Political Theory and Social Science: Cutting Against the by J. Gunnell

By J. Gunnell

This paintings is dedicated to a serious analytical exam of the heritage, personality, and behavior of up to date educational political conception and to a reconsideration of important components of this box of inquiry from the viewpoint of the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

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Social Scientific Inquiry and the Metapractical Voice 37 Weber was writing at a time when both German society and the university were becoming less politically and socially homogenous and when, at the same time, the status of academic intellectuals was declining. He believed that in this situation the only claim to authority that university intellectuals could embrace, and that would be practically efficacious and meaningful, was one that was presented in the idiom of science. But the Methodenstreit in which he was so actively involved raised contentious issues about both the nature of social science and its relationship to politics, issues that were often fought out on the terrain of philosophy.

The mutually agreed upon professional division of labor, which emerged during the last quarter of the twentieth century, created a situation where normativity tended to remain “underground” in empirical political science, while what was officially In Search of Political Theory 29 designated as normative political theory, or sometimes value-theory, had no clearly specifiable parentage. It was in part a category springing from the positivist claim, and from even earlier images in the discipline, that all judgments could be parsed as either factual or evaluative, and it was in part a classification designed to cover modes of discourse that did not fit the behavioral image of theory.

For many years, there has been a debate, which has once again has surfaced in the Perestroika controversy in political science, about whether social science is a “scientific” or interpretive endeavor—or a composite of quantitative and qualitative approaches. The answer is that, whatever methods social science employs, it is by its very nature, like all social science, an interpretive, or what I will refer to as a metapractical, enterprise, because it is devoted to understanding other conceptually preconstituted human practices.

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