Genealogy as an Approach to Political Theory




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Political Studies Association



Peer reviewed


The aim of this paper is to present an increasing need for genealogy as an approach within Political Theory, as a response to the growing impact discourse surrounding PhD funding. I begin by establishing this paper’s point of departure, regarding the distinction between institutional expertise and “normative political expertise” (Lamb 2016, 9), and the concern over the latter, as argued by Robert Lamb. I examine an opposing trend to Lamb’s concept, but find it not in another theorist’s writings, but the funding structures that Political Theory comes under. In essence, I make an interlocutor from PhD funding requirements, which require us to show impact, implicitly asking us to exercise that “normative political expertise”. I then explore what ‘impact theory’ would look like within Political Theory and Political Thought (with occasional glances at Political Philosophy). I subsequently offer a strong and weak reading of this impact theory. Following on from this, I assert the need for Political Theory to increasingly engage in genealogical methods as a middle way, in response to this ‘impact discourse’ and its reliance on “normative political expertise”. In such a difficult position to be in, of accepting ‘impact’ and thus encouraging normative political expertise, or rejecting the notion and receiving no funding (thus becoming an exclusive pursuit enabled by personal wealth), I argue Political Theorizing needs genealogy more than ever, as a form of conceptual analysis which examines “conceptual analysis itself” (Waldron 1995, 166). I conclude by claiming genealogy does not seek to undermine the knowledge or theories that expertise has produced, merely to unsettle the role we give expertise. I claim genealogy can do this, without contradiction, for it is not just a methodology, but a philosophy in itself.


Paper for the Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2017, Brighton


methods in political theory, genealogy, PhD funding


Stevens, Si. (2016) Genealogy as an Approach to Political Theory. Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2017, Brighton


Research Institute