However, political theory is a field very much oriented to book publication a fact which artificially 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 number 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.
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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 Wolin , and John Schaar , were associated , the Civil Rights movement Arendt , and protests against the Vietnam war and the US 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 Justice , a 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.
These rights are accompanied by obligations on the part of their holders to respect rights held by others, and duties to the government that establishes and protects rights. Liberalism so defined leaves plenty of scope for dispute concerning the boundaries of politics, political intervention in markets, political preference aggregation and conflict resolution mechanisms, and the content of rights, constitutions, obligations, and duties.
There is, for example, substantial distance between the egalitarian disposition of Rawls and the ultra-individualistic libertarianism of Robert Nozick In earlier decades, liberalism had a clear comprehensive competitor in the form of Marxism, not just in the form of real-world governments claiming to be Marxist, p. The market was seen not as a mechanism for meeting individual interests, but as a generator of oppression and inequality as well as undeniable material progress. Disagreements between these schools were intense, although both proclaimed the superiority of Marxist over liberal thought.
In the period that followed, however, the influence of academic Marxism in the English-speaking world waned. The fortunes of Marxist theory were not helped by the demise of the Soviet bloc in —91, and the determined pursuit of capitalism in China under the leadership of a nominally Marxist regime. One way to think of subsequent developments is to see a strand from both liberalism and Marxism as being successfully appropriated by practitioners of analytic philosophy, such as Rawls and G. Cohen Focusing strictly on Marxism vs.
Michael Rogin combined the insights of Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis to generate work now considered canonical to American studies and cultural studies though he himself was critical of that set of approaches; see Dean Rogin pressed for the centrality of race, class, property, and the unconscious to the study of American politics on race, see also Mills In France, social theorists writing in the s in the aftermath of May included, most famously, Michel Foucault, whose retheorization of power had a powerful influence on generations of American theorists.
The s Italian Autonomia movement inspired new Gramscian and p. For much of this period, feminism defined itself almost as an opposite of liberalism, drawing inspiration initially from Marxism, later from psychoanalytic theories of difference, and developing its own critique of the abstract individual. In Canada and at Oxford, Charles Taylor was thinking about politics through a rereading of Hegel that stressed the importance of community to political autonomy, influencing Michael Sandel and many subsequent theorists of multiculturalism.
Deleuze and Guattari combined post-structuralism and psychoanalysis into a series of difficult ruminations on the spatial metaphors that organize our thinking at the ontological level about politics, nature, and life ; see also Patton Ranging from Freudian to Lacanian approaches, psychoanalysis has provided political theorists with a perspective from which to examine the politics of mass society, race and gender inequalities, and personal and political identity Butler ; Laclau ; Zizek ; Irigaray ; Zerilli ; Glass As the above suggests, alternatives to liberalism continue to proliferate, and yet, in many areas of political theory, liberalism has become the dominant position.
Marxism has continued to inform debates on exploitation and equality, but in a shift that has been widely replayed through the last twenty-five years, reinvented itself to give more normative and analytic weight to the individual Roemer ; ; Cohen ; One intriguing outcome is the literature on basic income or basic endowment, which all individuals would receive from government to facilitate their participation in an otherwise liberal society van Parijs ; Ackerman and Alstott At the beginning of the s, Amartya Sen posed a question that was to frame much of the literature on distributive justice through the next decade: equality of what?
The subsequent explosion of liberal egalitarianism can be read as a radicalization of the liberal tradition. But the convergence between what were once distinctively liberal and socialist takes on equality can also be seen as demonstrating the new dominance of liberal theory. Much of the literature on equality is now resolutely individualist in form, running its arguments through thought experiments designed to tease out our intuitions of equality, and illustrating with stories of differently endowed individuals, exhibiting different degrees of aspiration and effort, whose entitlements we are then asked to assess.
It is not always clear what purchase this discourse of individual variation with a cast of characters including opera singers, wine buffs, surfers, and fishermen has on the larger inequalities of the contemporary world. What about inequalities of race, gender, class, and caste?
In the course of the s, a number of theorists voiced concern about the way issues of redistribution were being displaced by issues of recognition, casting matters of economic inequality into the shade Fraser There is considerable truth to this observation, but it would be misleading to say that no one now writes about economic inequality. There is, on the contrary, a large literature and a useful website, The Equality Exchange 5 dealing with these issues. The more telling point is that the egalitarian literature has become increasingly focused around questions of individual responsibility, opportunity, and endowment, thus less engaged with social structures of inequality, and less easily distinguishable from liberalism.
One central axis of contention in the s was what came to be known as the liberal—communitarian debate for an overview, see Mulhall and Swift Communitarians like Michael Sandel , influenced by both Arendt and Taylor, argued that in stressing abstract individuals and their rights as the building blocks for political theory, liberalism missed the importance of the community that creates individuals as they actually exist.
For communitarians, individuals are always embedded in a network of social relationships, never the social isolates that liberalism assumes, and they have obligations to the community, not just to the political arrangements that facilitate their own interests. But voices soon made themselves heard arguing that this was a storm in a teacup, a debate within liberalism rather than between liberalism and its critics, the main question being the degree to which holistic notions of community are instrumental to the rights and freedoms that both sides in the debate prized Taylor ; Walzer ; Galston Its conception of the individual was never as atomistic, abstracted, or self-interested as its critics tried to suggest.
In the s, feminists had mostly positioned themselves as critics of both schools. But they also warned against the authoritarian potential in holistic notions of community, and the way these could be wielded against women e. Frazer and Lacey Still others warned against treating the language of justice and rights as irredeemably masculine, and failing, as a result, to defend the rights of women Okin There has since been a discernible softening in this critique, and this seems to reflect a growing conviction that liberalism is not as dependent on the socially isolated self as had been suggested.
Some of the earlier feminist critiques overstated the points of difference from liberalism, misrepresenting the individual at the heart of the tradition as more self-contained, self-interested, and self-centered than was necessarily the case. But it also seems that liberalism made some important adjustments and in the process met at least part of the feminist critique.
It would be churlish to complain of this when you criticize a tradition, you presumably hope it will mend its ways , but one is left, once again, with a sense of a tradition mopping up its erstwhile opponents. Some forms of feminism are committed to a radical politics of sexual difference that it is hard to imagine liberalism ever wanting or claiming see Zerilli But many brands of feminism that were once critical of liberalism have made peace with the liberal tradition. In the literature on citizenship and democracy, liberalism has faced a number of critical challenges, but here, too, some of the vigor of that challenge seems to have p.
Republicanism pre-dates liberalism by two thousand years and emphasizes active citizenship, civic virtue, and the pursuit of public values, not the private interests associated more with the liberal tradition. Republicanism enjoyed a significant revival through the s and s as one of the main alternatives to liberal democracy Sunstein ; Pettit ; indeed, it looked, for a time, as if it might substitute for socialism as the alternative to the liberal tradition.
Deliberative democracy also emerged in the early s as a challenge to established liberal models that regarded politics as the aggregation of preferences defined mostly in a private realm J. For deliberative democrats, reflection upon preferences in a public forum was central; and again, it looked as though this would require innovative thinking about alternative institutional arrangements that would take democracies beyond the standard liberal repertoire Dryzek By the late s, however, the very institutions that deliberative democrats had once criticized became widely seen as the natural home for deliberation, with an emphasis on courts and legislatures.
In the hands of Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno ; first published in particular, critique was directed at dominant forms of instrumental rationality that defined modern society. Habermas rescued this critique from a potential dead end by showing that a communicative conception of rationality could underwrite a more congenial political order and associated emancipatory projects.
Yet come the s, Habermas had redefined himself as a constitutionalist stressing the role of rights in establishing the conditions for open discourse in the public sphere, whose democratic task was to influence political institutions that could come straight from a liberal democratic textbook.
Green political theory began in the s, generating creative proposals for ecologically defensible alternatives to liberal capitalism. The center of gravity was left-libertarianism verging on eco-anarchism Bookchin , although at least in the s some more Hobbesian and authoritarian voices were raised Ophuls All could agree that liberal individualism and capitalist economic growth were antithetical to any sustainable political ecology.
More recently, we have seen the progress p. Not all green theory has moved in this direction. For example, Bennett and Chaloupka work more in the traditions of Thoreau and Foucault, while Plumwood draws on radical ecology and feminism to criticize the dualisms and anthropocentric rationalism of liberalism. Post-structuralism is often seen as merely critical rather than constructive. This mistaken impression comes from a focus on the intersections between post-structuralist theory and liberal theory. Some post-structuralist theorists seek to supplement rather than supplant liberalism, to correct its excesses, or even to give it a conscience that, in the opinion of many, it too often seems to lack.
And some versions of liberal theory are more likely to be embraced or explored by post-structuralists than others: Isaiah Berlin, Richard Flathman, Jeremy Waldron, and Stuart Hampshire are all liberals whose work has been attended to in some detail by post-structuralist thinkers. But post-structuralists have also developed alternative models of politics and ethics not directly addressed to liberal theory. One way to canvass those is with reference to the varying grand narratives on offer from this side of the field. Post-structuralism is often defined as intrinsically hostile to any sort of grand narrative, a claim attributed to Jean-Francois Lyotard This claim is belied by a great deal of work in the field that does not so much reject grand narrative as reimagine and reiterate it Bennett Post-structuralists do reject foundational meta-narratives: those that present themselves as transcendentally true, for which nature or history has an intrinsic purpose, or that entail a two-world metaphysic.
Those post-structuralists who do use meta-narratives tend to see themselves as writing in the tradition of social contract theorists like Hobbes, whose political arguments are animated by imaginary or speculative claims about the origins and trajectories of social life. What post-structuralists try to do without is not the origin story by means of which political theory has always motivated its readers, nor the wagers by way of which it offers hope.
Liberalism has demonstrated an almost unprecedented capacity for absorbing its competitors, aided by the collapse of its rival, Marxism, but also by its own virtuosity in reinventing itself and incorporating key elements from opposing traditions. Having won over many erstwhile critics in the metropolitan centers, liberals now more readily acknowledge that there are significant traditions of thought beyond those that helped form Western liberalism.
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They acknowledge, moreover, that the grounds for rejecting these other traditions are more slippery than previously conceived. Many were incensed at the suggestion that their claims about universal justice, equality, or human rights had no independent grounding, and accused the skeptics of abandoning normative political theory see, for example, Benhabib et al. In the course of the s, however, anti-foundationalism moved from being a contested minority position to something more like the consensus. In the wake, however, of Rawls and Habermas disavowing metaphysical support for their clearly normative projects, Western political theorists have increasingly acknowledged the historical contingency of their own schools of thought; and this is generating some small increase in interest in alternative p.
The awareness of these traditions does not, of itself, signal a crisis of confidence in liberal principles arch antifoundationalist Richard Rorty certainly has no trouble declaring himself a liberal , but it does mean that political theory now grapples more extensively with questions of moral universalism and cultural or religious difference e. Euben ; Parekh ; Honig The explosion of writing on multiculturalism—largely from the s—is particularly telling here.
Multiculturalism is, by definition, concerned with the multiplicity of cultures: It deals with what may be radical differences in values, belief-systems, and practices, and has been especially preoccupied with the rights, if any, of nonliberal groups in liberal societies.
Will Kymlicka famously defended group rights for threatened cultural communities on the grounds that a secure cultural context is necessary to individual autonomy, such that the very importance liberals attach to individual autonomy requires them to support multicultural policies. His version of liberal multiculturalism has been widely criticized and many continue to see liberalism as at odds with multiculturalism for example, Okin ; ; Barry Liberalism simultaneously makes itself the defining tradition and notices the awkwardness in this.
Its very dominance then seems to spawn an increasing awareness of traditions other than itself. It is not entirely clear why this has happened now liberalism, after all, has been around for many years but that useful shorthand, globalization, must provide at least part of the explanation. And although political theorists have drawn heavily on the liberal tradition in their explorations of human rights or global justice, the very topics they address require them to think about the specificity of Western political thought.
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Political theory now roams more widely than in the past, pondering accusations of ethno-centricity, questioning the significance of national borders, engaging in what one might almost term a denationalization of political theory. That description is an overstatement, for even in addressing explicitly global issues, political theory draws on concepts that are national in origin, and the assumptions written into them often linger into their more global phase.
Terms like nation or state are not going to disappear from the vocabulary of political theory—but the kinds of shift Chris Brown discerns from international to global conceptions of justice are being played out in many corners of contemporary political thought. It is hard to predict how this will develop, although the combination of a dominant liberalism with a concern that Western liberalism may have illegitimately centered itself looks unstable, and it seems probable that pockets of resistance and new alternatives to liberalism will therefore gain strength in future years.
It seems certain that moves to reframe political theory in a more self-consciously global context will p. This is already evident in the literature on equality, democracy, and social justice, where there is increasing attention to both international and global dimensions. It is also becoming evident in new ways of theorizing religion. But other dimensions are now emerging, including new ways of understanding the politics of secularism, and closer examination of the normative arguments developed within different religions.
It seems likely that new developments in science particularly those associated with bio-genetics will provide political theorists with difficult challenges in the coming decade, especially as regards our understanding of the boundaries between public and private, and the prospects for equality. And while the prospect of a more participatory or deliberative democracy remains elusive, we can perhaps anticipate an increasing focus on the role of pleasure and passion in political activism. The optimistic take on this is that gender is no longer a distinct and separate topic, but now a central component in political thought.
The more pessimistic take is suggested in Zerilli : that the attempt to think politics outside an exclusively gender-centered frame may end up reproducing the blind spots associated with the earlier canon of political thought. We noted earlier the sometimes difficult relationship between political theory and the rest of political science. We return to this here, but more with a view to areas of cooperation. Here and there, methodology, public administration, political psychology, and public law might be added; and truly adventurous departments may stretch to political economy and environmental politics.
All these subfields have a p. These connections confirm the importance of political theory to the rest of political science. International relations has a well-defined sub-subfield of international relations IR theory, and we have noted that this is defined largely in terms of the three grand positions of realism, constructivism, and liberalism. Confusingly, liberalism in IR is not quite the same as liberalism in political theory.
In IR theory, liberalism refers to the idea that actors can cooperate and build international institutions for the sake of mutual gains; it is therefore linked to a relatively hopeful view of the international system. Realism, in contrast, assumes that states maximize security in an anarchy where violent conflict is an ever-present possibility. Constructivism points to the degree to which actors, interests, norms, and systems are social constructions that can change over time and place. Each of these provides plenty of scope for engagement with political theory—even if these possibilities are not always realized.
Despite its differences, IR liberalism connects with the liberalism of political theory in their shared Lockean view of how governing arrangements can be established, and when it comes to specifying principles for the construction of just and legitimate international institutions.
Thucydides has also been an important if contestable resource for realism Monoson and Loriaux Constructivism has been represented for example, by Price and Reus-Smit as consistent with Habermasian critical theory. As Scheuerman points out, critical theory has reciprocated, in that it now sees the international system as the crucial testing ground for its democratic prescriptions.
Normative theory is currently flourishing in international relations, and many of the resources for this are provided by political theory Cochran , with postmodernists, Rawlsian liberals, feminists, and critical theorists making particularly important contributions. The connections between comparative politics and political theory are harder to summarize because many of the practitioners of the former are area specialists with only a limited interest in theory. Those comparatists who use either large- n quantitative studies or small- n comparative case studies are often more interested in simple explanatory theory, one source of which is rational choice theory.
But there are also points of engagement with political theory as we understand it. The comparative study of social movements and their relationships with the state has drawn upon the idea of the public sphere in democratic political theory, and vice versa. Accounts of the role of the state in political development have drawn upon liberal constitutionalist political theory. More critical accounts of the state in developing societies have drawn upon Marxist theory. In the last two decades democratization has been an important theme in comparative politics, and this work ought to have benefited from a dialogue with democratic theory.
Unfortunately this has not happened. Studies of p. Recent work on race and diaspora studies in a comparative context is perhaps a more promising site of connection, invoking Tocqueville see also Bourdieu and Wacquant ; Hanchard And theorists working on multiculturalism and race have been especially attentive to comparative politics questions about the variety of governmental forms and their interaction with cultural difference Carens ; Kymlicka ; Taylor ; Gilroy Methodology might seem the subfield least likely to engage with political theory, and if methodology is thought of in terms of quantitative techniques alone, that might well be true.
However, methodology is also home to reflection on what particular sorts of methods can do. Here, political theorists are in an especially good position to mediate between the philosophy of social science on the one hand, and particular methods on the other. Taylor and Ball point to the inevitable moment of interpretation in the application of all social science methods, questioning the positivist self-image of many of those who deploy quantitative methods.
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The inter-disciplinarity that characterizes so much political theory provides especially fruitful material for methodological reflection. From Rawls and Dworkin onwards, work on principles of justice and equality has carried definite policy implications regarding taxation, public expenditure on health, the treatment of those with disabilities, and so on.
Normative reasoning applied to public policy largely defines the content of Philosophy and Public Affairs , though this reasoning involves moral philosophy as much as or more than political theory. Policy evaluation and design are important parts of the public policy subfield, and both require normative criteria to provide standards by which to evaluate actual or potential policies. Again, political theory is well placed to illuminate such criteria and how one might think about handling conflicts between them for example, when efficiency and justice appear to point in different directions.
It is also well placed to explore the discourse aspects of public policy, an aspect that has been an especial interest of the Theory, Policy, and Society group of the American Political Science Association. Among the linkages this group develops are those between p. Cutting across all the subfields of political science in recent decades has been rational choice theory, grounded in microeconomic assumptions about the wellsprings of individual behavior. Indeed, to some of its practitioners, rational choice is what should truly be described as political theory.
This claim does not hold up: As explanatory theory, rational choice theory is increasingly regarded as a failure Green and Shapiro But many believe that it is very useful nevertheless. Game theory, for example, can clarify what rationality is in particular situations Johnson , thereby illuminating one of the perennial questions in political theory. And despite the frequent description of rational choice theory as value free, it has provided for plenty of normative theorizing among its practitioners.
The conclusions of rational choice theory are often bad news for democracy Barry and Hardin ; but it is possible to reinterpret this edifice in terms of critical theory, as showing what would happen if everyone behaved according to microeconomic assumptions. The political challenge then becomes one of how to curb this destructive behavioral proclivity Dryzek Leading comparativist Bo Rothstein has expressed the worry that the empirical arm of the discipline has lost its moral compass.
Despite the likelihood of some resistance to this from both sides of the divide, the examples discussed above suggest that such connection or reconnection is indeed possible. We have argued that political theory is something of a mongrel sub-discipline, made up of many traditions, approaches, and styles of thought, and increasingly characterized by its borrowing from feminist and critical theory, film theory, popular culture, mass media, behavioral science, and economics.
The current academy confronts two opposing trends. One draws the boundaries of each discipline ever more tightly, sometimes as part of a bid for higher status, sometimes in the not totally implausible belief that this is the route to deeper and more systematic knowledge. Another looks to the serendipitous inspirations that can come through cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary work; or, more simply and modestly, realizes that there may be much to learn from other areas of study. It is hard to predict which of p.
We hope and believe that the second trend will turn out to be the dominant one. Ackerman, B.
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Bailey and Susan McWilliams. Nicholas Buccola, also a JMC fellow, will be the new book review editor. Its inspiration was Mr. Salvatori was concerned not only with the Communist threat to the Free World, but also with the long-range and more fundamental problem of the internal cohesion, the sense of purpose and self-confidence of the West, particularly the United States. With this in mind, he founded the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College to study the moral and intellectual foundations of civil society-the factors that inspire and ordain liberty, elevating it above mere license.
Mark Bevir. Political Theory , Methodology, Public Policy. Wendy Brown. Kinch Hoekstra. History of Political Philosophy.