Challenging three blockages to relevance and political science: the obvious, the avoidable and the thorny

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This chapter explores three blockages to relevance. The first argument rests on the observation that the use of research in the world of policy is prone to the play of politics and power and that the windows of opportunity for political science to demonstrate its relevance may therefore be relatively narrow and infrequent. This first blockage will come as no surprise to anyone in political science or in politics. The play of power in decision-making is a central feature in our mutual understanding of politics. The second explanation focuses more on the lack of incentives and organizational blockages experienced by those that prioritize relevance within the profession of political science, which in turn limit the numbers of those academics that seek to make their work obviously and directly relevant. This blockage is a product of the intended and unintended consequences of institutional and individual decisions made over the last few decades and which could be addressed by a different set of choices being made. It is, therefore, an avoidable blockage. The third blockage rests on thorny issues raised by the advocacy of relevance. These include the difficult issues of untangling matters of fact and value and more generally whether political scientists can offer evidence-based solutions and advice rather than explanations of ‘what is’. The first obstacle is something that has to be worked around, the second has to be confronted and the third puzzled about and hopefully addressed by new cadres of work that build on some pioneering examples
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Relevance of Political Science
EditorsGerry Stoker, B Guy Peters, Jon Pierre
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780230201088
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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