The Future of Political Science (summary, short discussion)

I have mentioned, in a previous post, all of the books that fill up my summer reading list. As of now, I have at least one book completed and several more have been added to my list.  I have recently finished The Future of Political Science: 100 Perspectives, a collection of 100 short articles aimed at discussing what has not been properly analyzed or should be analyzed in political science.  The book ended up being more oriented towards the fields of American and Comparative than I had originally anticipated (mostly by the title); however, this is more my own fault than anything else. Quickly browsing the titles of the 100 articles and the authors or knowing that the book is a festshcrift for Sidney Verba easily conveys that information.

The book is not homogeneous.  For example, the two initial sections take opposing views with Arend Lijphart arguing that the United States is more unique than comparative scholars give it credit for and Russell Dalton taking the opposed position that US institutions have far more in common with other states than what has been examined previously. There are clusters of articles that deal with similar topics (e.g. elite behavior, institutions, voting, parties), but not all topics have a set of opposing viewpoints (nor should they necessarily). The introductory chapter offers a few rubrics for organization of the book that were ultimately rejected and provides some glimpse of the diversity of the subjects that are covered.

Beyond several substantive propositions, the book also has some focus on methodology. None of the articles that discuss political methodology were overly technical or beyond an average political scientist's comprehension of what is being discussed. The range of approaches vary form those who question the utility of quantitative political science in research to those who articulate more inclusion of qualitative methods or theoretical understandings of applying econometric techniques to political science.  For example, David Butler has a very short piece that argues "Everything happens in a historical context. It is wise to be sceptical about articles on politics that never mention individual politicians. Specific leaders do make a difference. What if Gore not Bush had been adjudged the winner in 2000? What if Blair had yielded precedence to Brown in 1994? No numerical approach will explain the impact of Churchill in 1940 or of Kennedy in the early 1960s The run of history is not inevitable."

The collection is diverse.  For Comparative and American scholars looking for potential dissertation topics or a new topic to work on, this might be an ideal book to thumb through and read. I will have to recommend some of the short pieces on elite behavior and third party representation to two different friends.

Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

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