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This introductory article explains the theme of this book, which is about political theory. It evaluates the impact of literature that proved especially influential in framing debate through the last decades of the twentieth century and opening years of the twenty-first and examines the historical work on political thought. It describes the combination of concerns that Dominant white male seeking submissive through the work of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and the liberal egalitarian tradition and identifies areas of debate that have proved particularly fruitful over the last thirty years.
It analyses political theory from a global perspective and discusses body politic. Keywords: political theorypolitical thoughtJohn RawlsRonald Dworkinegalitarian traditionbody politic. Lukes As Lukes suggests, political theory has often been a battleground where competing theorists pursue their mutally exclusive positions, either ignoring or denying the insights they might derive from considering alternative approaches.
Much of that mutual indifference and intolerance remains—political theorists are no more ideal citizens than anyone else—but there is also considerable evidence of pluralism and a marked capacity for borrowing from other traditions.
We argue that this pluralism is a key feature and major strength of the field. Political theory is an interdisciplinary endeavor whose center of gravity lies at the humanities end of the happily still undisciplined discipline of political science.
Its traditions, approaches, and styles vary, but the field is united by a commitment to theorize, critique, and diagnose the norms, practices, and organization of political action in the past and present, in our own places and elsewhere. Across what sometimes seem chasms of difference, political theorists share a concern with the demands of justice and how to fulfill them, the presuppositions and promise of democracy, the divide between secular and religious ways of life, and the nature and identity of public goods, among many other topics.
In recent years, and especially in the USA, the study of politics has become increasingly formal and quantitative. Indeed, there are those for whom political theory, properly understood, would be formal theory geared solely towards the explanation of political phenomena, where explanation is modeled on the natural sciences and takes the form of seeking patterns and offering causal explanations for events in the human world.
Such approaches have been challenged—most recently by the Perestroika movement Monroe —on behalf of more qualitative and interpretative approaches. Political theory is located at one remove from this quantitative vs.
For a long time, the challenge for the identity of political theory has been how to position itself productively in three sorts of location: in relation to the academic disciplines of political science, history, and philosophy; between the world of politics and the more abstract, ruminative register of theory; between canonical political theory and the newer resources such as feminist and critical theory, discourse analysis, film and film theory, popular and political culture, mass media studies, neuro-science, environmental studies, behavioral science, and economics on which political p.
Political theorists engage with empirical work in politics, economics, sociology, and law to inform their reflections, and there have been plenty of productive associations between those who call themselves political scientists and those who call themselves political theorists. The connection to law is strongest when it comes to constitutional law and its normative foundations for example, Sunstein ; Tully ; Most of political theory has an irreducibly normative component—regardless of whether the theory is systematic or diagnostic in its approach, textual or cultural in its focus, analytic, critical, genealogical, or deconstructive in its method, ideal or piecemeal in its procedures, socialist, liberal, or conservative in its politics.
The field welcomes all these approaches. Moreover, the subject matter of political theory has always extended beyond this canon and its interpretations, as theorists bring their analytic tools to bear on novels, film, and other cultural artefacts, and on developments in other social sciences and even in natural science. Political theory is an unapologetically mongrel sub-discipline, with no dominant methodology or approach.
In contrast, however, to some neighboring producers of knowledge, political theorists do not readily position themselves by reference to three or four dominant schools that define their field. There is, for example, no parallel to the division between realists, liberals, and constructivists, recently ed by neoconservatives, that defines international relations theory. And there is certainly nothing like the old Marx—Weber—Durkheim triad that was the staple of courses in sociological theory up to the s.
Because of this, political theory can sometimes seem to lack a core identity. Some practitioners seek to rectify the perceived lack, either by putting political theory back into what is said to be its proper role as arbiter of universal questions and explorer of timeless texts, or by returning the focus of political theory to history. The majority, however, have a strong sense of their vocation. Many see the internally riven and uncertain character of the field as reflective of the internally riven and uncertain character of the political world in which we live, bringing with it all the challenges and promises of that condition.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century, liberal, critical, and post-structuralist theorists have in their very different ways responded to the breakdown of old assumptions about the unitary nature of nation-state identities. They have rethought the presuppositions and meanings of identity, often rejecting unitary conceptions and moving towards more pluralistic, diverse, or agonistic conceptions in their place. Happily for political theory, the process has coincided with a movement within the academy to reconceive knowledge p.
Since the founding of the discipline in the late nineteenth century, there have been periodic proclamations of its newly scientific character. It has also, very often, been political theory. Beginning in the s, behavioral revolutionaries tried to purge the ranks of Dominant white male seeking submissive had some success at this in one or two large Midwestern departments of political science in the USA. They have challenged the idea that their own work in normative theory lacks rigor, pointing to criteria within political theory that differentiate more from less rigorous work.
The French have a word to describe what when those elected as president and prime minister are representatives of two different political parties: cohabitation. The word connotes, variously, cooperation, toleration, sufferance, antagonism, and a sense of common enterprise.
Cohabitation, in this sense, is a good way to cast the relationship between political theory and political science. History as a point of reference has also proven contentious, with recurrent debates about the extent to which theory is contained by its historical context and whether one can legitimately employ political principles from one era as a basis for criticizing political practice in another.
When Quentin Skinner, famous for his commitment to historical contextualism, suggested that early principles of republican freedom p. In an essay published inRichard Ashcraft called upon political theorists to acknowledge the fundamentally historical character of their enterprise. For Ashcraft, acknowledging the ideological character of political theory meant embracing its political character.
The main objects of his critique were Leo Strauss and his followers, whom Ashcraft saw as seeking evidence of universally valid standards in canonical political theorists and calling on those standards to judge their works. For Straussians, the wisdom of the ancients and greats is outside history.
There are diverse conceptions of this notion. The most unhistorical influence on political theory in recent decades has been John Rawls, whose work represents a close alliance with analytic philosophy. With the distancing mechanisms of a veil of ignorance and hypothetical social contract, Rawls followed Kant in looking to reason to adjudicate what he saw as the fundamental question of politics: the conflict between liberty and equality. Much subsequent work on questions of justice and equality has continued in this vein, and while those who have followed Rawls have not necessarily shared his conclusions, they have often employed similar mind experiments to arrive at the appropriate relationship between equality and choice.
Starting with what seems the remotest of scenarios, Dworkin claims to arrive at very specific recommendations for the contemporary welfare state. One strand of current debates in political theory revolves around the relationship between the more abstracted or hypothetical register of analytic philosophy and approaches that stress the specificities of historical or contemporary contexts. Those working in close association with the traditions of analytic philosophy—and often preferring to call themselves political philosophers—have generated some of the most interesting and innovative work in recent decades.
But they have also been repeatedly challenged. Communitarians and post-structuralists claim that the unencumbered individual of Rawlsian liberalism is not neutral but an ideological premiss with ificant, unacknowledged political effects on its theoretical conclusions Sandel ; Honig Feminists criticize the analytic abstraction from bodily difference as a move that reinforces heteronormative assumptions and gender inequalities Okin ; Pateman ; Zerilli As we indicate later, analytic liberalism has made some considerable concessions in this regard.
In Political Liberalismfor example, Rawls no longer represents his theory of justice as addressing what is right for all societies at all times, but is careful to present his arguments as reflecting the intuitions of contemporary liberal and pluralistic societies. The way political theory positions itself in relation to political science, history, and philosophy can be read in part as reflections on the meaning of the political.
It can also be read as reflections on the nature of theory, and what can—or cannot—be brought into existence through theoretical work. The possibilities are bounded on one side p. Political theorists have seemed at their most vulnerable to criticism by political scientists or economists when their normative explorations generate conclusions that cannot plausibly be implemented: principles of living, perhaps, that invoke the practices of small-scale face-to-face societies; or principles of distribution that ignore the implosion of Communism or the seemingly irresistible global spread of consumerist ideas see Dunnfor one such warning.
At issue here is not the status of political theory in relation to political science, but how theory engages with developments in the political world. Some see it as failing to do so. John Gunnell has represented political theory as alienated from politics, while Jeffrey Isaac argues that a reader of political theory journals in the mids would have had no idea that the Berlin Wall had fallen.
Against this, one could cite a flurry of studies employing empirical to shed light on the real-world prospects for the kind of deliberative democracy currently advocated by democratic theorists see for example the double issue of Acta Politica ; or testing out theories of justice by reference to empirical studies of social mobility Marshall, Swift, and Roberts Or one might take note of the rather large of political theorists whose interest in contemporary political events such as the formation of a European identity, the new international human rights regime and the politics of immigration, Dominant white male seeking submissive eschewal of the Geneva Conventions at the turn of the twentieth century, or the appropriate political response to natural disasters le them to think about how Dominant white male seeking submissive theorize these events.
Political theorists take their cue from events around them, turning their attention to the challenges presented by ecological crisis; emergency or security politics; the impact of new technologies on the ways we think about privacy, justice, or the category of the human; the impact of new migrations on ideas of race, tolerance, and multiculturalism; the implications of growing global inequalities on the way we theorize liberty, equality, democracy, sovereignty, or hegemony. Indeed, in writing this overview of the current state of political theory, we have been struck by the strong sense of political engagement and the way this shapes the field.
Institutionally, political theory is located in several disciplines, starting of course with political science, but continuing through philosophy and law, and including some representation in departments of history, sociology, and economics. This means that the professional associations and journals of these disciplines are hospitable if to varying degrees to work in political theory. Among the general political science journals, it is quite common to find political theory published in Polity and Political Studiessomewhat less so in the American Journal of Political ScienceBritish Journal of Political Scienceand Journal of Politics.
On the face of it, the American Political Science Review publishes a substantial of political theory articles, but the majority of these have been in the history of political thought, with Straussian authors especially well represented. In philosoph yEthics and Philosophy and Public Affairs are the two high-profile journals most likely to publish political theory.
Some of the more theoretically inclined law journals publish political theory, and so do some of the more politically inclined sociology journals. Prior to its establishment, the closest we had to a general political-theory academic periodical were two book series. The first was the sporadic Philosophy, Politics and Society series published by Basil Blackwell and always co-edited by Peter Laslett, beginning in and reaching its seventh volume in The Review of Politics has been publishing sincealthough its coverage has been selective, with a Straussian emphasis for much of its history.
Political theorists can often be found publishing in related areas such as feminism, law, international relations, or cultural studies. Journals that feature their work from these various interdisciplinary locations include differences ; Politics, Culture, and Society ; Daedalus ; Social Text ; Logos ; Strategies ; s ; and Millennium. However, political theory is a field very much oriented to book publication a fact which Dominant white male seeking submissive depresses the standing of political theory journals when computed from citation indexes, for even journal articles in the field tend to cite books rather than other articles.
All the major English-language academic presses publish political theory. Political theory is much in evidence at meetings of disciplinary associations. The Foundations of Political Theory section of the American Political Science Association is especially important, not just in organizing panels and lectures and sponsoring awards, but also in hosting what is for a couple of hours every year probably the largest of political theorists in one room talking at once the Foundations reception. The field also has associations of its own that sponsor conferences: the p.
In the UK, there is an annual Political Theory conference in Oxford; and though the European Consortium for Political Research has tended to focus more on comparative studies, it also provides an important context for workshops on political theory.
As befits a relentlessly critical field, political theory is prone to self-examination. We have already noted controversies over its relationship to various disciplinary and interdisciplinary landscapes. Occasionally the self-examination takes a morbid turn, with demise or death at issue; the most notorious example being when Laslett claimed in his introduction to the Philosophy, Politics and Society book series that the tradition of political theory was broken, and the practice dead.
Concerns about the fate of theory peaked in the s and s with the ascendancy of behavioralism in US political science. Such worries were circumvented, but not finally ended, by the flurry of political and philosophical activity in the USA around the Berkeley Free Speech movement with which Sheldon Wolinand John Schaarwere associatedthe Civil Rights movement Arendtand protests against the Vietnam war and the Dominant white male seeking submissive military draft Walzer ; At that moment, the legitimacy of the state, the limits of obligation, the nature of justice, and the claims of conscience in politics were more than theoretical concerns.
Throughout the s, the struggle over the fate of theory was entwined with questions about what counted as politics and how to find a political-theoretical space between or outside liberalism and Marxism. It was against this political and theoretical background that John Rawls was developing the ideas gathered together in systematic form in A Theory of Justicea book devoted to the examination of themes that the turbulent s had made so prominent: redistributive policies, conscientious objection, and the legitimacy of state power.
Later in that decade Quentin Skinner and a new school of contextualist history of political thought known as the Cambridge school rose to prominence in the English-speaking world. Still other works of political theory from this period give the lie to the idea that political theory p. Looking at the field from the vantage point of the first years of the twenty-first century, there is certainly no indication of political theory failing in its vitality: This is a time of energetic and expansive debate, with new topics crowding into an already busy field. For many in political theory, including many critics of liberal theory, this pluralistic activity obscures a more important point: the dominance that has been achieved by liberalism, at least in the Anglo-American world.
In its classic guise, liberalism assumes that individuals are for the most part motivated by self-interest, and regards them as the best judges of what this interest requires. In its most confident variants, it sees the material aspects of interest as best realized through exchange in a market economy, to the benefit of all.
Politics enters when interests cannot be so met to mutual benefit. Politics is therefore largely about how to reconcile and aggregate individual interests, and takes place under a supposedly neutral set of constitutional rules. Given that powerful individuals organized politically into minorities or majorities can turn public power to their private benefit, checks across different centers of power are necessary, and constitutional rights are required to protect individuals against government and against one another.Dominant white male seeking submissive
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