Methods in Political Theory

Methods in Political Theory


During the 1960s and 70s the methodological orthodoxy of enquiries into the study of political thought became the target of historical critique. Dissatisfied with analyses that masqueraded as historical theses, critics proposed alternative procedures they believed were more appropriate to interpretations of canonical texts. In reaction to the critique, political theorists turned inward, reflecting on the problem of how the canon should be reconstructed, thereby following in the footsteps of neighbouring disciplines such as philosophy and history, where hermeneutical issues had already been subjected to systematic investigation. Rather than trying to generate approaches distinctive to their enterprise, political theorists either ‘imported’ insights from the latter disciplines or expressed their aversion toward methodological debates.

This reluctance to talk about method has not changed much since. Indeed, some theorists consider methodological discussions as nothing but ‘continental’ charade. Aversion towards methodological debates is often based on the underlying assumption that we all know not only what we do, but also how we do it. Thus, questions of method are either bracketed out completely, or dealt with only in introductory chapters in order to engage with ‘more substantive’ issues. Yet method and substance are only analytically distinct: the way in which theorists choose to interpret a text is inextricably linked to the outcome of their analyses.

Abstracts of up to 500 words are requested for papers that aspire to discuss the term ‘method’ with reference to political theorizing, and/or to address one or more of the following approaches:

• ‘Methods’ of Textual Interpretation (for instance, Skinner, Strauss, Gadamer, Ricoeur, Derrida, Althusser)

• Genealogy (Nietzsche, Foucault)

• Conceptual history (Koselleck, Ball)

• Comparative Political Theory (Dallmayr, Godrej et al.)

• Gender Theory and Feminist ‘Interventions’ (Butler, Fraser)

• Critical Theory (Adorno, Horkheimer, Habermas, Honneth)

• Deliberative democracy (Habermas, Benhabib) or Agonistic Pluralism (Mouffe, Honig, Connolly, Rancière)

• ‘Original Position’ (Rawls)

• Ideal vs. Non-Ideal Theory

• Studies of Ideology (Freeden, van Dijk)

• Marx and Marxian Political Theory

Please submit your abstract, along with your name and institutional affiliation to Abstracts will be accepted on a rolling basis. The deadline for submissions is Friday 14 June 2013.

Panel Convenor:

Jens Olesen (Oxford/LSE)


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