Current disciplinary debates in Political Science   no comments

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Political Science

The book I have been reading this week contains an overview of how political science has evolved in the last decades as a discipline. Entitled Making Political Science Matter (Schram & Caterino, 2006), this edited book builds up on a debate sparked by Flyvbjerg (2001) focused on the limitations of current methodologies –current at that time- in social inquiry. One of the book’s claims is that methodological diversity in this field is somewhat constrained by the pluralism of post-positivism. In other words, positivism in political sciences emulates natural sciences in dividing the discipline in subfields that become isolated one another, each one with their own methodologies. Owing to this division or constrained pluralism, a need of ‘trading zones’ or common understanding between disciplines has been identified.
Also, all essays in the book are highly critical to the application of ‘hard science’ -in which quantitative methods are included-, in political analysis, as this approach seems to be too distant to the object of study, which in this case is the society, composed in turn by people, not objects. This is why hard science cannot fully explain or provide a complete understanding of social phenomena. This limitation is leading to a revolutionary period in which a movement called Perestroika is challenging the current paradigm in social science. Together with Flyvbjerg, Perestroika aims to include –not to switch to- phronesis in the study of politics. Phronesis is a key term in the flyvbjerian debate, meaning that intuition and practical wisdom are critical to the study of social phenomena.
In short, from this book, it seems like political science is distancing from the paradigms of natural sciences, moving towards an approach in which social and political phenomena are approached from a more humanist perspective, in which personal experience gains significance. This shift might be necessary to be considered by other disciplines such as computer science when looking for a common ground , a ‘trade zone’ in which to have a fluid communication.

Written by Manuel Leon Urrutia on November 5th, 2012

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