Between philosophy and politics: the alienation of political by John G. Gunnell

By John G. Gunnell

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Extra info for Between philosophy and politics: the alienation of political theory

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Page 4 Although this study is not primarily historical, it is premised on certain historical or quasi-historical claims which will be made explicit but which cannot be fully documented in this context. One such claim, already alluded to, is that political theory is not the world-historical activity that it is often assumed to be. The assumption that it is or has been such an activity is largely a consequence of the reification and projection into the past and future of mythical and metatheoretical images of the enterprise.

But what we might analytically extract as theory is embedded in those concrete substantive claims. An end to the alienation of political theory would ultimately entail theory engaging the particularity of politics in more than a cursory manner. Today substantive theory, to the extent that it exists, appears largely, and strangely, in the inverted role of justifying and illustrating the metatheoretical arguments that have become the core of the enterprise. The practice of substantive theory would eventually force political theory to confront what its alienated versions have attempted to reduce to a philosophical issue, that is, the problem of the relationship between political theory and politics.

In the controversies of the 1960s over the political, and apolitical, role of the discipline, critics pointed to the extent to which behavioralism, in theory and practice, reflected and legitimated dominant liberal values. Doing science, and the particular kind of science that characterized behavioralism, was a kind of value theory. The doctrines of the priority of pure science and the separation of facts and values only appeared to be a contradiction of the professed concern with liberal democracy.

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