Monday, March 10, 2008

IS IT TIME TO STOP CALLING POLITICAL SCIENCE a “SCIENCE” BASED UPON THE WAY this BUSH ADMINISTRATION TOOK on so MANY THEORIES and EITHER BROKE THEM, S

IS IT TIME TO STOP CALLING POLITICAL SCIENCE a “SCIENCE” BASED UPON THE WAY this BUSH ADMINISTRATION TOOK on so MANY THEORIES and EITHER BROKE THEM, SHATTERED THEM, SKEWED THEM, or DISPROVED THEM?

By Kevin Stoda

I recall 8 years ago sitting in Dr. Kenneth Meier’s graduate level political science seminar on “American Institutions” at Texas A & M University (i.e. Home of the Bush Library and former campus dominated by ex-CIA Chief William Gates and Company) and hearing the good professor of American Institutions share how he was very disappointed in one of the projects and publications he had edited on “The Presidency”.

Dr. Meier shared how that project had been intended to be interdisciplinary from the outset.

The hope was that experts from across the humanities and social sciences would be able to broaden the perspective of political scientists’ current-take on the “institution of the American presidency”.


INTERDSICIPLINARY APPROACH SCORNED

Alas, when the resulting work was published on the institution of the U.S. Presidency around 2000, Dr. Meier sniffed with disappointment and indicated that he had only to report that he personally was not convinced by the strong arguments in the edited work concerning the historical studies of the presidents as individual, i.e. psychological histories.

I.e. Professor Meier was disappointed by the perception of the interdisciplinary grouping of academics that the character and psychological make-up of the individual personage acting out the role or office of the U.S. President actually played a greater part in how the institution of the executive branch functioned in the U.S.A. in any epic than did any game theoretical- or statistical manifestations developed or described by political scientists.

Such theoretical and statistical predictions are generally based upon trends in research on bureaucracies or developed through the observations of codes & practices of the 4th branch of government (i.e. our Washington bureaucracy and civil servantry), the judicial branch, or Congress over time.

That particular Ken Meier seminar took place just prior to the Bush Cabinet and Clan taking over the White House the following January.

Within the earliest weeks of 2001, many of the stronger theories of IPE were targeted by this Bush-Cheney administration for testing at the international level.
Further, economic and balance of power theories between the second and first branches of government dating back to the Reagan era (and much earlier) were tested in the area of military spending, deficit spending, and social welfare privatization.


A FULL BLITZKRIEG ON THEORIES


In short, both America and the political scientific world have been shaken in the intervening period. The Bush-Cheney government has gone all out to test theory and to spend, spend, spend.

Right now, political science and the world are still trying to recover from the shake-up of the past 8 years.

Here is a list of some of the theories taken on:

(1) Just War Theory dating back to St. Augustine
(2) Democratic Peace Theory
(3) Cheney’s Favorite—“We learned from Reagan you can cut social welfare, cut taxes, and run up debt—with no long term repercussions—because the government is in charge of money.”
(4) This is not to be confused with the Chicago Business School Theories under Milton Friedman of SHOCK THEORY, i.e. placing an economy in crises
(5) IPE theories supporting the growing GLOBAL WARMING CONTROL REGIME
(6) Theories of basic constitutional rights, like habeas corpus, bills of rights, freedom of dissent, etc.
(7) Theories of human rights and torture in war and peacetime
(8) Theories of separation of powers between all the branches
(9) Anti-monopoly laws, esp. as applied to federal control of communications and bidding on government projects in war zones
(10) Various beloved theories of neo-cons galore
(11) Theories of prisoner rights and military courts
(12) Theories of economics and rebirth of Keynesian economics
(13) Theoretical frameworks and treaties related to arms agreements and balances of powers among states
(14) Attack on prior research and theory concerning tit-for-tat practices in warfare or leading to escalation of conflict.
(15) Military theory of “Shock and Awe”


This is just an appetizer set of the general theories that have been trialed and tortured over the past 8 years.

Come on all you political scientists!

It is clear that the persons in the White House have either challenged or trumped theory at some many turns over the past 8 years.

Cognitivists and political psychologists at the fringes of the Social Sciences have been ignored to long. They have a lot to offer to political science and other humanities or social studies.

At this junction in history, it is certainly time to start reworking/overhauling the past emphasis (biases) on statistics and codification of processes in governance and political party transformation!

New revamped theories are needed imminently for testing now that the”babies have been thrown out with the bathwater”. These must absorb the psychological and cognitive aspect of research by key actors and stakeholders

What will be recovered?

Only time will tell.

However, if both political and social scientific research are going to become more relevant to Americans, they will need to tie in good theories with good observation on the ground. (They will have to have both “barefoot social sciences” as well as “number crunchers” working hand-in-hand with theorists from now on.) Further, specialists from other humanities and from the field of education must be invited into the process of revival.


SUMMARY

Returning to Dr. Kenneth Meier’s disappointment that political institutional studies don’t match up to psychological profiling and histories of presidencies, it is time for Political Science in America to regain a balanced means of theoretical theory development.

Political scientists and other social scientists who have been for far too-long enamored with statistics and game theory must get out from under their computers and meet the public and world at the face-to-face level.

Otherwise, these same good social scientists might as well recognize themselves and their publications as no better than those journalists sitting at the bar who watch CNN report the news which they should be doing. (i.e. Quality of communication and level of differentiating information shared broadly are damaged in such processes of number-centered analysis that excludes good face-value analyses.)

NOTE: Again, one tip I can give to political scientists is to look at where history and psychology are strongest at interpreting presidential and other government (institutions) actors’ behaviors. Appropriate those tools and use them often in political science more broadly. Eventually, this will make the profession more respected and appreciated by the masses and end-users of the research.

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