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Political Science at the Crossroads

  • Ellen Deborah Ellis (a1)


Political science is at the parting of the ways. Its foundations have been undermined by the claims of law and jurisprudence, into whose hands it has been deliberately surrendering itself for the past half-century or more, and now its chief strongholds are under fire from the neighboring fields of sociology, economics, and ethics. So severe and so persistent have these attacks become that the time has arrived when the political scientist must decide whether he will allow his subject to be absorbed in any one or all of these various fields, or will attempt to reëstablish it as a distinctive discipline.

The reasons for this state of things are not difficult to discover. They quite obviously lie in the fact that in the pursuit of their basic problem—the search, namely, for the nature and source of sovereignty—political philosophers have so generally followed two equally futile and fruitless paths: either the path of pure speculation leading to a supernatural or metaphysical theory, or the path of legal analysis, leading ultimately to the juristic theory of the state. Indeed, during these recent years political theory has been so increasingly “under bondage to the lawyers” that it is little wonder that a reaction has come, and that thinkers in their determination to find the reality behind the formal juristic conception, are now repudiating not only the legal, but even the political, character of the state.



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1 Beard, Charles A., “Political Science in the Crucible”, New Republic, XIII, pt. II, p. 3.

2 Krabbe, H., The Modern Idea of the State, translated by Sabine, and Shepard, . Translators' Introduction, p. xviii.

3 Ibid. Translators' Introduction, pp. xxvii sq.

4 Willoughby, W. W., “The Juristic Conception of the State”, American Political Science Review, XII, 192 (May, 1918).

5 Ibid., p. 194.

6 Ibid., p. 193.

7 Ibid., p. 193.

8 Beard, op. cit., p. 3.

9 Cole, G. D. H., Social Theory, p. 81.

10 Elliott, W. Y., “Sovereign State or Sovereign Group?”, American Political Science Review, XIX, p. 476 (August, 1925).

11 Duguit, L., Law in the Modern State, translated by Frida, and Laski, Harold. Author's Introduction, p. XLI.

12 Political Theories, Recent Times, ed. by Merriam, C. E. and Barnes, H. E., p. 80.

13 Krabbe, H., Die Lehre der Rechtssouveränität, p. 77.

14 Barnes, H. E., Sociology and Political Theory, p. 13.

15 Ibid., p. 31.

16 Ibid., p. 5.

17 Ibid., p. 5.

18 Ibid., p. 12.

19 Political Theories, Recent Times, p. 100.

20 Krabbe, , The Modern Idea of the State, p. 1.

21 Krabbe, , The Modern Idea of the State, p. 213.

22 Ibid., p. 39.

23 Ibid., p. 7.

24 Ibid., p. 66.

25 Ibid., p. 115.

26 Krabbe, , The Modern Idea of the State, p. 48.

27 Ibid., p. 110.

28 Ibid., p. 124.

29 Laski, H. J., A Grammar of Politics, p. 9.

30 Ibid., p. 55.

31 Ibid., pp. 55–56.

32 Laski, , A Grammer of Politics, p. 55.

33 Ibid., p. 57.

34 Ibid., p. 57.

35 Ibid., p. 18.

36 Cf. Willoughby, W. W., The Fundamental Concepts of Public Law, p. 147.

37 Green, T. H., Philosophical Works, II, p. 410, quoted by Willoughby, in Fundamental Concepts, pp. 113114.

38 Cf. the author's article The Pluralistic State,” printed in this REVIEW, XIV, pp. 398 and 406 (August, 1920).

39 Fundamental Concepts, p. 113.

40 History of the Theory of Sovereignty since Rousseau, p. 157.

41 Willoughby, , Fundamental Concepts, p. 8. Cf. also p. 10, where, in rehearsing the viewpoints from which the state may be studied, he mentions the historical, the ethical, the psychological, the practical, and the juristic, but omits entirely the political as such, and p. 31, where he omits the purely political character of the state from the list of standpoints from which the state may be regarded. In the light of subsequent discussion (see especially p. 149), he would probably include what is in this paper emphasized as political under the historical, but without, it is believed, due emphasis on the political elements involved.

42 Ibid., p. 149.

43 Willoughby, , Fundamental Concepts, p. 173.

44 Ibid., pp. 159–158.

45 Ibid., p. 4.

46 Willoughby, , The Nature of the State, pp. 130133.

47 Ibid.., p. 217.

48 Cf. comment of Professor Crane on The Juristic Conception of the State, in this REVIEW, XII, No. 2 (May, 1918).

49 Fundamental Concepts, p. 50.

50 Fundamental Concepts, p. 145.

51 Cf. “The Pluralistic State,” loc. cit., p. 403.

52 This point is ably brought out and developed by ProfessorWilloughby, in “The Juristic Theories of Krabbe”, in this REVIEW, XX, especially p. 523 (August, 1926).

53 Cf. Vinogradoff, , Historical Jurisprudence, I, pp. 84 sq., and The Juridical Nature of the State”, Michigan Law Review, XXIII, No. 2 (December, 1924).

54 On the Conception of Sovereignty”, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, I, p. 401.

55 Austin's Theory of Sovereignty”, Political Science Quarterly, IX, p. 43 (March, 1894).

56 An Old Master and Other Essays, p. 78.

57 Principles of Political Science, p. 115.

58 Loc. cit., pp. 495–496.

59 The Law of the Constitution (2nd ed.), p. 67.

60 Studies in History and Jurisprudence, p. 520.


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