Political Science as a Broad Church: The search for a pluralist discipline




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In 1996 Robert Goodin and Hans-Dieter Klingemann published an edited collection of essays, A New Handbook of Political Science, that provides probably the best overview of the discipline of political science, at least as seen through the eyes of the mainstream of the profession. Goodin is an American working at the Australian National University, while Klingemann is a German working in Berlin. Nevertheless, their overview represents an American view of political science, which is hardly surprising as more than 75 per cent of living political scientists are American. Overall, they present a picture of the discipline as professional, pluralistic and improving rapidly. Here, we take issue with that view, not as an ambition, but as a reality. In contrast, we argue that political science, particularly US political science, is still dominated by a positivist epistemology and, particularly, by behaviouralist and rational choice approaches that are underpinned by that positivism. We begin by outlining Goodin and Klingemann's argument and critiquing it. Subsequently, we take issue with them empirically, using evidence drawn both from their own edited collection and an analysis of the contents of the two foremost US and UK journals; in the US the American Political Science Review, the American Political Science Association's main journal, and the American Journal of Political Science, and in the UK the British Journal of Political Science and Political Studies, the Political Studies Association's main journal. The methodology adopted is discussed below. In the last section, we consider the consequence of our findings for the future of political science in Britain.




Marsh, D. & Savigny, H., 2004. Political Science as a Broad Church: The Search for a Pluralist Discipline. Politics, 24(3), pp.155–168.


Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)