Were one to ask the typical, sophisticated American voter what it is that political scientists do, he or she might respond, “Why, they study politics!” Were one to ask the same of the somewhat more sophisticated congressional or campaign staffer, a likely response would be, “they study politics in the abstract,” accompanied by a faintly condescending smile. Lastly, were one to pose the question to the rather more sophisticated subject of this inquiry, the political science practitioner, among the range of amorphous, if not conflicting, responses one might expect would be the following: “We study the how and why of politics, the exercise of power, the underlying patterns and contexts of political and governmental behavior.” Truth, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder.
The following contributions, from significant scholar/practitioners, are characterized by an abiding realism as to the hazards of crossing the line, of venturing beyond the tower, towards the enchanted forest of politics. They are marked by an awareness of the distinctiveness of the two life worlds, of knowledge and power, heirs to a reflective tradition traceable to the Platonic Epistles, Hume, Weber (above all), the Frankfurt School, and Foucault. They stand in a line of intellectual activism, from Plato's tutelage of Dionysius to the examples of Sartre, Camus, Malraux, or of Vargas Llosa and Havel in our day.