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Political Science: Seeing Like a Subversive Social Scientist

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2021

Meredith L. Weiss*
Affiliation:
Meredith Weiss (mweiss@albany.edu) is Professor of Political Science in the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Extract

Much of the work of political science revolves around institutions—the structures through which politics happens. Leaders enter the frame, of course, but often as institutions in human form: presidents, premiers, populists, and mobilizers who serve to channel and direct who does what and what they do, much like an agency or law. We might trace this pseudo-structural, largely mechanical reading of human agency to political scientists of an earlier era: the behavioralists of the 1950s and 1960s. James C. Scott began his career as just such a scholar. For his dissertation-turned-book, Political Ideology in Malaysia: Reality and the Beliefs of an Elite, Scott surveyed a gaggle of Malaysian bureaucrats to examine, effectively, the extent to which their values and assumptions supported or subverted the new democracy they served. Although itself fairly prosaic, that work foreshadows the political grime and games that soon pulled Scott in more promising directions theoretically, whether scrutinizing Southeast Asia or global patterns: disentangling structure from norms, finding agency around the margins of class and state, and rethinking how power looks and functions.

Type
Forum—Power and Agency: The Discipline-Shifting Work of James C. Scott
Copyright
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc., 2021

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References

1 Scott, James C., Political Ideology in Malaysia: Reality and the Beliefs of an Elite (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968)Google Scholar.

2 Scott, James C., “Revolution in the Revolution: Peasants and Commissars,” Theory and Society 7, no. 1–2 (1979): 9798CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 See, for example, Scott, James C., “The Erosion of Patron-Client Bonds and Social Change in Rural Southeast Asia,” Journal of Asian Studies 32, no. 1 (1972): 537CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Scott, “Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia,” American Political Science Review 66, no. 1 (1972): 91–113; Scott, The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1976).

4 Scott, James C., Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985)Google Scholar.

5 Scott, James C., Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998).

6 See, for example, Tria Kerkvliet, Benedict J., The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977)Google Scholar; Kerkvliet, The Power of Everyday Politics: How Vietnamese Peasants Transformed National Policy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2005).

7 Among other works, see O'Brien, Kevin J. and Li, Lianjiang, Rightful Resistance in Rural China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kelliher, Daniel, Peasant Power in China: The Era of Rural Reform, 1979–1989 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992)Google Scholar.

8 For example, Arun Agrawal, Greener Pastures: Politics, Markets, and Community among a Migrant Pastoral People (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999); Agrawal, Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005).

9 Diana S. Kim, Empires of Vice: The Rise of Opium Prohibition across Southeast Asia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2020).

10 Timothy Mitchell, “The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics,” American Political Science Review 85, no. 1 (1991): 94.

11 For example, Doug McAdam, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald, eds., Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Charles Tilly and Sidney Tarrow, Contentious Politics, 2nd ed. (Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm, 2005); Peter Millward and Shaminder Takhar, “Social Movements, Collective Action and Activism,” Sociology 53, no. 3 (2019): NP1–12.

12 For example, Lisa Wedeen, Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

13 For example, Amy Allen, “Rethinking Power,” Hypatia 13, no. 1 (1998): 21–40.

14 Two especially prominent works are Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Evelyne Huber Stephens, and John D. Stephens, Capitalist Development and Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).

15 For example, Scott, James C., “Corruption, Machine Politics, and Political Change,” American Political Science Review 63, no. 4 (1969): 1142–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Evans, Peter, Rueschemeyer, Dietrich, and Skocpol, Theda, eds., Bringing the State Back In (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 See, respectively, Charles Tilly, “War-Making and State-Making as Organized Crime,” in Evans, Rueschemeyer, and Skocpol, Bringing the State Back In, 169–87; Levi, Margaret, Of Rule and Revenue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989)Google Scholar; Olson, Mancur, “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development,” American Political Science Review 87, no. 3 (1993): 567–76Google Scholar.

18 Scott, “Corruption, Machine Politics, and Political Change,” 1142–43 (emphasis in original).

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