The Suicide of Political Science

The book I am currently trying to finish writing is in part about the defects of modern academic political science, which suffers not so much from leftism as much as sheer irrelevancy and obtuseness. (The irony is that compared to academic history, political science looks pretty good some times, especially when you see political scientists writing better history books than academic historians, which happens with surprising frequency.)

But perhaps I should speak of the suicide of political science instead of its irrelevancy. The journal Political Theory, commonly regarded as one of the leading journals in the field, contains a note from editor Jane Bennett in the current issue announcing some changes:

Political Theory continues to receive and respond to many thoughtful, provocative, and inspiring essays. And it is run by a team of committed scholars who share those traits. I want to thank Danielle Allen for her service on the Executive Editorial Committee, wishing her the best as she steps away from that role to take up the leadership of the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. Also stepping down is Rogers Smith, whose generous and creative intellect will be greatly missed too.

Danielle Allen is an Obama-supporting liberal, but not a leftist, and in fact I reviewed her book on the Declaration of Independence favorably in National Review, despite some differences we have. Prof. Rogers Smith of Penn is another old-fashioned moderate liberal who teaches and writes on American political thought and constitutional law in recognizable ways. Let’s see who their successors are:

The departures of Professors Allen and Smith have allowed us to add two new wonderful voices to the EEC. We are pleased to be joined by Professors Nivedita Menon, a feminist political theorist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Professor Neil Roberts, Chair of the Department of Religion and Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. Nivedita Menon’s most recent books include Seeing Like a Feminist; Power and Contestation: India since 1989 (Global History of the Present); and Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics beyond the Law. Neil Roberts is the author of Freedom as Marronage, he edits (with Jane Anna Gordon) the book series Creolizing the Canon.

Wonderful voices, indeed! But just in case we don’t get the drift of where Bennett thinks the journal should go, there’s this:

I write as political attention in the United States and Europe is focused on terrorism, a thematic that almost but not completely obscures sight of the violence of climate change. Societies that are themselves wedded to violence—in the United States, to gun culture, fracking, racialized killings, militarizations of all sorts—express horror at forms of violence insistently presented as coming “from the outside.” It is a hair-raising and sea-rising time, a time, it seems, on the cusp.

The cusp of what? Increasing politically correct mediocrity and trendy posing?


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