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This Element denaturalises political science, stressing the contestability and contingency of ideas, traditions, subfields, and even the discipline itself. The history of political science is less one of scholars testing and improving theories by reference to data than of their appropriating and transforming ideas, often obscuring or obliterating former meanings, to serve new purposes in shifting political contexts. Political science arose in the late nineteenth century as part of a wider modernism that replaced earlier developmental narratives with more formal explanations. It changed as some scholars yoked together behavioural topics, quantitative techniques, and positivist theory, and as other scholars rejected their doing so. Subfields such as International Relations remained semi-detached and focused on policy as much as theory. Furthermore, the shifting fashions within political science – modernism, behaviouralism, realism, neoliberalism, the new institutionalism – have informed the policies by which governments have tried to tame contingency and govern people.
This wide-ranging and original study reveals how prevalent modernism has become in the social sciences. With contributions from a number of leading international scholars, Modernism and the Social Sciences explores the rise and nature of modernist tropes and approaches within social sciences such as economics, econometrics, behaviourism, sociology, administrative science, linguistics, history and anthropology. The essays demonstrate how the social sciences turned away from the developmental historicisms of the nineteenth century. Instead, social scientists have become increasingly committed to synchronic and formal explanations that rely on models, correlations and ideal types, and they have increasingly appealed to systems and functions and to institutions and norms. This book will reveal wider trends and parallels to specialists in particular disciplines and it will also appeal to those interested in intellectual history and social science theory. This volume is a companion to Historicism and the Human Sciences in Britain, a product of the Mellon project on Britain's Modernity, published by Cambridge in 2017.
This chapter examines the place of historicism in the human sciences of Victorian Britain. Historicism is a philosophy that emphasizes the importance of history in understanding, explaining, or evaluating phenomena. Victorian historicists generally relied on a more or less explicit teleology. Indeed, the Victorian era was the heyday of “developmental historicism”, for the Victorians typically made sense of human life, first, by locating actions, events, practices, and institutions in their historical contexts, and second, by treating history as a progressive unfolding of principles such as character, sociability, reason, and liberty. This developmental historicism arose alongside romanticism and a broader organicism. Organicism infused, to varying degrees, the three strands of Victorian historicism that drew on Whig historiography, German romanticism, and positivism. The chapter finishes by suggesting that developmental historicism declined with the rise of modernist ideas in the late nineteenth century and with the First World War undermining the Victorian faith in reason and progress.
Historicism and the Human Sciences in Victorian Britain explores the rise and nature of historicist thinking about such varied topics as life, race, character, literature, language, economics, empire, and law. The contributors show that the Victorians typically understood life and society as developing historically in a way that made history central to their intellectual inquiries and their public culture. Although their historicist ideas drew on some Enlightenment themes, they drew at least as much on organic ideas and metaphors in ways that lent them a developmental character. This developmental historicism flourished alongside evolutionary motifs and romantic ideas of the self. The human sciences were approached through narratives, and often narratives of reason and progress. Life, individuals, society, government, and literature all unfolded gradually in accord with underlying principles, such as those of rationality, nationhood, and liberty. This book will appeal to those interested in Victorian Britain, historiography, and intellectual history.
Pluralism is among the most vital intellectual movements of the modern era. Liberal pluralism helped reinforce and promote greater separation of political and religious spheres. Socialist pluralism promoted the political role of trade unions and the rise of corporatism. Empirical pluralism helped legitimate the role of interest groups in democratic government. Today pluralism inspires thinking about key issues such as multiculturalism and network governance. However, despite pluralism's importance, there are no histories of twentieth-century pluralist thinking. Modern Pluralism fills this gap. It explores liberal, socialist, and empirical ideas about diversity in Britain and the United States. It shows how pluralists challenged homogenous nations and sovereign states, often promoting sub-national groups as potential sites of self-government. In it, intellectual historians, political theorists, and social scientists collectively explore the historical background to present institutions and debates. The book serves to enrich our understanding of the history of pluralism and its continuing relevance.