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The Descent of Political Theory

The Genealogy of an American Vocation

This provocative work reveals the origins and development of political theory as it is presently understood—and misunderstood. Tracing the evolution of the field from the nineteenth century to the present, John G. Gunnell shows how current controversies, like those over liberalism or the relationship of theory to practice, are actually the unresolved legacy of a forgotten past. By uncovering this past, Gunnell exposes the forces that animate and structure political theory today.

Gunnell reconstructs the evolution of the field by locating it within the broader development of political science and American social science in general. During the behavioral revolution that swept political science in the 1950s, the relationship between political theory and political science changed dramatically, relegating theory to the margins of an increasingly empirical discipline. Gunnell demonstrates that the estrangement of political theory is rooted in a much older quarrel: the authority of knowledge versus political theory is rooted in a much older quarrel: the authority of knowledge versus political authority, academic versus public discourse. By disclosing the origin of this dispute, he opens the way for a clearer understanding of the basis and purpose of political theory.

As critical as it is revelatory, this thoughtful book should be read by any one interested in the history of political theory or science—or in the relationship of social science to political practice in the United States.

337 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Political Science: Political and Social Theory

Table of Contents

1. The Practice of Theory: End and Beginning
2. State and University
3. The Institutionalization of Theory
4. Politics and Political Theory
5. In Search of Identity
6. The Crisis of Liberalism
7. The Idea of Theoretical Intervention: The Weimar Conversation
8. Coming to America
9. Political Science and Political Theory
10. The Behavioral Reformation
11. Exodus

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