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Theorizing Politics, Politicizing Theory, and the Responsibility That Runs Between

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 May 2009

Piki Ish-Shalom
Department of International Relations, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. E-mail:


What are social science theorists' responsibilities for the effects of their theories in the real world? I maintain that politicians and ideologues place theories in their political agendas without necessarily heeding their actual content. Hence, the ramifications of theories in the real world are mostly the result of political uses and, at times, political abuses. Consequently, theorists cannot be held morally responsible for these. They do, however, bear the obligation to examine if there are some intrinsic features of theorization and theory that render these susceptible to public misinterpretation and vulnerable to political abuse. Pointing to the rhetorical capital inherent in theories, and supported by examples involving democratic-peace theory and its political destinies, I conclude that, to discharge this task, social science theorists should substitute the prevailing objective ethic with a normative one.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2009

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