The Practical Import of Political Inquiry: Perestroika’s Last Stand

So let’s switch off all the lights and light up all the Luckies, Crankin’ up the afterglow Cause we’re goin’ out of business, everything must go.

–Walter Becker and Donald Fagen


Disciplinary disputes in political science, have often implicitly and explicitly involved questions about the nature of social science knowledge. Despite this they have not produced radical reformulations of the disciplines ruling ideas of social inquiry. Examining some of these disputes shows the need for a deeper questioning of the nature of political inquiry and its relation to a critical social theory. This can be achieved by an analysis of the participants’ perspective in social inquiry.


In March 2013, the US Senate voted approved an amendment which defunded Political Science grants from the National Science Foundation budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The amendment proposed by Senator Tom Coburn eliminated Political Science funding by NSF unless a project “is certified as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.” [1]This amendment would have changed the accepted criteria of the NSF which takes scholarly merit and impact as the prime criteria. Coburn to be sure had a neo-liberal agenda which was aimed at much at “wasteful” government funding of research and of delegitimizing government programs aimed at the public good, than at academic political science. He followed in the wake of earlier republican criticisms that accused the NSF of mismanagement.[2] Still Coburn repeated some widely held criticism of political research. He pointed to the seeming triviality of research which present common sense knowledge as scientific discoveries, such as a $251,000 study measuring public attitudes toward congress. Such a study might yield little more than the layman’s knowledge of the public’s distaste for congress.

While funding was restored for Political Science, the discipline reacted swiftly and aggressively to the threat to its treasured funding. It was clear that in the current political climate the negative publicity was impacting the perception of Political Science. The APSA criticized the politicization of research that would undermine the neutrality of the scientific process “Adoption of this amendment is a gross intrusion into the widely-respected, independent scholarly agenda setting process at NSF that has supported our world-class national science enterprise for over sixty years”[3] Despite the fact that the NSF largely favored quantitative research based on an implicit natural science model, one which was widely contested in the discipline, the report rallied around the threat to the prestige and status (not to mention money) associated with an NSF grant. There was little questioning of whether the kind of research NSF funds is really in the public interest or promotes discussion of vital public affairs. With this report a second round of disciplinary reform came to a definitive end.

The 2014 APSA task force report “Improving Public Perception of Political Science’s Value” [4]can be seen as the official response to the actions of the senate (and in 2014 the house). Brushing aside any question of the merit of various approaches to political inquiry, the report sees the problem as one of communication and public relations. Both internal and external conflicts have generated a need to make political science more visible and to raise public awareness about the value of political science research. Internally, conflict built into the system of rewards that full time faculty encounter. Faculty get rewarded for inner-university achievements, such as research and instruction: “universities have developed an infrastructure to nurture and reward these activities [creating and disseminating knowledge to students]. This infrastructure gives scholars a direct personal stake in the creation of knowledge and rewards them for conveying knowledge to students and to groups of similarly situated colleagues.”[5] Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether this white bread description of the system of academic rewards bears much relation to the reality of the corporate dominated university populated by low paid adjuncts, faculty, according to the task force, are not rewarded for trying to engage a broader audience. The beleaguered professoriate is forced to “choose between actions that produce pay raises and promotions and actions that broaden the value of their expertise”

External challenges have also arisen. Faculty and university administrators are faced with the influence of new communication technologies that have erased or at least severely eroded the traditional gatekeeping functions of academic expertise. This erosion has led to challenges to the legitimation of the scholarly enterprise. On the one hand the rising costs of university education has led to questions about criticism of the value of a college education, and on the other lay individuals are able to have their say on matters of public import using technologies like the internet. Even children and poor people (for heaven’s sake) the report notes can use social media to give their views.[6] Given this situation political scientists need to act aggressively to enter this new communicative world.

The report provides a number of rather bland solutions to this new situation. It hopes to change the reward structure of academia in part by making political science more visible, They include hiring an outreach director and a science writer, creating a speaker’s bureau, teaching communication skills, and creating new and exciting electronic journals. These changes however, are meant to compromise academic excellence. Any work ought to retain its scholarly quality and be subject to peer review,

The report responds to public questions of legitimacy with new strategies, but not a new conception of the relation of expert knowledge to layman’s knowledge. It retains the veneer of scientific expertise, while venturing into the world of new media and takes for granted the separation of scholarly production from the rest of social life. Thus it maintains the image of the expert scholar whose scientific expertise stands above and beyond the knowledge of layman. In my view the Task Force report seems regressive. It ignores the several decades of criticism concerning the practical import of science research and its internal connection to practice.

Of course this is not the first time the discipline has faced challenges to its scientific self-image. Two movements in particular from within the discipline challenged the assumptions of scientism in political science: the Caucus for a New Political Science in the late sixties and the Perestroika Movement in the first decade of this century.

Arising in the midst of the social conflicts of the sixties the Caucus for New Political Science formed in 1967 and challenged the then dominant behavioralist and pluralist conceptions of political science. The caucus raised both methodological and practical political issues. They rejected behaviorism with its natural scientific and value free approach and sought a political science that was engaged with public issues. They urged the APSA to abandon its own neutrality on public issues and take a stand against the Vietnam War and to speak out on other public issues.[7] The events of the sixties had highlighted the sterility of much mainstream research. The dominant forms of pluralism uncritically celebrated American democracy as a post ideological consensus, and neglected issues of power and domination, ideology, poverty and inequality. In contrast, the caucus sought an engaged scholarship that “aimed at making the study of politics relevant to the struggle for a better world.” While efforts to gain positions of power within the APSA were not successful, the caucus did have a long term effect on the direction of political science scholarship. As the behavioral model fell apart due to both internal and external shortcoming there was room for a wider variety of approaches to political science including interpretive, phenomenological, critical theory. postmodern and feminist approaches.[8]

Several decades later the situation had once again changed. New forms of scientism had come to predominate. A broad movement toward qualitative approaches to political science came to the fore, accompanied by the increasing dominance of rational choice theories. These approaches came to dominate publication in the major journals in political science, and had reduced qualitative comparative and historical approaches to a secondary role. Political science research was once again modelled more closely after natural sciences and the discovery of invariant regularities. Rational Choice research was characterized by a proliferation of formal constructions of models of action generated from axiomatic assumptions like neo-classical economics.. It was often hard to see how these formal models bore much relation to practical political problems or even to generate empirical predictions that were not trivial. Further these models failed to help us interpret cultural identities or practices which were not based on strategic action. The massive failure to understand Islamic cultures and the failure of US triumphalism, stand out as examples of the failure to take more seriously interpretive and historical approach to other cultures.[9]

It was against this background of this new disciplinary constellation that the anonymous Mr. P. sent out a series of emails that started what became known as the Perestroika movement.[10] His criticisms of the dominance of formal models and quantitative research struck a broad chord among many political scientists. It started a wide ranging discussion about both approaches to political science and its practical uses. The main focus of Perestroika’s reform was the creation of methodological pluralism and greater diversity in the discipline. It wanted to change the way publishing was organized and change the governing structure of the APSA as well as the organization of graduate education. Though it was certainly concerned with the public use of political science, it was less explicitly concerned with engaged scholarships as with reform of the discipline from within, although many pushed perestroika to take a broader role. This conflict was a major line of force in Perestroikan debate.

Perestroikans liked to use the language of rebellion and insurgency to characterize their project. They wanted to storm the barricades and tear down the walls of a rigid bureaucracy that had kept them and their work subordinate, and the lively wide-ranging discussion and activist spirit had an impact. Some journals changed their politicies to incorporate a broader range of approaches and a new journal was born to address the need for more relevant scholarship. Still the extent of disciplinary hegemony and the sense of felt oppression by qualitative theorists should not be underestimated. Proficiency in statistical techniques had become a powerful sorting device for purging the discipline of “soft” thinkers.[11] A number of graduate students and young faculty who told stories of pressure to do qualitative work chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. However, Perestroika had some internal problems which lead it to fragment. It had little or no structure. Organized around an email discussion list with an anonymous moderator, Perestroika took no official position on anything. To be sure there were Perestroikan panels and meetings at conferences and even Perestroikan candidates ran for offices, but they bore no official imprimatur. Perestroikan goals remained unclarified. In my view Perestroika cohesion was organized primarily around the charismatic personality of Mr. P. and when he stepped down after several years, there was no real permanent organization to routinize his charisma.

The challenge to the gatekeepers of the discipline however only went so far and this created in my view unresolvable tensions in Perestroikan discussions. The barricades even within Perestroika were up for graduate students who went beyond criticism of methods and directly challenged the authority and wisdom of faculty mentors. Graduate students especially were subject to be dressed down by some members for the audacity of their suggestions. The same went for part time faculty. Even though the decline of historically oriented scholarship bore a direct relation to devaluation of the humanistic knowledge and the use of low paid adjuncts many assiduously avoided these connections. The biggest tension remained between those who wanted a better deal in the profession and those who saw the problem of knowledge in broader terms.

The lively discussion of politics in the perestroika list in the early years, waned after Mr., P stepped down various attempts were made to make Perestroika a no politics zone. Apparently the irony a polical science discussion group trying to ban political discussion escaped some and discussion of any political issues often received a rebuke from more conservative types attacking “those liberals” Perestroika went from a lively and challenging discussion filled with excitement to a moribund list with the occasional job announcement or news item, Imagining perestroikans putting their careers in peril for reform as antiwar critics in the caucus for a new political science did a generation earlier is seemed more and more unlikely. The internal reform of the discipline necessarily involved a change in the way it addressed the public world as well.

Perestroika’s last stand came when Glenn Beck libeled well known activists Richard Cloward (by then deceased) and Frances Fox Piven as treasonous conspirators.[12] I have detailed the demise in a bit more detail in my contribution to the symposium Perestroika at Ten[13] so I will not repeat it here. Beck’s attack on their activist scholarship illustrated the widening gap between those who thought Perestroika ought to take a stand and defend public intellectual activity, and those who wanted it to be little more than a method group had become unbridgeable. After all even the staid APSA council protested it as has had the ASA. Rather than tearing down the walls in the spirit of insurgency, it was putting up barriers to that very spirit. It had lost its raison d’être

Perestroika’s Legacy

Perestroika’s legacy remains ambiguous. In his analysis of revolutionary movements in Political Science John Dryzek, writing in 2006, considers Perestroika a potential revolutionary moment — though one on which a final judgment cannot be rendered. He claims

A successful revolution may be defined in terms of resetting the discipline’s agenda, as validated by the recognition of practitioners, whether or not they shared the movement’s commitments. Practitioners then have to position themselves in relation to the new understanding, even if they do not share it. Success must be recognized as such. [14]

I think however, Dryzek is a bit loose with his use of the term revolution to describe disciplinary changes. His notions really represent changing disciplinary ruling groups not a change of disciplinary structure. For example, behavioralism certainly made a change in how politics was studied but not a radical change in how the “data” of political science were understood in relation to observers and participants. It may have changed the techniques of science, but retained its commitment to a scientisitic approach. It was still what Horkheimer referred to as “traditional theory.” David Easton for example says that “Most narrowly and most accurately the phrase [“behavioral sciences—BC] refers to those bodies of knowledge, in whatever academic department they may be found, that provides or aspire to provide verified principles of human behavior through the use of methods of inquiry similar to those of the natural sciences.” [15] Similar calls for objective science and rise of scientism in political science go back to the early 20th century. [16]

If Perestroika simply aimed at the incorporation of interpretive, historical or comparative case studies into the mainstream then it would be another candidate for regime change in political science. It might even be considered a partial success having some impact in reforming journal practices and raised awareness of need for greater methodological diversity. However, it failed to address more fundamental challenges. While Perestroika originated in a methodological dispute, these disputes inevitably raised critical questions both about the character of social science knowledge and its relation to critical social and political questions. There was extensive discussion of the practical implications of research but little about its participatory character. It did not produce a compelling account of the way that critical understanding and practical commitment is built into the structure of social inquiry. Others like Rabinow and Sullivan cognizant of this issue. They note that interpretative understanding represents not simply one method among many. “This view” [of method as central – BC] “Displaces the significance of the interpretive turn, and ultimately empties it of its capacity to challenges practices of knowing in our culture.” What does the incorporation of interpretive and historical understanding in political science inquiry say about the dominant conceptions of disinterested inquiry? [17]

There is a connection between the methodological imitations of political science and its practical failures. In and of themselves quantitative inquiry and rational choice models shorn of interpretive frameworks tell us little about what we ought to do or how to employ political understanding in a productive way. They have not produced nor can they produce any invariant laws of social action, in practice, they have been largely misleading. Rational Choice in particular suffers from what has been called “Model Platonism,”[18] We need to ask the additional question: What is the relation between political inquiry and political understanding in the public world and everyday life and how does inquiry shape this direction? These questions however take Perestroika’s debate out the realm of academia purity to ask about the connection between academic knowledge and the everyday social world. I think however, that the connection of methodological failure to practical political life was never sufficiently developed, and this was one major reason that Perstroikans failed to transform the discipline. The issue is not simply one of increased methodological awareness or increased practical utility. The is inherent connection between social inquiry and everyday life that remains unanalyzed

The report of the Task Force seems to me to illustrate this failure. It defends a traditional view of social science knowledge as produced by experts and disseminated to the public without any awareness of the limits of these models. We need to develop a model of inquiry that stresses the reciprocal relation between inquiry and social life.

At the risk of calling on the owl of Minerva, I develop a few notes aimed at radically rethinking social inquiry in order incorporate a more reciprocal relation between participants’ and inquirers. Perhaps a new round of reform will someday take up these questions more seriously.

Taking the participant’s perspective seriously

After the members of the Frankfurt Institute fled Nazi Germany for New York City, Max Horkheimer published his seminal essay “Traditional and Critical Theory.”[19] Horkheimer defined critical theory in opposition to ‘Cartesianism’. Whether it was rationalist or empiricist, traditional theory assumed the perspective of the external observer. Insofar as they sought a pure theory, Horkheimer’s contemporaries, such as Husserl, took it to be ‘a systematically unified set of propositions taking the form of a systematically unified deduction’. (Horkheimer, 1972, 190)   Following the model of the natural sciences, pure theory sought to subsume particular facts under causal laws that in the best case could be expressed mathematically

By contrast, Horkheimer drew on Marx’s materialist critique of political economy. Here, according to Horkheimer, the facts are intrinsic or internal to material life processes within which social actors are always and already embedded as participants. Though contemporary critical theory does not accept this premise in that exact form it still assumes that the theorist shares the standpoint of a participant and has an equal standing with other member of society. Horkheimer argued that, while it takes society as its object, critical theory changes the relation of the ‘subject’ to the ‘object’ of inquiry. Because it conceives facts not as ‘stand-alone’ data that is external but rather as intrinsic to the perspective of the participant, it maintains a reflexive relation to the social subjects who are at the same time the objects of the theory. It aims to overcome the separation of the supposedly detached theorist from the citizen. The theorist is both analyst and member of society. The aim of theory is not the achievement of systematic purity, but the elucidation of the social process in its interconnections and developmental tendencies. Like subjects who engage in practical activity, theory seeks a better life. It is “not just a research hypothesis which shows its value in the ongoing business of men; it is an essential element in the historical effort to create a world which satisfies the needs and powers of men.”[20] (245-6). Thus critical theory is not concerned with the accumulation of knowledge by itself, but to promote freedom from unnecessary restraint and empower the free development of human abilities. Horkheimer does not see this as an abstract ought or imperative to make an impact on society. It stemmed from the fundamental connection of theory and social involvement in the creation of knowledge.

Thirty years later writing against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Christian Bay raised a similar critique of the neutrality of inquiry. Bay argued that the conception of the scholar who could effectively separate public and private roles was an illusion. Like liberal political theory, which separates public and private, the scholar thinks he can separate his personal and scholarly roles. From nine to five he is the detached neutral scholar. Afterwards he can engage in politics, but he should never politicize his work. [21] Bay, like Horkheimer, rejected this view. Far from being neutral in his work, the scholar that refrains from politics is in fact already taking a stand. He tacitly accepts the status quo. The neutral stance excludes critical discussion of current events and suppresses dissenting views, Bay’s work was important for its impact on the Caucus for a New Political Science, which advocated for a more committed conception of politics. Neither Horkheimer nor Bay rejected methods of social science research. They did however hold that research is not sufficient without critical reflection. It is not a neutral gathering of “facts.” Horkheimer thought that the role of theory was to provide a diagnosis and analysis of historical conditions, which integrated the results of the more special sciences. However, he thought that much of the research of his time especially “mathematical political economy” had lost contact with the fundamental situation of the times or with knowledge connected to historical reality.

While Perstroikans addressed some of the concerns raised by these dissenting thinkers, they did not follow this insight far enough. Rogers Smith concurs with critical theorists that scientific inquiry into human affairs, especially political affairs, is distinctive because propagation of the results necessarily affects both the studiers and the studied. Instead of extending this insight into a conception of the relation between researchers and participants, Smith focuses on the relative precision of knowledge and causal explanations, not on understanding of our social and historical situation. “I conclude” he notes, “that the main endeavor of political science should be to make roughly probable empirical and logical cases for and against claims about political questions that many people can be persuaded to regard as substantively important.”[22] This formulation tacitly reverts to the model of an expert who stands outside his audience and who provides use information to them. He leaves out the reflexive and critical elements of social science inquiry that link participant and observer.

Even less can be said about what has been called the perestroika “lite” debate. If the contributors to a symposium in Political Studies are any indication, the discussion of the relevance of political inquiry has fallen behind earlier movements.

Under the rubric of “perestroika lite”, a debate over the relevance of political science has taken place primarily in Europe. According to Matthew Flinders and Peter John, political scientists increasingly feel pressure “to demonstrate the impact or relevance of their research and writing.” [23] Unlike the American context, European political science is less informed by rational choice and quantitative approaches. Thus the authors claim that the “lite” debate takes place primarily on the terrain of the institutional context of academic knowledge and does not contest questions of the nature of knowledge. This debate takes a sociological view of the creation of knowledge and its dissemination.

The analyses of an earlier generation of political scientists from the Caucus for a New Political Science to Perestroika have rested on the thesis (according to Flinders) that the professionalization of political science and its ensconcement as an academic discipline has led to the isolation of knowledge from practical engagement. Academic work has failed to contribute much to improving democracy and instead has led to a sense of irrelevance.

The contributors to a symposium in Political Science Review express some hesitance about Perestroika’s critique. Writing against the backdrop of the British Higher Education Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 that attempts to specify criterion of impact, Peter John is skeptical of the evidence that the impact or relevance of political science has decreased. He decries the lack of empirical evidence that political science has less impact than in the past and suggests that not only direct but indirect influence is apparent in contemporary political science. The internet and new social media can provide new opportunities to disseminate findings and of creating ‘impact.’[24] Following him, Flinders argues that the issue is not really a decline in relevance but a perception gap. Critical histories of political science such as Ricci’s The Tragedy of Political Science have emphasized a narrative of decline.[25] Since academic political scientists have come to believe these narratives of decline or tragedy they have come to inform the debate. His article implicitly transfigures this debate from one of the value of knowledge to one of the translation of expert cultures to the public. Other contributors are even more skeptical. They believe political science is already policy relevant; the problem is simply that politicians ignore this work. Still others see the pressure to be relevant as indicative of a tyranny of relevance which threatens to “politicize” research or threaten its integrity by demands for impact. They want to make sure that an intact expert culture pursues its own idea of good research.[26]   Translating “pure research” into a practical context often proves difficult and can negatively impact research according to Flinders. Seeking a more nuanced notion of the relevance of political science Flinders calls for an “art of translation” that is sensitive to the difficult task of mediating research to the public.[27]

While these critiques raise questions about the relation of experts to their audience and challenge us to think more precisely about relevance and impact, they are at one with the APSA task force in their need to retain an intact expert culture whose integrity is maintained through a strong separation from the participants’ perspective. In one sense the criticism provided by Perestroika lite is in error: Perestroikans did provide some studies showing that major journals had become dominated by quantitative and rational choice approaches that had questionable relevance or empirical content.[28 The second criticism concerning the narrative of decline requires a different approach. Flinders makes a faulty assumption here; such questions cannot be settled by more date about impact but require an answer to the question knowledge for what? Questions of decline and tragedy are inherently historical and have to do with the identity of the discipline.

The lite approach however suffers from a second more significant weakness. In focusing on the question of transmission it leaves both the origins and the terminus of the process unchanged. Since by the admission of its practitioners it is not concerned with questions of knowledge it really cannot address questions of whether types of knowledge might affect the way in which questions of relevance or impact are defined. Transmission is seen as the instrument of relevance. It seems to take for granted the existing practice of research and the current structure of the public and tacitly adopts the natural scientific model of the relation of research to the public. More than mediating expert inquiry and public life, the question of bearing of knowledge to everyday requires both a transformation of inquiry and the reinvention of public life.

Certainly, Flinders is sympathetic to the more critically oriented attempts to increase the relevance of social inquiry. He cites Michael Burawoy’s proposal for a public sociology as a primary example of the plurality of ways that knowledge can be translated into public discourse. Burawoy’s develops a number of roles for critical sociological knowledge that are not compatible with Flinders’ notion of transmission.[29] Public sociology, in the sense employed by C. Wright Mills, was the translation of private troubles into public issues, a tradition of writing that also included Gunnar Myrdal, David Reisman, Mills himself and more recently Robert Bellah, among others. This group advanced a view of a public sociology that addressed not just sociologists but social and political publics on matters of social import.

They are written by sociologists, they are read beyond the academy, and they become the vehicle of a public discussion about the nature of U.S. society—the nature of its values, the gap between its promise and its reality, its malaise, its tendencies[30]

Burawoy contrasts this with an organic public sociology that is connected more directly to social groups. Unlike the mediated relations of traditional public sociology, Burawoy posits a sociology that is connected to and does research for groups such as labor unions, oppressed minorities and even NGO’s Both versions of public sociology as well as a critical sociology are reflexive: they raise questions of sociology for whom and knowledge for what, and both reject the idea of sociology as puzzle solving or problem solving and instead are oriented to dialogue about the value foundations of society and the value foundations of sociology. As dialogue these are not simply expert judgments passively received by the public they require a dialogue in which these values are deliberated.

A somewhat similar proposal, without the Gramscian overtones, has been made in political science around the idea of Participatory Action Research. Here researchers are more directly advocates for participants in the groups they study. Burawoy’s proposals as well as those of participatory research are quite different than the transmission/translation model proposed by Flinders and cannot be easily accommodated into his model. For both Burawoy and participatory action, researchers are not just looking to transmit knowledge but to transform the relation of participants and observers in research, and with it the relation between experts and the public. The challenges participatory research pose to standard definitions of the relation between inquiry and those who are the subject of inquiry, make inquiry into a dialogical process more than a one-way investigation. Critical theories like Burawoy’s and others aim at insight into social processes and problems and transformed self-understanding — not just the collection of data or the solution of isolated problems.[31]

Independently of these developments Bent Flyvbjerg developed a conception of social inquiry that was influential for many of the activist Perestroikans. In the first part of this work, Making Social Science Matter, Flyvbjerg developed a neo-Aristotelian approach to social inquiry which was practically oriented. [32] His phronetic social science was based on the contrast between epistemé and phronesis. Epistemé in Aristotle’s usage is a form of certain or exact knowledge based on the theoretical standpoint of an observer who seeks permanent universal and decontextualized truth. In contrast, phronesis is a skilled performance or wise judgment which is internal to a community or context. Like Aristotle Flyvbjerg conceives of actors in a concrete situation who have to decide the right thing to do in an indeterminate and conflict filled situation. Flyvbjerg equates episteme with an approach based on natural science models, asserting that: “the study of social phenomena, is not, never has been and probably never can be scientific in the conventional sense of the word ‘science’, that is in its epistemic meaning . . . it is therefore not meaningful to speak of ‘theory’ in the study of social phenomena, at least in the sense that “theory” is used in the natural sciences.” [33]   Phronesis develops practical insights rooted in experience. For example a comparative analysis may not just rely on generalization from many cases but a grasp of one case that generates a new insight. Practically oriented inquiry means the social researcher has to address questions of what we ought to do not just description of the way things are. Phronetic social inquiry never rises to the level of universal judgments, nor does it seek law like generalizations. It is also practical and normative, aimed at the good life. Phronetic research is evaluative and value oriented. It uses knowledge to discover the right thing to do or to challenge power relations. The phronetic inquirer does not stand outside or above practice. He is part of the same social world as the participant.

Flyvbjerg however employs a notion of skilled performances which creates some tensions with the model of mutual understanding of participants that Neo-Aristotelians and interpretive theorists employ.[34] In doing so he bypasses the idea of theory that is developed by Critical theorists and equates all theory with the natural scientific process, In replacing the external observer with the skilled practitioner, he holds that insight into the social world often requires the unique skills of the social inquirer in his role as a member of the social world. The social inquirer becomes a virtuoso performer. This formulation relies on a notion of practical know how adapted from Hubert Dreyfus’ analysis of learning skilled performances. Dreyfus developed an influential version of know based on an interpretation of the existential phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty.   He conceives of the acquisition of skills that is of practical know how as independent of linguistic meaning (“semantically interpretable brain representation”) and propositional content, Instead it can be seen as a kind of perceptual learning. In Dreyfus’ model of learning a skill, individuals move from a novice status of one who must be explicitly instructed in skill to an expert or virtuoso who has mastered a skill and knows it intuitively. These expert skills are contextual responses that are not stored in “mental representations.” The driver knows how to navigate the road without thought or calculation.[35] Dreyfus extends this type of know how to social understanding. He thinks social scientists who are virtuosos can know situations and patterns without cognition. This formulation has been influential in phronetic approaches to social science, which rely on the distinction between (practical) judgment and (theoretical) reason. However, this argument comes up short. The problems with Dreyfus’s formulation begin with his starting point: the individual mastering a skill. It bypasses consensual relations. Such mastery is already meaningful and reflexive whether or not it is theoretical because it is embedded in the context of social relations. The artist who creates new art and new meaning still has to communicate that meaning to the audience. The social scientist who grasps patterns that others miss still grasps a meaningful pattern that has to be made more explicit and communicated to others. Insight and virtuoso skill while embedded in practical know how are still not simply pre-reflexive. Even musical skill is a social skill it requires a shared musical system in order to make sense, and requires an audience which recognizes the skill in the performance.

The standpoint of the prereflective subject does not seem to provide the resources needed to formulate a critical theory. The latter has to reflect on the nature of society and the way organized relations power like domination and oppression stand in the way of changes that realize the practical good Flyvbjerg seeks. Although in the second part of MSSM Flyvbjerg addresses questions of power via a Foucault his version of this dynamic still does not explain critical reflection. Thus in order to get more fully at the relation between experts and participants we have to explore its intersubjective roots.

Toward a theory of the participant’s perspective

Human Beings are, in Charles Taylor’s phrase, self-interpreting animals. We are concerned with understanding the meaning of our own existence. What we are is indistinguishable from how we understand ourselves.[36]   As Taylor puts it, “our interpretation of ourselves and our experience is constitutive of what we are, and therefore cannot be considered as merely a view on reality, separable from reality, nor as an epiphenomenon, which can be by-passed in our understanding of reality.” [37] The self is not a physical object independent of our understanding of meaning, but an agent who acts on his or her own interpretations. Our interpretive capacity is a practical capacity, an internal element of the participants’ perspective. Interpretation takes place in contexts of involvement and engagement with the world, with others, and with one’s own inner world.

Interpretive understanding is not another method. It is an original orientation toward our existence. We only make sense of things through interpretation. It is part of the world of involvements and commitments that we inhabit and come to understand. This practical element is primary. It can never be replaced by a transcendental subject or an objectifying scientific theory. We are situated subjects who are active in the world. We only have experiences through our active engagement with the world, through our own involvements, projects and plans. Our knowledge of the social world is never simply imprinted on us through passive sensation or grasped by disengaged reason. It draws on the practical perspective of subjects engaged in understanding and evaluating their lives. We carry out our plans and projects with a performative attitude.

The participant’s basic attitude toward others is one of concern.[38] As practical actors we are involved in interaction, we are concerned with how to act, what to do and who we are. Things matter to us. They matter not simply because we want to achieving goals or find the most efficient instrumentalities to an end, but because our fellow humans, with whom we share attachments and common fates, matter to us – and we have to take a position on the way we carry out these relationships. Our concern then also includes judgment on the rightness of norms or the goodness of life plans. It matters what kind of ethical or moral positions we take in relations to others.

Concern is essentially evaluative. We are involved with ourselves and others through bonds of morality and solidarity and we are mutually accountable to others. We have to be able to give reason for our actions including norms that justify our actions. Concern extends to what we can call moral emotions. They are not just feelings or irrational impulses, but have a rational content to the extent they are based in the fulfilment or violation of these mutual expectations. I might feel disgust if someone is treated with disrespect and subject to unfair treatment because its violates my sense of respect for others, or I might feel guilt or shame if I harm others These are elements of our practical and evaluative orientation to the world. It signifies the way we we stand toward things. We evaluate our lives from the viewpoint of human flourishing and wellbeing. Because humans are capable of not only achieving happiness and well-being but also suffering and failure, they have to evaluate their ongoing activity.

Interpretive understanding is also historical. We understand ourselves and others as historical beings that have future projects with roots in the past. Historical understanding has a narrative structure involving a life history as well as a social and cultural one. For some like Gadamer, the weight of history and tradition often seems more central than the power of agency and initiation; he argues that our (historically effective) understanding is more being than consciousness. Ultimately, he emphasizes authority more than constrictive history. It is the unfolding of something already present.

In contrast the conception of the participants perspective constituted through mutual accountability, stresses that the power of agency is as important as that of tradition. We can modify and break traditions and create new ones. Cultures and traditions cannot be viewed as holistic unities but are themselves internally and externally contested.

Interpretive understanding is the basic medium of social life, and has an intersubjective or dialogical structure.[39] Understanding is mutual understanding; it takes place under the horizon of a shared social world. The self is a social entity which is not an immediate unity of experience, but a synthesis of the perspectives of ego and other. These two aspects never merge into a completed whole; hence the interpretive theoretical understanding of subjects can facilitate critical reflection. [40] Self-understanding is social. We do not simply understand ourselves from the first person perspective of a participant who understands and evaluates her own situation as an isolated consciousness or independent creator of meaning. We understand ourselves through the second person perspective of a partner in interaction who can be an addressor or addressee in interaction that is linguistically mediated.

Being a participant in the social world means that our world is constituted through shared meanings norms and expectations. In order to have practical evaluations we have to have some shared norms or expectations that are the basis of our evaluations. We cannot engage in such communication without acknowledging that others are beings capable of speech and action. We are linked in reciprocal perspectives, of I and you in which I understand myself — and you as beings capable of responsibility and accountability. These processes of making sense in concert include commonly held claims about what is true or valid. While in mundane settings these are often more properly expressed as know-how, a context dependent practical knowledge, they can always be made explicit when called into question. Linguistic intersubjecivity is closely linked to practical life as our way of getting by in the world. It always begins as a context bound knowledge of the practical social world

The participant’s perspective is thus a performative one. In speaking, we say something to someone about something in the world. This is the basic form of communicative social action.[41] Once we engage in communicative action, we also involved in a consensual form of social action. Whether or not we reach agreement, we are engaged in a consensual activity in which we can and often do agree on things. Consensual action does not rest on the presumption of an achieved consensus that is fixed, final or permanent. Our actions always have an element of contingency. We carry out our lives through these consensual relations: we reregulate our actions, and form our own plans of life only in and through this medium of linguistically mediated symbolic interaction. Understanding is first of all practical. We do not simply describe a state of affairs but say something about our relation to the world, about how things are and how we stand. If you tell me we ought to raise the minimum wage to a living standard, you are making a claim about the norms we should carry out if we have proper concern for human welfare and basic fairness. These are not just descriptions but commitments. If you stand in favor of universal health care, you implicitly or explicitly express that you want people to be treated in with equal dignity. Our understanding is a way of getting on in the world. We do not simply have experiences or attitudes we carry them out in the performative attitude from the standpoint of first and second person participants in a social world. Social interaction takes place through the reciprocity of perspective of speaker and hearer in language. In processes of mutual recognition, we can take the role of the other toward our own linguistic utterances. This form of interaction supposes that we understand ourselves through the response of the other to our meaningful actions, gestures, speech – in short, our overall comportment to the world. The participant takes a position on elements of the world. These commitments only can be made in the participant’s perspective.

Consider the situation of moral actors as an example of the performative attitude. Moral sensibilities come to the fore in situations when we feel hurt or betrayed by the actions of others. Because we are vulnerable to the actions of others, we can be hurt when they treat us with disrespect or act deceptively. Hegel was one of the first to link this vulnerability to the sense of mutual respect and recognition in social interaction. Just as criminal violates our sense of the common norms we hold to be important for social order our moral sense is violated by acts of disrespect. Our sense of offense is indicative of the fact that the participants’ perspective is a normative order, and we cannot understand these norms without reference to the participant’s perspective.

Individuals are embedded in communicative experience, that is, in an interactive context in which subjects are linked though an intersubjectively constituted nexus by their participation in language. In this context, participants are oriented to mutual understanding and agreement. They only come to be individuals through interaction and forms of mutual accountability. We find ourselves in a world of with other subjects connected though speech and action. Our perspectives are interwoven in our social roles and mutual understanding with a communicative social context. As communicative participants we make up and renew the social world though our action and interaction in social life worlds.

Participants and life worlds

Interpretive understanding is always contextual. We only understand meaning against a background of other meanings and social practices. The life world can be understood as the background conditions, such as practical attitudes, forms, and stocks of knowledge social practices and abilities that are shared by members of a culture.[42] They make up a set of taken for granted assumptions that constitute social worlds. The structures of the lifeworld serve a dual purpose. On the one hand, they are the tacit background condition of understanding; on the other, they contain the elements that we must take up and employ actively in interaction and mutual understanding.

My own perspectives on the life world and those of others who share that world are built up through a multiplicity of reference points. These reference points are both horizontal and vertical. I live in a world of contemporaries that nonetheless encompasses the past and the future. My own life takes place within traditions and stocks of knowledge that have been handed down to me and which I will pass on to others I come to be a self through learning these traditions and taking them up in my own life plans and memories. In this process participants share a stock of mutual knowledge that is largely implicit and taken for granted. It provides participants with interpretations of the world they inhabit and provides typical norms or prescriptions for what we can normally expect to happen in the social world and in nature. I have background knowledge of things, from the seemingly trivial, such as how to greet another person, to what to expect in from the objects of nature and the roles expected of me in society. The life world represents the world of common sense, what “we” generally take for granted or expect to happen. It provides a repertoire of understandings and expectations that we can draw upon in order to carry out interaction, At the same time, the life world sets the boundaries of possible projects and actions and has provides the vocabulary of motives that individuals can employ. This stock of knowledge is to be sure distributed differentially.[43] Not everyone knows everything in the same way or with the same depth. I may know a lot about the music of the 1960 is but very little about being a plumber.

Philosophical hermeneutics, especially the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, has stressed the way that our interpretive access to the social world is shaped by history and background. When we study history we do not view it from the outside, but rather study a process of which we also participate in. We would not have access to the world without begin shaped by history and we cannot analyze a history of which we are not always a part. This means for Gadamer we both belong to and are dependent upon society – something that is exemplified in our embeddedness in language. He stresses the way in which social inquiry like history has a formative effect on the inquirer, History for example is not an objective study or pure research but itself is a way of transmitting (or modifying) tradition. In the same way, social inquiry is also practical. It is always engaged in projects for interpreting our place in society; thus social inquiry has a normative import. The inquirer can never withdraw from the social world to an objective observer’s perspective. This would require the interpreter cut herself off from the processes of interpretation. The interpreter cannot eliminate the concepts or preconceptions that she relies on and access to the interpretations of her or of others.

Despite its notable achievements Gadamerian hermeneutics often rests too heavily on the weight of tradition and history and less on the ability to transform tradition. The structures of the life world are practical elements of the mutual understanding or participants. While much of this world remains explicit, far from being passively received but taken up by participants and accepted or rejected, Everyday life is constituted through interpretive accomplishments; individuals are agents who are capable of reflexively monitoring and accounting for their actions.. Since mundane social action is largely practical, based in the knowhow of the individual and the stock of mutual knowledge. This aspect of mutual knowledge can become explicit when our actions, norms or motives do not make sense to others or even at times to ourselves. We can then be called on to give an account of our actions in terms of the reasons why we acted as we did. Social actors, in Anthony Giddens’ felicitous phrase engage in reflexive monitoring of action. They know what they do in the course of doing it.[44] “Actors—also routinely and for the most part without fuss—maintain a continuing ‘theoretical understanding’ of the grounds of their activity.”[45] We are always knowledgeable subjects who make sense of the world through rational understanding and we constantly monitor that understanding in the course of our interaction in order to reproduce or transform it.

There is no sharp distinction between the unreflective form of ordinary interaction and critical reflection. For this reason, mutual accountability is not a special form of action but an element of ordinary interaction. In the course of interaction, we can and often are asked to give an account of our actions to others who do not necessarily understand it or question their own accounts. We constantly renew, repair and transform our mutual understandings in the course of everyday life.

Albrecht Wellmer emphasizes the fragility and contingency of mutual understanding when he states.

The commonality (intersubjectivity) of linguistic meaning is therefore not something given once and for all, something “present-at-hand [vorhandenes].; rather it is something precarious and discontinuous; it is fragile, it is never complete, it is always to be restored anew in the processes of linguistic communication, which is also the process of developing linguistic meaning. [46]

Historical and critical interpretation has to be viewed more as an ongoing achievement that involves a strong element of reflexivity.

The status of social inquiry

The social researcher who takes up the study of social life encounters participants who like herself share social life worlds and have practical commitments and involvements. Both participants and researchers are entwined in relations of mutual understanding, The social inquirer has to understand those she studies as individuals capable of accounting for their action and has to see how and why subjects make sense of their world. The researcher only has access to these elements because of her own status as a participant in social life.

Our interpretive access to the social world yields a fundamentally different conception of inquiry than does the model of naturalistic social science inquiry prevalent in social science. However, it is not as some have recently argued the result of two-world ontology.[47] On this view, the natural and the social are separate and distinct entitles. Yet the same body can be treated physiologically that is a natural entity, socially or even psychologically without being a different entity in a different world. The distinction between types of inquiry is mainly epistemological. It is concerned with the type of knowledge that is sought and the type of interpretive access it requires. While the natural scientific encounters a world of physical objects that do not communicate, while on contrast the social researcher encounter a world of other subjects who are engaged in interpretation.

Consideration like these are behind Anthony Giddens notion of the double hermeneutic of social inquiry.[48] Not only is the researcher a member of a community of researchers who

use language to formulate theories and research, the “object” of study is other human beings who are co-interpreters of social worlds. The researcher’s access to this meaningful social world that makes up this domain relies on her participants understanding. It is thus an element of the same social world it proposes to study. The researcher only has access to the world of others because she takes a first or second person perspective toward meanings. They participate in a common world that is constituted by mutual understanding. The social world is that segment of the world that can be grasped and understood only through this double hermeneutic.

We are always part of a social environment and part of a history. We are formed by our history and background conditions as a necessary feature of understanding. We cannot objectify our history or social experience, and treat it like an object of nature that can be mastered and controlled. Thus, the social researcher always encounters a world of meaningful social action that is symbolically structured. The researchers is not only one for whom the scientific world is symbolic (as in the natural sciences) but the objects she studies are also participants for whom the social world is symbolically structured. She has to bring to bear her own ability to understand from her own participation in social life. There are no pure observers in social life. We can only assess the past and understand it in a more critical way, thus we can change our courses of action. The double hermeneutic implies that even inquirers are practical actors whose very inquiries are elements in the social world they inhabit.

The basic concepts used in social research then have to be of the same type that actors use in their ordinary life. This is not to say that the concepts have to be identical, but the basic concepts are non-objectivating. They refer to the activities of subjects who are capable of mutual understanding. To view action from the outside as mere behavior is to lose sight of its performative aspect as a part of a social world.

Some researchers in the manner of Max Weber (and later Alfred Schutz) accept the meaningful character of social action yet maintain a distance between the participants and the role of the researcher as a non-participant. While the researcher must understand the meaning of actions, she need not be a participant in the social world or pass judgment on it. The researcher may for example view ideas of legitimacy as de facto as claims that a certain social authority or government is obeyed. In such cases however, the researcher takes a position superior to that of the participant. While she takes her own norms to be valid she does not engage with the values of those she studies. She regards the norms of the social world as simply matters of opinion or taste without engaging participants in processes of mutual understanding.

This understanding of social research dissolves however, once we incorporate elements of mutual understanding and mutual accountability into our conception of meaning. We have to attribute to participants the same type of understanding as the researcher– that is a social actor capable of communicative relations with others, who can provide accounts that they can evaluate. Participants’ consider events in their world using notions of truth or validity broadly speaking. Inquiry has to take seriously these claims if they want to make sense of those they study. An interpretive inquiry which takes the claims seriously does not stand above the everyday life because it employs the very same capacities as actors. There is no expert or virtuoso knowledge that is in principle inaccessible to others. If we fail to acknowledge these capacities we are not taking others seriously as subjects in a social world.

The mutual accountability of participants and researchers provides a way of grasping the meaning of participants’ actions. Understanding is inseparable from evaluation. In order to understand the meanings of participants in our social world we have to be able to reconstruct the reasons for their actions. Consider the case of legitimacy again. The concept of legitimacy for example cannot be understood simply by the observance of conforming behavior, or a belief to understand legitimacy one has to understand it as a claim to validity in which a claim is recognized and justifications are given. We understand legitimacy in a specific situation only when we understand what that claim means in that society. Otherwise we could not distinguish between say someone who conforms to a standard without necessarily accepting it or one that accepts it out of convention or one that accepts the reasons as valid. Nor can it explain why legitimacy might be rejected, All these might become important in interpreting and explaining a situation of conflict for example. The researcher has to grasp the contexts of action as the appropriateness of action just as a participant might do in her life. Part of this background context includes notions of truth or falsehood, good or evil that participants employ as well as their stance toward those social norms. In short the inquirer has to have sense of life world background that participants share and the specific responses of individuals to that background. For participants have to take norms and practices up an accept reject or modify them. We also have to be able to take the social context in which these claims take place and grasp the reasons why they still make sense or do not make sense to us today. We cannot understand others or make sense of the meaning of culturally distant or historical meanings without engaging in these evaluations. The researcher has to maintain the performative attitude toward language that she uses as a participant in mundane speech and action. It is this performative dimension of inquiry that that Weber’s value-neutral observer denies. Once we grasp that the participants are capable of providing reasons for their actions and must engage in mutual accountability then we have to accept that the participant is on the same level as the researcher or theorist. This implies however the subject or subjects of inquiry are capable of assessing the researcher’s reasoning too. They can assess the models employed the reasoning and the conclusions of the researcher, criticizing the aims of the research or the norms that the researcher or theorist employs in her own work. Social research is thus implicated in a form of mutual critique.

Social scientific theories are themselves practical. They “constitute moral interventions in the social life whose conditions they seek to clarify.”[49] This insight takes two different directions. Since the social researcher is always a participant who takes a performative attitude towards communication the results of inquiry have a practical dimension that effects not only the knowledge of the researcher but her understanding of herself and her world. Second, the results of research are taken up into the life worlds of participants and become part of their everyday knowledge thus changing their understanding of themselves. In both cases, participants have a reflexive relation to forms of knowledge. They are aware if what they do in the course of doing it and engaged in the ongoing evaluation of their plans projects and the norms the use to evaluate them.

It is this reflexive relation that provides a basis for critique. Participants’ have the potential to change their lives though insight and transformation Critical theories link these interventions back to the understanding the participants have of their own world but add a diagnostic analysis. They seek to initiate or facilitate reflection on the conditions preventing the realization of human flourishing.

These same structures also simultaneously provide the critical means to penetrate a given context, to burst it open from within and to transcend it; the means if need be to push beyond a de facto established consensus to revise errors, correct misunderstandings and the like. Critique can go further and illuminate distortions that are systematically embedded in personality structures and power relations in society. The same structures that make it possible to reach an understanding also provide for the possibility of reflexive self-control of this process. It is this potential for critique built into communicative action itself that the social scientist by entering into contexts of everyday life as a virtual participant, can systematically exploit and bring into play outside these contexts and against their particularity[50]

The notion that researchers and participants are on the same level and hence part of a mutual critique may be seen by some as a challenge to the integrity of research or to the expert’s necessary separation from the public. It might be seen as an example of the tyranny of relevance. However, the notion of reciprocal critique does not give the participant priority over the researcher. Both parties have an equal role and are equally able to argue positions in a discourse, but they have to use publically acceptable reasons. However, it is also a mistake to draw a large gap between researcher’s experts and mundane social actors. Actors are knowledgeable about the conditions and contexts of their actions. Not only do they have extensive knowledge of local conditions and contexts, in modern societies actors are aware of the results of scientific research and often have some knowledge of it. As Giddens remarks, the ordinary actor in modern society is already a sociologist. Actors have the abilities to engage in discussions and deliberations based on mutual understanding. Such discussions include questions of the logical, interpretive, diagnostic or “empirical: adequacy of theories or of observations. However, they would also include normative and ethical considerations on the values inherent in research and society. Whether or not layman can always grasp the subtleties of mathematical analyses (assuming that actually matters) they can quite capably engage in discussions about the normative implications of research. On the other hand experts and researchers must begin to treat participants as actors who are capable of criticism but also who regard others and equal being who are worthy of ethical regard.

The relation of expert knowledge to layman and to the public is however, not adequately understood by the transmission model. It is better conceived as what Gadamer termed the fusion of horizons. The major question is not how knowledge formed by experts is disseminated to the public but how knowledge shapes us as actors. Social inquiry is an element of self-understanding. Also at stake are issues of democratic education and the self-understanding of social actors. Critical self-understanding puts one’s own sense of one self in relation to larger social process in which we are participants and opens up possibilities for greater freedom through transformation of self and society.

The idea of a mutual critique means that research is not isolated but has a collaborative element to it. This idea has gained recognition in recent work about participatory research. It also gives us a way to understand the position of critical theory. The critical theorist, though she might have specialized knowledge in an area of research, is still a co-participant in a process of mutual understanding. She has no privileged position in relation to emancipation or the pursuit of a good or happy or just life. The quest for a critical theory is a collaborative one.

If interpretive social science is to be more than just one method among many, and not just a another tool in the methodological tool box, its role as explicating the basic relation of the inquirer to the “subjects” of inquiry has to be emphasized. Social inquiry begins (and ends) from the practical standpoint of a participant.   The inquirer can only know and understand the meaningful statements of others or engage in meaningful social action because she shares a common social world, not just a community of scientific interpreters. Knowledge of the social world is valid because other members of the social world can assent to it. To understand the social world is not to observe it but to interpret and evaluate it; and to understand social action is to understand the (sometime unacknowledged) reasons why actions occur. Ultimately knowledge of the social world has to become an element in the critical understanding of the participants and help to create the possibility of a better world.



[1] Mollie Reilly “Tom Coburn Amendment Limiting National Science Foundation Research Funding Passes Senate Huffington Post March 21, 2013

[2] Reilly “Tom Coburn Amendment”

[3] Reilly “Tom Coburn Amendment”

[4] Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, Chair of the Task Force and John H. Aldrich, Duke University, APSA President Improving Public Perceptions of Political Science’s Value Report of the Task Force on Improving Public Perceptions of Political Science’s Value Washington D.C. American Political Science Association August 2014

[5] Improving Public Perception: 1

[6] Improving Public Perception: 8

[7] Clyde W. Barrow The Intellectual Origins of New Political Science New Political Science 30:2 215-244 free online access at DOI: 10.1080/07393140802082598

[8] See the essays in James Farr, John Dryzek and Stephen Leonard (1995) Political Science and History Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[9] On the explanatory weaknesses of rational choice models see Donald Greene and Ian Shapiro Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996

[10] The Original email sent out to Political Scientists is reprinted as, Perestroika (pseud) “The Idea: The Opening of Debate” in Kristen Renwick Monroe Perestroika: The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science Yale University Press, 200 : 9-11

[11] In addition to many stories recounted in the discipline I was explicitly rejected for jobs which had absolutely no relation to statistical analyses for lacking sufficient coursework in the area.

[12] For a summary of this attack see the editorial Glenn Beck Targets Frances Fox Piven The Nation February 7,2011

[13] I provided one brief sketch of these issues in Perestroika’s Last Stand PS: Political Science & Politics 43:4 October 2010.753-754

[14]    John Dryzek “Revolutions Without Enemies: Key Transformations in Political Science” APSA 100 :4 2006: 487-92

[15] David Truman, “The Impact on Political Science on the Revolution in the Behavioral Sciences”: in S. Sidney Ulmer ed. Introductory Readings in Political Behavior. Chicago: Rand McNally 1961 11

[16] Raymond Seidelman: and Edward Halpern. Disenchanted realists: Political Science and the American Crisis: 1884-1984 Albany: Suny Press 1985. 25. On the growth of scientism Dorothy Ross The Origins of American Social Science Cambridge 395ff

[17]  Paul Rabinow and William M Sullivan Interpretive Social Science a Second Look Berkeley: University of California Press1987 :2

[18] Hans Albert classic article has been recently translated fron the German by Darrell Arnold and Frank Maier-Rigaud Model Platonism: Neoclassical economic thought in critical light Journal of Institutional Economics: 2012 1 – 29 doi:10.1017/S1744137412000021

[19] Max Horkheimer “Traditional and Critical Theory” in Critical Theory Selected Essays. Also see his remarks on the division between the Scholar and the Citizen in Dawn and Decline

[20] Horkheimer, “Traditional and Critical Theory 245-6

[21]Christian Bay. “Politics and Pseudopolitics: A Critical Evaluation of Some Behavioral Literature.” American Political Science Review 59:1 March 1965: 35-51. Also see Strategies of Political Emancipation. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press 1981; H Mark Roelofs. “Citizen Scholars” Scholarly Citizens: A Tribute to Christian Bay.” New Political Science 11:3 1992 51-61.

[22] Rogers Smith. “Should We Make Political Science More of a Science or More about Politics?” PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 35, No. 2. (Jun., 2002), pp. 199-201***

[23] Matthew Flinders and Peter John. “The Future of Political Science.” Political Studies Review 11(2) 2013:222.

[24] Peter John “Political Science: Impact and Evidence” Political Studies Review 11(2) 2013 168-73.

[25] Matthew Flinders ‘The Tyranny of Relevance and the Art of Translation” Political Studies Review 11(2) 2013 149-67.

[26] Ronald Ragowski “Shooting (or Ignoring) the Messenger” Political Studies Review 11(2) 2013 216-21.

[27] Flinders

[28] For example see Gregory Kazka “Perestroika and the Journals” PS: Political Science and Political Volume 43:4 October 2010, 733-734; Kazka “Methodological Bias in the American Journal Political Science” in Kristen Renwick Monroe ed. Perestroika: The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science. New Haven: Yale University Press 2006: 342-45; David Pion-Berlin and Dan Cleary, Methodological Bias in the APSR Monroe: 304-22

[29]  See the volumes Public sociology: ideas arguments and visions for the future ed Dan Clawson Berkeley: University of California Press 2007 especially Michael Burawoy, “For Public Sociology” 23-64

[30] Burawoy, “For Public Sociology” 28

[31] For some examples of Participatory Action Research see Corey S. Shdaimah and Roland W. Stahl “Doing Phronetic Social Science A Case Study” in Caterino and Schram ed Making Political Science Matter New York: New York University Press, 2006: 98-116. ; Leonie Sandercock and Giovanni Attili Unsettling a settler society: film, phronesis and collaborative planning in small-town Canada In Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landman and Sanford Schram eds. Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012: 137-66.

[32] Bent Flyvbjerg” Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001. For a collection of essay that elaborates this perspective see Bent Flyvbjerg, Todd Landsman and Sanford Schram eds. Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2012. For a set of critical evaluations see Brian Caterino and Sanford Schram editors Making Political Science Matter :The Flyvbjerg Debate and Beyond New York University Press 2006

[33] Bent Flyvbjerg Making Social Science Matter: 25

[34] See my essay “Power and Interpretation” in Brian Caterino and Sanford Schram editors Making Political Science Matter :The Flyvbjerg Debate and Beyond New York University Press 2006: 134-51

[35] Hubert Dreyfus “Intelligence without representation—Merleau’s Ponty’s critique of mental representation: the relevance of phenomenology to scientific representation” Phenomenology and the cognitive Sciences 1:367-383 2002

[36] Charles Taylor “Self-Interpreting Animals” in Philosophical Papers I: Human Agency and Language Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1985:45- 76.

[37] Charles Taylor ”Self-Interpreting Animals” 47

[38] Andrew Sayer. Why Things Matter to People: Social Science Values and Practical Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011: 1-2

[39] This notion is fully developed in Hans-Georg Gadamer Truth and Method

[40] Keith Topper. The Disorder of Political Inquiry. Cambridge MA:Harvard University Press 2005

[41] Jurgen Habermas. Moral Consciousness and Communicative action Cambridge MA: MIT Press: 1990: 46-7.

[42] Alfred Schutz and Thomas Luckmann The Structures of the Life World Evanston Northwestern 1973 Schutz The Phenomenology of the Social world. Evanston Northwestern 1967

[43] Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on the Sociology of Knowledge New York: Anchor 1967

[44] Anthony Giddens, (1986) The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration Berkeley: University of California Press

[45] Anthony Giddens, (1986) The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration Berkeley: University of California Press

[46] Albrecht Wellmer. Endgames: The Irreconcilable Nature of Modernity: essays and lectures. Cambridge MA: MIT Press 1998 218

[47] Laura Ephraim Beyond the two sciences settlement: Giambattisto Vico’s Critique of the Nature-Politics Opposition” Political Theory published online 5 August 2013 Political Theory DOI: 10.1177/0090591713492777

[48] Anthony Giddens New Rules of the Sociological Method 2 edition Stanford: Stanford University Press 1993

[49] Anthony Giddens New Rules of the Sociological Method 2ed Stanford: Stanford University Press 1993

[50] Jurgen Habermas. Theory of Communicative Action volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society Boston: Beacon Press: 1986: 120-121 A recent attempt to employ this perspective is Fredrik Sandberg and Andreas Wallo The interactive researcher as a virtual participant: A Habermasian interpretation Action Research 2013 11: 194


Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

By Michel Kail , Richard Sobel: Economic Crisis and the Crisis in Economic Thought A Progressive-Iconoclastic Perspective Inspired by Sartre

By Frank Kirkland: The Questionable Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education: Du Bois’ Iconoclastic Critique

By Lori Watson: What Is a “Woman” Anyway?

By Kevin Anderson: Four Years After the Arab Revolutions: Fighting on Amid Reactionary Retrenchment

By Steven Panageotou: No Democratic Theory Without Critical Theory

By Brian Caterino: The Practical Import of Political Inquiry: Perestroika’s Last Stand

By Mark Worrell: Moral Currents in Durkheim and Huysmans

By Chris Byron: A Critique of Axel Honneth’s Theory of Reification

By Kurt Jacobsen: Prefatory Note to The Twin Research Debate

By Jay Joseph , Claudia Chaufan , Ken Richardson , Doron Shultziner , Roar Fosse , Oliver James , Jonathan Latham: The Twin Research Debate in American Criminology

By Leonard Quart , Al Auster: Hollywood Follows the Money: Films of the ‘Great Recession’

By Tony Lack: Slavoj Žižek: Absolute Trouble or Recoil in Paradise?

By Brian Trench: Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy – the many faces of Anonymous

By Kurt Jacobsen: Daniel P. Bolger, Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

By Riad Azar: Michael Gould-Wartofsky, The Occupiers

By Linda Etchart: Eduardo Galeano, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History

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