Then and Now: Participant‐Observation in Political Theory

William E. Connolly

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Theory

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780199548439
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Then and Now: Participant‐Observation in Political Theory


This article examines changes in the study of participant-observation in the field of political theory. It explains that in the early 1960s, political theory was widely considered as a moribund enterprise. Empiricists were pushing a new science of politics, designed to replace the options of constitutional interpretation, impressionistic theory, and traditionalism. But by the mid-1960s the end of ideology screeched to a halt because of growing outrage about the Vietnam War, worries among college students about the draft, and the emergence of a civil rights movement. The academic study of political theory was revived and a series of studies emerged to challenge the fact-value dichotomy, the difference between science and ideology, and the public roles of academics.

Keywords: political theory; participant-observation; empiricists; constitutional interpretation; impressionistic theory; traditionalism; Vietnam War; civil rights movement; fact-value dichotomy; academics

Article.  6366 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Political Theory

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