Culture, Structure, or Choice? Essays in the Interpretation of the British Experience

Culture, Structure, or Choice? Essays in the Interpretation of the British Experience

Culture, Structure, or Choice? Essays in the Interpretation of the British Experience

Culture, Structure, or Choice? Essays in the Interpretation of the British Experience

Synopsis

.".. truly an intellectual tour de force. Even the reader who doesn't agree with all of Warwick's conclusions can't fail to recognize what a tremendous contribution this book makes to the study of culture and political-economic change."- American Political Science Review

Excerpt

In this foreword I want to explain why I consider this book an important contribution to contemporary political science. I will say little about the book’s contents, because in his preface, the author outlines very well exactly what he is up to, so that there is no need to summarize again-except to the extent necessary to show why what the author attempts is important.

In essence, Warwick’s study is something to which much lip service, but lip service only, is paid in political science: an exercise in cumulativeness.

Political science is at present overrun with basic concepts, hypotheses of the middle range, proposed bases for building theories, and would-be paradigms for the field. If ever there was time for consolidation, for sorting things out in the field’s blooming, buzzing confusion, it is now. That could have been said just as well ten or fifteen years ago. But very little has been done to do so. There have been few, if any, follow-ups of proposed ideas—except to criticize others’ work, usually because it does not fit one’s own preferred research perspective, or elaborations of such perspectives. The latter often are admirably clever, and, of course, the literature grows and grows. But growth is accumulation, not “cumulativeness” in the scholarly sense. Accumulation, as it now occurs, threatens to split political science into rigid, warring “schools”—if it has not irreversibly done so already. Cumulativeness proceeds gradually toward shared and surer understanding.

Paul Warwick’s book, in this sense, is exceptional, and thus exceptionally useful. Warwick wrestles with what seem to me to be the two chief alternative perspectives on building theory in macropolitical science, that is, study on the level of overall political systems (in this case linked to microlevel assumptions about motivations in individual political behavior). The perspectives are the “culturalist” and “rationalist” modes of theorizing. He confronts these perspectives with problems concerning changes in British economic and political his-

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