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Regenerating the APSA with a Focus on Feelings

The Political Science Profession can be re-oriented to strive to make a better world, country by country. Political scientists all over the world can do research and writing which assesses the “Goodness” of any political system. The well-established definition of the “political system,” by David Easton, can serve as a standard, or norm, by which to assess the “goodness” of a political system, and for comparing the goodness of different political systems. This approach is not a matter of moral approval or approbation, but more like the taxonomist assessing the goodness of a specimen, as to both its categorical fit and its health. One of the main ways for assessing the goodness of any political system is to find out how the people living in the system feel about it. That is, look at w hat Easton calls “politically relevant feelings.” What is the actual lived experience of a system’s membership? Does that result in anger, alienation, or "political happiness"? Only interpretive a
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How Interpretive Political Science Can Help to Save the Environment

APSA This year's APSA conference theme is “Promoting Pluralism.” [1] The APSA wants the profession to be seen as a home for a multitude of methods for studying politics. Whether political actors are understood as individual mechanical actors in a chain of causation, or as self-initiating, meaning creating persons engaged in a collective enterprise, the APSA pretends all viewpoints are equal.    One effect of such propaganda is to preserve the privileged position of the profession’s positivist elites – both schools and individuals – while inhibiting the humanistic growth of the field. As I have argued in prior posts, this APSA strategy reduces political science to an academic field with little relevance either to real public policy making, or to the improvement of society. [2] One urgently needed public policy improvement concerns the way in which our hi-tech society interacts with its natural environment. Toxic gases causing global warming, clear cutting oxygen producing fo

Does Political Science Force Graduate Students into a Career of Irrelevancy?

Introduction In a 2014 New York Times op ed, columnist Nicholas Kristof drew numerous defensive responses when he criticized political science for having very little “practical impact” in “the real world of politics.” [1] Rather than exercising civic leadership, political science has been most noticeably AWOL from public policy debates since WWII, he claims. And, in his view, there are “fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.” How does he account for this absence? Primarily, it is due to the academic interest in pursuing the quantitative approach in political science research. This kind of research is too often unintelligible to both the politically interested general public and the policy making community. Also, the “value neutrality” required for such studies prohibits advocacy. The pattern persists, in part, because graduate students must conform to the expectations of their professors, as a requirement for a successful academic

Teaching and Enforcing Dehumaniz- ation in Political Science

For the positivist paradigm to sustain itself in political science, it must dehumanize both the political scientist and the subject matter of political science – human beings engaged in political behavior. Positivism is saturated throughout with dehumanization. Its theory of causation is mechanical. Its theory of knowledge as “objective,” tries to remove the human knower. Observation and description, too, are supposed to be “objective;” that is, free of the messy personal characteristics of the human political scientist. Indeed, the ideal political scientist, for positivism, is a kind of robotic Artificial Intelligence, producing studies that any other machine … that is, political scientist … can replicate. Perhaps no greater conflict exists between Positivism and Interpretivism than the requirement of dehumanization in the former, and the struggle to re-humanize in the latter. This dichotomy will be a recurring theme on this blog. To “personalize” the differences, I will post a dial

Steven Lubet and the Problem of Validation in Interpretive Political Science

Steven Lubet, a trial lawyer, has given excellent advice for improving validation techniques in Interpretivism; and he has given some awful, self-destructive advice, which, if followed, would ruin the practice.  The Good Advice In a blog post, [1] as well as a book,[2] Lubet has offered his counsel on ethnography as a social science practice. Generally, he is concerned that not enough is known in the social sciences about the principles for testing truth claims as used in the Law of Evidence. (43) I agree. The Common Law, as practiced in Great Britain and the US, has a long and honorable history of formulating principles by which to settle disputes between litigants and to test the veracity of their allegations and testimony. Law is a substitute for settling disputes through violence. It is the collective product of some of the most practical minded, educated, fair, and intelligent men and women in history. As a set of such principles, it is an amazing, invaluable contribution t

Replication Indoctrination – An Aim of Teaching in Political Science

Introduction If positivists had a mantra, it would be “validation demands transparency and replication.” The ideal is that if all the data from a study is posted online, and a thorough account given as to how that data was acquired, then other political scientists can examine everything, and determine how valid the method and its conclusions really are. This mimicking of natural science methods may seem reasonable, at first, but in this, and succeeding, posts I will discusses its disastrous consequences for the political science profession. I will examine each element of the ideology. In general, my position is that this is the Wrong Conceptual Framework for the subject matter of political science – human beings engaged in political behavior. Why this paradigm persists in political science is another worthy matter of analysis. This post will consider the replication myth. Is Replication Possible? For natural science, replication is one of the keys to validation. Suppose an anim

Desk Rejects and JETS in Political Science

In the early years of this century, the adherents to the positivistic paradigm, among them the elites of political science, were becoming concerned. The aging protestors from the 1960s revolt against the profession’s silence on the Vietnam War, racism, gender and economic inequality, and other social issues, were attracting too much attention from younger grad students and new PhDs. Fidelity to positivism was fragmenting. There was a rise in the usage of mixed methods and interpretivism.  Criticisms continued about the profession’s fawning efforts to imitate the methods of natural science, like physics, even as awareness grew that human beings and their political behavior are not analogous to either atomic particles or billiard balls in motion. Indeed, one spur of the 60s protests was that, under the guise of “scientific value neutrality,” members of the political science profession were hiring out as strategy consultants to the war mongers and corporate profiteers.* As the foundatio