. Contributors include:Brian Caterino, Stewart Clegg, Bent Flyvbjerg, Mary Hawkesworth, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Gregory J. Kasza, David Kettler, David D. Laitin, Timothy W. Luke, Theodore R. Schatzki, Sanford F. Schram, Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, Corey S. Shdaimah, Roland W. Stahl, and Leslie Paul Thiele.


In 2001, Bent Flyvbjerg published Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again (Flyvbjerg 2001). This book posed a unique challenge to the social sciences: to rethink the type of research they are best equipped to produce. Flyvbjerg, like others before him, called for the social sciences to reject pretensions that they could emulate the natural sciences. Given their unique subject matter, the social sciences would inevitably fail to follow the natural sciences in providing general causal explanations for why people do what they do. Instead, the social sciences were better equipped to help inform practical reason or phronesis, that is, the ability to make intelligent decisions in particular circumstances.

What is outstanding about Flyvbjerg's challenge is not the call to do social science that matters to real people in particular circumstances but the way he approached this familiar challenge by simultaneously doing two very disparate things that are rarely brought together. Flyvbjerg's book bridged theory and practice in a way that united philosophical and empirical subdivisions in the discipline. He thereby simultaneously provided a strong theoretical foundation for his vision of a politically relevant social science and illuminated his position with concrete examples from his own empirical research. He did all this in a way that demonstrated how research could engage political decision making so as to enhance democracy. Therefore, what was unique about Flyvbjerg's call for a renewed social science was the way that Flyvbjerg transgressed disciplinary boundaries to make a more compelling call for a social science that people could . . .

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