History and Discipline in Political Science

John S. Dryzek, Stephen T. Leonard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Once sparce and sporadic, histories of political science have proliferated in recent years. We contend that such histories are a necessary feature of the discourse of political science, because there are essential connections between the history, identity, and actual practices of any rationally progressive discipline. In light of the fact that the objects political scientists study are historically and contextually contingent, there has been—and should be—a plurality of histories to match the diversity of approaches in politicalscience. Unfortunately, most histories of political science prove either “Whiggish” and condescending toward the past, or “skeptical” and negative. The consequence has been an inadequate understanding of the relationship between plurality, rationality, and progress in the discipline. Taking into account both the deficiencies and achievements of Whiggish and skeptical accounts, we argue that context-sensitive histories would better serve the rationality and progress of political science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1245-1260
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


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