Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

16 - Provisionalism in the study of politics



At a panel on the state of the discipline at the 2001 meeting of the American Political Science Association, Professor David Laitin said that political theory plays an indispensable role in contemporary political science, because it provides the foundational questions that the rest of the field tries to answer (Laitin 2001a). For Laitin, however, political theory's continuing relevance is a sign of political science's immaturity (Laitin 2001b: 24). Political theory's function of “accounting for and justifying different public outcomes” should be taken up by political science generally. Such investigators, he argues, may do better than theorists have been doing lately, as they may avoid getting mired in “diversionary tacks inducing us to grapple with ontologies or epistemologies” (23).

Laitin's vision for a theory-free political science fails to account for the special nature of political science's object of inquiry: political actors are historically constituted, limited rational beings in the process of making their collective worlds. What differentiates a political science that includes theory from a “purified,” “positive” political science is this: only the former can account for its object of inquiry qua constructor of value. However, Laitin's point about diversionary tacks applies all too well, both to political theory and to the discipline of political science as a whole. In focusing too narrowly on subdisciplinary methodological issues, political scientists and political theorists alike have missed opportunities to address political questions of broad, substantive interest (cf. Isaac 1995).

Arendt, Hannah. 1958. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Benhabib, Seyla (ed.). 1996. Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Bohman, James. 1997. “Deliberative Democracy and Effective Social Freedom: Capabilities, Resources, and Opportunities,” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 321–48
Bohman, James and William Rehg (eds.). 1997. Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics. Cambridge, MA and London: MIT Press
Brunner, Otto, Werner Conze, and Reinhart Koselleck (eds.). 1972–. Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. 8 vols. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta
Burns, Nancy, Kay Lehman Schlozman, and Sidney Verba. 2001. The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Cohen, Joshua. 1997. “Deliberation and Democratic Legitimacy,” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 67–92
Daniels, Norman. 1999. “Enabling Democratic Deliberation: How Managed Care Organizations Ought to Make Decisions about Coverage for New Technologies,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 198–210
Denver, David, Gordon Hands, and Bill Jones. 1995. “Fishkin and the Deliberative Opinion Poll: Lessons from a Study of the Granada 500 Television Program.” Political Communication 12: 147–56
Dryzek, John S. 1990. Discursive Democracy: Politics, Policy, and Political Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Dryzek, John S. 2000. Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, Contestations. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
Ellis, Elisabeth. Forthcoming. Kant's Politics: Provisional Theory for an Uncertain World. New Haven: Yale University Press
Elster, Jon. 1997. “The Market and the Forum: Three Varieties of Political Theory,” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 3–34
Ferejohn, John. 2000. “Instituting Deliberative Democracy,” in Designing Democratic Institutions: Nomos XⅬII. New York: New York University Press. 75–104
Fiorina, Morris. 1999. “Extreme Voices: The Dark Side of Civic Engagement,” in Civic Engagement and American Democracy. Skocpol and Fiorina (eds.). Washington, DC: Brookings
Fishkin, James S. 1991. Democracy and Deliberation: New Directions for Democratic Reform. New Haven and London: Yale University Press
Fishkin, James S. 1995. The Voice of the People: Public Opinion and Democracy. New Haven and London: Yale University Press
Fishkin, James S., Robert, C. Luskin, and Roger, Jowell. 2000. “Deliberative Polling and Public Consultation.” Parliamentary Affairs 53: 657–66
Foucault, Michel. 1977. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press
Galston, William A. 1999. “Diversity, Toleration, and Deliberative Democracy: Religious Minorities and Public Schooling,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 39–48
George, Robert P. 1999. “Law, Democracy, and Moral Disagreement: Reciprocity, Slavery, and Abortion,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 184–97
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader. 2001. “In Pursuit of the Public Good: Access to Justice in the United States.” Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 7: 1–15
Green, Donald P. and Ian Shapiro. 1994. Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Application in Political Science. New Haven and London: Yale University Press
Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson. 1996. Democracy and Disagreement: Why Moral Conflict Cannot be Avoided in Politics, and What Should be Done About It. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis Thompson 1999. “Democratic Disagreement,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 243–80
Gutmann, Amy, and Dennis, Thompson. 2000. “Why Deliberative Democracy is Different.” Social Philosophy and Policy 17 (1) (Winter): 161–80
Habermas, Jürgen. 1973. “Wahrheitstheorien.” In Wirklichkeit and Reflexion: Walter Schultz zum 60. Geburtstag. Helmut Farhenbach (ed.). Pfüllingen: Neske
Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Habermas, Jürgen 1992. Faktizität und Geltung: Beiträge zur Diskurstheorie des Rechts und des demokratischen Rechtsstaats. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
Habermas, Jürgen 1996. “Three Normative Models of Democracy,” in Benhabib (ed.), pp. 21–30
Habermas, Jürgen 1997. “Popular Sovereignty as Procedure,” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 35–66
Isaac, Jeffrey C. 1995. “The Strange Silence of Political Theory.” Political Theory 23(4): 636–52
Kant, I. 1902–. Kants gesammelte Schriften. Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Berlin and Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter & Co
Keck, Margaret E. and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press
Knight, Jack. 1999. “Constitutionalism and Deliberative Democracy,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 159–69
Knight, Jack, and James, Johnson. 1994. “Aggregation and Deliberation: On the Possibility of Democratic Legitimacy.” Political Theory 22(2) (May): 277–96
Knight, Jack 1997. “What Sort of Equality Does Deliberative Democracy Require?” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 279–320
Koselleck, Reinhart. 1972–89. Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe and Introduction, in Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland, O. Brunner, W. Conze, and R. Koselleck (eds.). Stuttgart: Ernst Klett Verlag
Koselleck, Reinhart. 1985. Futures Past. Keith Tribe (trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Koselleck, Reinhart. 1988. Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society. Oxford: Berg
Koselleck, Reinhart. 1989. “Linguistic change and the History of Events.” Journal of Modern History 61: 649–66
Koselleck, Reinhart. 2002. The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History, Spacing Concepts. Todd Samuel Presner et al. (trans). Stanford: Stanford University Press
Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions(2nd edn.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Kymlicka, Will. 1996. “Three Forms of Differentiated Citizenship in Canada,” in Benhabib (ed.), pp. 153–70
Kymlicka, Will. 2000. Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Laitin, David D. 1998. “Toward a Political Science Discipline: Authority Patterns Revisited.” Comparative Political Studies 31(4): 423–43
Laitin, David D 2001a. “The Political Science Discipline.” Remarks accompanying a paper (Laitin 2001b) delivered at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, CA, September
Laitin, David D 2001b. “The Political Science Discipline.” Paper delivered at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, CA, September
Macedo, Stephen (ed.). 1999. Deliberative Politics: Essays on Democracy and Disagreement. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press
Mansbridge, Jane. 1996. “Using Power/Fighting Power: the Polity,” in Benhabib (ed.), pp. 46–66
Mansbridge, Jane. 1999. “Everyday Talk in the Deliberative System,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 211–42
Marcus, George E., W. Russell Neuman, and Michael MacKuen. 2000. Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Marshall, T. H. 1964. Class, Citizenship, and Social Development: Essays. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co
Pagden, Anthony. 1987. “Introduction,” in The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe. A. Pagden (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Phillipson, Nicholas and Quentin Skinner (eds.). 1993. Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. 1972. Wittgenstein and Justice: On the Significance of Ludwig Wittgenstein for Social and Political Thought. Berkeley: University of California Press
Pocock, J. G. A. 1987. “The Concept of a Language and the metier d'historien: Some Considerations on Practice,” in Pagden (ed.)
Pocock, J. G. A. 1989. Politics, Language, and Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Putnam, Robert D. 1993. “The Prosperous Community.” The American Prospect 4(13), March 21
Putnam, Robert D. 1996. “Unsolved Mystery, the Tocqueville Files.” The American Prospect 7(25), March 1 and April 1
Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster
Putnam, Robert D., with Robert Leonardi, and Rafaella Y. Nanetti. 1993. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press
Rae, Douglas. 1999. “Democratic Liberty and the Tyrannies of Place.” in Shapiro and Hacker-Cordón (eds.), pp. 165–92
Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Rawls, John. 1980. “Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory.” The Journal of Philosophy 77(9): 515–73
Rawls, John. 1985. “Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical.” Philosophy and Public Affairs 14(3): 223–51
Rawls, John. 1996. Political Liberalism (2nd edn). New York: Columbia University Press
Rawls, John. 1997. “The Idea of Public Reason” and “Postscript,” in Bohman and Rehg (eds.), pp. 93–141
Richter, Melvin. 1989. “Understanding Begriffsgeschichte.” Political Theory 17(2): 296–301
Richter, Melvin 1995. The History of Political and Social Concepts: A Critical Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press
Romer, Paul M. 1993. “Two Strategies for Economic Development: Using Ideas and Producing Ideas.” Proceedings of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics 1992. 63–91
Sandel, Michael J. 1998. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (2nd edn.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Schauer, Frederick. 1999. “Talking as a Decision Procedure,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 17–27
Shapiro, Ian. 1999a. “Enough of Deliberation: Politics is about Interests and Power,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 28–38
Shapiro, Ian. 1999b. Democratic Justice. New Haven: Yale University Press
Shapiro, Ian. 1996. Democracy's Place. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press
Shapiro, Ian and Casiano Hacker-Cordón (eds.). 1999. Democracy's Edges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Sunstein, Cass R. 1999. “Agreement without Theory,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 123–50
Young, Iris Marion. 1999. “Justice, Inclusion, and Deliberative Democracy,” in Macedo (ed.), pp. 151–58