Discipline and Method: The Making of the Will of the People
45 Pages Posted: 20 May 2011
Date Written: May 19, 2011
Despite the oft-noted move toward multi-disciplinarity, it remains the case that scholars tend to defend their own methodological turf. This can be unfortunate; no particular discipline or methodology is inherently worthy. The methodological questions regarding any given piece of scholarship should be (a) whether the project is talking an unanswered question of some importance; (b) whether the tools utilized are reliable, i.e., apt to teach us something about that question; and (c) whether the conclusions are sound. I address these questions in response to a symposium held concerning my book, The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution. They symposium, at Michigan State University School of Law, brought together scholars from history, politics and law. In this piece I explain the intellectual journey that led to The Will of the People, and respond to critics, on both substantive and methodological grounds. The focus, however, is on the issue that leads this abstract: what are the “right” tools in a multi-disciplinary world?
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