Friday, October 16, 2009

For your consideration

From The Monkey Cage:

Political science, even at its best, has few, if any, redeeming aesthetic qualities. We do not offer beautiful theories of how the cosmos came to be; our prose is at best serviceable; if our diagrams convey the meaning they are supposed to and no more, then they have done their job. That means that political science has to justify itself on the pragmatic grounds of its usefulness. But much of political science is not only ugly, but not especially useful. It doesn’t say anything that non-political scientists might possibly care about knowing.

The implication is that political scientists need not only to think about how best to convey what they do to the public; they need to think about doing what...ought to be so conveyed. This is not to say that political science needs to be in the business of pleasing the crowd; many of the truths that political science might want to convey might indeed be somewhat unpleasant to the sensibilities and prejudices thereof. But it needs to see itself as making a useful contribution to public discourse.