The American Science of Politics: Its Origins and Conditions

By Bernard Crick | Go to book overview

V
THE CULT OF REALISM IN THE
PROGRESSIVE ERA

Philosophy in America will be lost between chewing a historic cud long since reduced to a wooden fibre, or an apologetic for lost causes (lost to natural science), or a scholastic, schematic formalism, unless it can somehow bring to consciousness America's own needs and its own implicit principle of successful action.

JOHN DEWEY, Creative Intelligence ( 1917)

I received a letter from an old friend who was in high glee over a statement in some magazine that I had evolved a 'scientific theory' as to why boys go to the bad in cities. It was plain that he was as much surprised as he was pleased, and so was I when I heard what it was an about. That which they had pitched upon as science was the baldest recital of the facts as seen from Mulberry Street. Beyond putting two and two together, there was very little reasoning about it.

JACOB RIIS, The Making of an American


1. The Progressives as Traditionalists

THE GENERATION after 1900 was to witness a spectacular increase in the teaching and literature of political science. It soon became one of the largest departments on any typical campus. Citizenship training was still the dominating purpose of this sheer expansion, now stimulated by the debates about mass immigration at the beginning of the period, and by the patriotism of both isolationists and interventionists at the end. But as it grew, it clearly became addicted to techniques of study which were very different from the original belief of the 'best men' of the 'seventies, 'eighties and 'nineties that the problem of good government was, broadly speaking, the problem of good men. In the midst of a national enthusiasm for political reform, which political scientists themselves shared in and led, they became possessed with the idea of a scientific objectivity in which, as Dwight Waldo has well written, a 'new

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