Political Political Science: A Phronetic Approach
New Political Science, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 359-372, 2013
26 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013 Last revised: 16 Oct 2013
Date Written: August 1, 2013
For over fifty years, successive waves of critique have underscored that the apolitical character of much of Political Science research betrays the founding mission of the discipline to have science serve democracy. The Caucus for a New Political Science was originally based on such a critique, and the Perestroika movement in the discipline included a call for more problem-driven as opposed to theory- or method-driven work that would better connect Political Science research to ongoing political struggles. In recent years, movements for a public Sociology and public Anthropology as well as dissonant movements in Economics and related fields have added to the insistence that social science research was too often disconnected from the real world. Phronetic Social Science has emerged out of the ferment for change in the social sciences, starting with the much-debated book by Bent Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter (Cambridge 2001). Flyvbjerg critiqued the social sciences for mimicking the natural sciences while proposing an alternative approach that focuses research on helping people address the problems they are facing in the context they are facing them. Today, Phronetic Social Science goes beyond the call for an alternative approach to social inquiry and its growing adherents are providing evidence that this alternative approach to doing research can enrich the social sciences by more effectively connecting research to efforts to address real world problems as people experience them. This essay provides a genealogy of efforts to connect Political Science to politics, a review of the major critiques of mainstream research, an explication of the rationale for more problem-driven, mixed methods research, a specification of the key principles of the phronetic approach, and examples of its application in the public realm. The essay concludes with implications for realizing a more political Political Science by way of taking a phronetic approach.
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