A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Political Science and the Other Social Sciences

Mattei Dogan

THE discipline of political science is "ill-defined, amorphous and heterogeneous." With this diagnosis, editors Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby open their preface to the first Handbook of Political Science ( 1975: 1). Twenty years later, the main features of political sciences are: specialization, fragmentation and hybridization. Its frontiers are open and moving and need not be defined. The process of specialization has generated an increasing fragmentation in subfields, which are not "amorphous" but rather well-organized and creative. The "heterogeneity" has been greatly nourished by exchanges with neighbouring disciplines through the building of bridges between specialized fields of the various social sciences. This process of cross-fertilization is achieved by hybridization.

The relations between political science and the other social sciences are in reality relations between sectors of different disciplines, not between whole disciplines. It is not an "interdisciplinary" endeavor. Since there is no progress without specialization, the creative interchanges occur between specialized subfields, most of the time at the margins of the formal disciplines. The current advancement of the social sciences can be explained in large part by the hybridization of segments of sciences. It would be impossible to conceive of a history of political science and of its current trends without reference to the other social sciences.

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