The Other Danger...Scholasticism in Academic Research

Lawrence M. Mead

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Lawrence M. Mead is professor of politics and public policy at New York University, New York, NY 10012-1119; [email protected]. He is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and has published widely on the problems of poverty and welfare reform in the United States.

Most members of the National Association of Scholars worry about the politicization of the university. Academia gives undue preference to racial minorities in student admissions and faculty appointments. Teaching and research is often slanted toward minority grievances and Third World claims against the United States. At most leading universities and colleges, the faculty is so liberal that conservative viewpoints are scarcely admitted, even though in society politics and culture have trended rightward in the last thirty years. Leftism has become a defining feature of academe.[1] All this violates the academy’s own values, which claim to stress open and honest dialogue regardless of politics.
However, critics have largely overlooked another danger to the university—scholasticism. That term originally referred to medieval philosophy, but it has come to connote academic work that pursues refinement at the expense of substance. Some medieval scholastics debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Likewise, today’s academics often address very narrow questions, and they are often preoccupied with method and the past literature of their fields. The university claims an ability to treat the large questions facing society, but today’s faculties typically work on much smaller issues confined to academic specialties. Scholasticism has no politics; it will not likely exacerbate political correctness. Yet it threatens the essence of the university as a philosophic enterprise.
Here I speak mostly about scholasticism in political science, my own discipline, but similar changes have occurred in other social sciences and academia as a whole.
What Scholasticism Means
These are the trends that together constitute what I mean by scholasticism. I have seen them strengthen ever since I joined the politics department at New York University (NYU) in 1979. They have also advanced in other political science departments where I have taught or know well, including those at Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Wisconsin—Madison.[2]
The most fundamental source of scholasticism is specialization. Most political scientists today have far narrower interests than they did thirty years ago. Formerly, scholars teaching in American politics or international relations covered that entire field. Today, Americanists are likely to “do” only public law or public opinion, not all of American politics. Internationalists will do perhaps international political economy, but not all of international relations.
Graduate training is far more specialized. As a graduate student at Harvard in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I had to demonstrate mastery of four fields in political science before I could begin my dissertation. I faced challenging written and oral examinations on this material where the questions and examiners were unknown in advance.[3] Today, grad students concentrate far more narrowly. In the NYU politics department, they must take courses in at least two fields besides methodology, but they specialize in only one field. They are examined on this field only by defending a course syllabus they have written. They are assessed principally on the research they do for their dissertations, and they know little else in any depth.
Political science has fragmented. In 1886, there was only one political science journal—Political Science Quarterly. Today there are forty-two.[4] The less exclusive Social Science Citation Index lists no fewer than 160 titles in political science and public administration. Since many newer journals are specialized, they promote research on narrow subjects. A glance through JSTOR reveals vast numbers of journals in other disciplines as well.[5]
The American Political Science Association (APSA) allowed “organized sections” for separate subjects to develop under its aegis starting in 1983. By 2007, there were thirty-five such sections, covering traditional interests such as the presidency or comparative politics but also “conflict processes,” “political communication,” and “politics, literature, and film.” The annual APSA conference has also fragmented. By 2008, forty-seven subspecialties were recognized in the official panel schedule. The specialties run their own panels in addition, and still others are held by various unofficial groupings.
Accordingly, the conference has mushroomed in size. In 1972, it staged 142 panels, but by 1987 this had exploded to 659, counting official program panels, specialty sessions, and unaffiliated group meetings. Meanwhile, the audience for panels has dwindled, often consisting of no more than the panelists themselves.[6] That is true to the spirit of scholasticism—specialists talking entirely among themselves.
A second trend is that academics give far more attention today to methodology—to how to conduct inquiry. My graduate training at Harvard included no formal methods training at all. The focus was on the substance of a subject and on coming up with a good question. Research design was ad hoc, dependent on the question and the available sources. Today, in contrast, graduate students typically learn specific analytic methods and then look for subjects. Questions and evidence are chosen to fit the methods rather than vice versa. Some scholars focus entirely on methodology, which has become a prestigious field within political science.
Discussions of research at talks or seminars used to center on the substance of a subject and the implications of the findings presented. Today, the focus is far more on methodology, often to the exclusion of substance. Today’s political scientists, indeed, often have little interest in politics and government except as something to model. Graduate students are stronger in methods than in political knowledge. Compared to their predecessors, today’s political scientists are more skilled technically but less knowledgeable about politics and government and less intellectual. They have a method, but they often have little to say apart from it.
In part, this shift reflects the vogue for mathematics in political science and other disciplines. Since the 1950s, the development of polls, surveys, statistical analysis, and computing has made it possible to study public opinion, elections, Congressional voting, and other subjects from behind one’s computer. “Research” used to mean gathering new information about a subject, but today it largely means analyzing databases already gathered by others. The prestige of these methods has allowed them to take over the university. Today, faculty whose main skill is statistical analysis dominate the social sciences and figure prominently throughout academe.
More recently, there has been a vogue in political science and other disciplines for what is called “rational choice.” This means the use of game theory and economic models of behavior to analyze behavior. The assumption is that elected leaders and other political actors behave so as to maximize their utilities, much as economic actors would in the marketplace. Many political scientists criticize these assumptions as unrealistic. Yet the disciples of rational choice, convinced of their method, have expanded their influence, provoking a virtual civil war in the discipline.[7]
A third trend is away from empiricism. The emphasis on method has thinned out the evidence behind research. The older, less self-conscious style of inquiry generated a lot of information about a subject from many sources. One read history and secondary sources, talked to people, perhaps directly observed the phenomenon of interest, such as an election or a Congressional debate. Only then did one come up with a research design that might involve numbers. Such methods yielded a robust picture of politics that outsiders could recognize. Ad hoc inquiry, however, is unsystematic and thus hard to justify by current methodological canons.
Today, the preference is for mathematical analyses that can be precisely explained and defended. The cost is that much less evidence is generated. Many published articles rest on a single, bulletproof analysis of a single database. Statisticians presume that they can explain anything by relating it statistically to something else. It is all done from forty thousand-feet off the ground, with no other contact with the phenomenon under study. There is much less “hands-on” inquiry, meaning direct observation of a subject unmediated by a specific methodology, such as reading documents, conducting interviews, or field observation. This journalistic dimension of research has almost disappeared.
Without a qualitative anchor, however, quantitative modeling easily becomes unrealistic. Hypotheses tend to be based on past research or on academic theory, usually economics, rather than direct contact with actual politics. One common error this produces is to exaggerate how goal-oriented behavior is. Political actors are imagined to calculate and maneuver, when anyone with experience of government would likely trace behavior to bureaucratic rules or inertia, factors missing from the databases.Unrealistic images persist in the literature because common sense, general knowledge, and field observation have lost the authority to question them.[8]
Focus on the Literature
Finally, academics orient far more than they once did to the literature in their specialty. Before, scholars formed their own impression of their subject based on background knowledge or earlier study. Their research might cite past studies and extend them, yet their inquiry rested on an independent appraisal of their problem. Today, however, the entire structure of the analysis will likely be dictated by past research. One takes sides in some existing controversy among specialists, or one seeks to resolve it with some definitive test.
Today’s scholars often are expert primarily about the literature on a subject, rather than the subject itself. To them, the subject is the literature, and research often turns into a form of literary criticism. Much of what academics study and talk about is this body of past work, rather than their subject directly. In academic papers and presentations, literature review plays a growing role. In graduate school, students study not so much a question as the literature about it. Their ambition is only to add something to that corpus. It becomes difficult to advance any new idea or approach, since all assumptions and hypotheses are already defined in “the literature.”
Several years ago, I attended seminar at NYU on “The Place of Law in American Political Development.” I thought this meant how legalism had shaped the American regime. To me, that was a supremely important question. The fact that American government is law-governed seemed to me vastly the most important thing about it, far more so than the much-celebrated details of the Constitution. I looked forward to a probing discussion about the origins of the rule of law in America. The seminar, however, turned out to be a discussion of two academic fields. The question was whether studies of “American political development” had anything to add to what “law and society” scholars had earlier found. The speakers discussed the two literatures. All took legalism for granted. None, despite my prompting, addressed the far more important question of how legalism had arisen.
More recently, I attended a talk by a prominent political theorist. His subject was billed as “the racial silence of the political theory canon.” How should it be reframed in light of black politics? Again, the subject struck me as immensely important. Racial and ethnic differences had brought a level of diversity into American politics unimaginable to the classical theorists standing behind the Founders, all of whom were white male Europeans. How could theory be reformulated to address these differences? In the lecture, however, the speaker addressed only the much narrower question of whether and how W.E.B. Du Bois differed in his politics from Frederick Douglass. His commentary was largely a comment on earlier commentators on this issue. Even when questioned, he ignored the much more important question of whether black politics was different from white.
Documenting the Trends
How does one document these trends? I gave figures on the rising fragmentation of political science above. I also coded articles that appeared in the American Political Science Review, the leading journal in political science, in the years 1968, 1978, 1988, 1998, and 2007 in terms of whether they displayed any of the four scholastic features discussed. Figure 1 indicates what proportion of articles exhibited specialization, methodologism, nonempiricism, and a literature focus in each year.[9]
Specialization and a literature focus grew strongly from 1968 through 1998, before subsiding somewhat in the last decade, perhaps in response to the rational choice controversy. Methodologism actually declined somewhat, perhaps due to the restrictive way it was coded.[10] Nonempiricism grew modestly, in part due to the growth of rational choice articles, which typically have limited or no empirical content.
And yet—contrary to what many political scientists believe—scholasticism is not due fundamentally to the dominance of mathematical methods. Even if one excludes, first, articles using statistical methods and, then, those using rational choice, the same overall trends appear. They occur in all fields in political science, even those, like political theory, where mathematical methods are rarely used. Thus, the roots of scholasticism run deeper than the use of particular methodologies.
Other Disciplines
I have not researched scholasticism in other disciplines, but other observers say that the trends there are similar. Economics is even more sunk in obscure mathematics and rational choice than political science, although recent “behavioral economics” has been more realistic.[11] In sociology, widely-read authors such as David Riesman or Daniel Bell have had no successors because today’s sociologists are far narrower.[12] Specialization threatens the relevance of all the social sciences to public issues, as I discuss below.[13] In the natural sciences, a vast proliferation of journals has swamped the literature, making it difficult for scientists to identify truly significant work.[14] Greater specialization has reduced the chance for creativity.[15] No recent physicist has approached the stature of the great figures of the twentieth century, in part because many of today’s physicists have more esoteric interests.[16]
Some academics are still visible outside academe, even if their work is narrow. Democratic administrations, especially, tend to name mandarins to high office. Like Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton, President Obama has drawn many of his appointees from the Harvard faculty. And yet The Economist concludes that “Fundamentally, the besetting sin of American academia is not celebrity professors but hyper-specialization. Academics have a habit of crawling along the frontiers of knowledge with a magnifying glass, blind to the wide vistas opening up before them, and often reducing the most engaging subjects to tedious debates about methodology.”[17]
Academic Values
Whether we accept scholasticism or not depends on academic values. The older, more catholic academic style reflected values of relevance. Researchers sought to address questions that were important to those outside academe. Their analyses strove to be realistic, that is, in touch with the world as ordinary people experience it. They cared about their audience, which they assumed to include people different from themselves. That meant their students and, in many cases, a lay public interested in the same issues. This need not mean that research had to be useful. The case against scholasticism is not an argument for applied research rather than theory. Rather, even if one’s goals were entirely theoretical, older research wisely accepted a common sense reality test. One measure of any research was whether it could be presented to people who knew the subject on a nonacademic basis without being dismissed as trivial or absurd.
In contrast, scholastic research follows values of rigor. The methodological standard is the natural sciences. Scholastics aspire to prove their inferences more precisely than is possible with messy, real-world problems. They also seek transparency—generating results that other scholars can replicate. To these ends, questions must be narrowed so that definitive explanations are imaginable, research must minimize subjective judgment, and everything must build on prior work. To this mindset, scholasticism is justified because it promotes precision. But such narrowing shifts inquiry away from problems the public recognizes toward questions known only to academic specialists.
Most of my colleagues at NYU do research that I would call scholastic. In response to my critique, they appeal, essentially, to division of labor. They see political science as separating into subfields, much as physics or biology did decades ago. Specialists, they say, should pursue narrow inquiries into separate corners of politics. Then the findings will add up to more rigorous understanding of our subject. Only thus, they believe, can a discipline become truly scientific.
This case persuades in the hard sciences. Although some theoretical physicists may be lost in the ether, most research in physics, chemistry, or biology does have a narrow but additive character. Specialists in each discipline use largely compatible methods, and their findings do aggregate to some extent into an overall picture of their subject. As one instance, the development of genetics and microbiology in recent decades has tended to merge biology with chemistry into a single discipline. Nor is the need for realism or audience very pressing. These subjects cannot be studied at all without methods understood only by specialists. The untutored public does not expect to understand cutting-edge science, yet it still supports the enterprise. The findings are seen as important in themselves, and not otherwise obtainable. They are also of value to medical technology, economic productivity, and national defense.
Outside the hard sciences, however, the quest for rigor faces harsh limits. The social sciences and, to a degree, the humanities study human behavior. That makes explanations more complex, and the hope that specialization will yield unique understandings recedes. For one thing, politics and society change over time. There are few eternal truths. Conclusions that hold for one era must be reconsidered in the next.
And to study government, society, or culture, some assumptions about human nature must be made. That is especially true if information sources are limited, as they typically are in scholastic research. Stylized images of personality fill the room that concrete inquiry used to do. One research specialty will assume one thing about human nature, while another assumes something else. In rational choice analyses of politics, for example, actors are assumed to to be individualists out for themselves who cooperate with others only for mutual gain. But in radical, class-based analyses, far more solidarity among people is assumed. Premises vary more across studies and fields than in the hard sciences, so the findings are less commensurable or additive. The older, more catholic research tradition must also take some view of human nature. But because it generates more information about actual behavior, these assumptions are typically more realistic.
The scholastic style is to seize on some aspect of a problem that can readily be modeled with mathematical methods and ignore the rest. In political science, for example, a perennial question is why the vast majority of incumbents in Congress tend to win reelection. Believers in rational choice, who assume politicians and voters act out of narrow self-interest, argue that the incumbents pander to voters or bribe them with government benefits.[18] But this cannot be the whole truth since on occasion the voters oust incumbents in large numbers, as they did in 1994 and 2006. A more complex and realistic analysis is called for.
In development studies, similarly, a central mystery is why the rule of law has largely failed to arise outside the West. Scholastic research yields only superficial answers. Rational choice scholars often blame corruption on self-interested behavior. To give or take bribes is in everyone’s immediate interest, they reason, so graft is understandable. But on that basis one cannot explain how Europe or America ever achieved legality. Honest modelers admit that they cannot explain how good government arises.[19] To account for it requires some appeal to history or culture.
When problems are narrowed in this way, they become unreal, no longer recognizable as the puzzling realities that motivated inquiry in the first place. For credible answers, political problems must be studied in the round, as they appear in the real world, and not as specialists divide and redefine them. Studying a real problem inevitably requires a more complex analysis, without the simplicity and elegance that modeling claims, although these methods may make some contribution. But scholastics oppose taking on larger, more realistic problems because of subjective judgments involved. They fail to see that their own narrowing of questions is equally arbitrary.
Scholastics tend to dismiss journalists as unscientific, yet journalism competes quite successfully against today’s social science exactly because it is more realistic, more accepting of complexity. That is especially true in an open society like the United States where the raw data of politics and society are open for all to see, and without specialized training. Social scientists can improve on journalism only if they provide more information and a deeper understanding than journalists, with their short deadlines, usually can do. But preoccupied with rigor and method, few academics today even try to do this.
Loss of Public Interest and Support
As academic inquiry drifts away from the real world, the university no longer plays one of its essential roles, which is to address issues of concern to the non-academic world. The conceit of scholasticism is that the life of the mind is entirely self-justifying. The society should support academics to pursue their own interests even if these have no relevance to ordinary life, much as medieval society supported monasteries engaged in prayer and contemplation. Even some conservative critics of the university might embrace that ideal, since it does offer some protection against political correctness. Yet even if research need not be useful, even if its goals are entirely intellectual, society still reasonably asks that the questions addressed have some connection to its own concerns.
Many academics today still claim to do “policy research,” and they want officeholders to take note of their findings. The ambition to “speak truth to power” cuts against scholasticism, because it requires that research address problems that are apparent outside academia and in a way that lay officeholders can comprehend. Academic research has influenced many policy areas, including national security, economic regulation, antipoverty programs, and welfare reform—meaning recent policy changes that require welfare mothers to work as a condition of aid.
However, scholars who have the most real-world influence typically use the older, catholic research style. They generate genuinely new information, going beyond either statistics or journalism. They also synthesize diverse materials into accessible arguments about the nature and solution of public problems.[20] But the bulk of “policy research” has not escaped scholastic trends. It shows the same drift as social science generally—toward ever more elaborate statistical analyses with less and less real-world content. Harvard University, for example, celebrates its own faculty who allegedly help to solve social problems, but the vast majority of them are modelers and statisticians who have little to say about how government actually could perform better. Isolated behind their computers, few have anything to say about concrete programs or policies.[21]
The exception has been evaluations of social programs, as these provide definite information about what works and does not. But most evaluations are done by contract research firms outside the university. Academic research typically lacks enough governmental content to interest policymakers. A desiccated style also helps explain why most experts misjudged welfare reform. Knowing poverty only through statistical models that stressed social barriers, they could not imagine how most welfare mothers could work, as reform demanded. The potential for employment was much more apparent to officials in the field, but most researchers never consulted them. When most of the mothers flooded into jobs and left welfare, it was a signal defeat for university social science.[22]
The withdrawal of academia from real-world questions has frustrated its patrons. Grants officers at private foundations as well as government departments have told me how difficult it is to get academics to address actual policy problems. The funding proposals they receive are usually for further statistical analyses of problems, without obvious relevance to solving them. Most academic research, even about “policy” issues, is really about society, not government. Similarly, book editors—even at academic presses—have told me that they hesitate to publish much of the narrow and technical work that is offered to them because there is little audience for it.
The main public funding for political science and other social sciences comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Political scientists complain that they get less than their share of this money. But the reason is that Congress sees less value in what they do than in the natural sciences. Politicians ask how political science improves on what they already know about government from journalism or general knowledge. In 2000, one of the APSA journals published a symposium on the supposed value of political science to government. The research cited, however, would be of little interest outside the discipline. One finding, for instance, is the “democratic peace”—the fact that countries with elected governments seldom make war on each other any more.[23] That would be no revelation to an audience of Foreign Service officers. The idea that scholastic political science, or any social science, has much to teach government professionals is presumptuous.
In 2009, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, proposed that all NSF funding for political science be abolished. Past NSF money for political science, he declared, had been wasted. The findings produced were either trivial or duplicated what was already known. The money would be better spent on the natural sciences. Political scientists rallied in opposition, but some admitted that the discipline had drifted too far away from public concerns.[24] Coburn’s amendment was defeated, 36 to 62, but the sizable vote for it suggests the gulf that now separates academia from society. Scholastics believe their work is terribly important. They wrap it in the mantle of science. Yet to those outside the caste, it is hard to perceive any significant product. There is no there there. The pretensions of scholasticism inspire not respect, but ridicule.[25] 
Loss of Philosophic Content
For the university, the worst cost of scholasticism is closer to home—a loss of intellectual substance. The university supposedly pursues the truth, and from as far back as the ancient Greeks, that was understood to require a process of argument. The truth was not to be discovered in any simple way. Rather, it was constructed by the careful building of statements about what was and was not true. There must be scrutiny of words and evidence and the inferences drawn from them. The dialogues of Plato, in which Socrates questions his interlocutors and claims to know nothing himself, set the template for the life of the mind, at least as the West has understood it.
University teachers were originally supposed to be philosophers, meaning those skilled in the construction of arguments. As one progressed through higher education, one assumed responsibility for more and more of one’s own argument. As an undergraduate, you largely answered questions put to you by instructors. For the master’s, you handled more difficult questions. For the doctorate, you asked your own question and decided how best to answer it, thus adding something original to knowledge. Imagining a fruitful question was the key to research, but it was an art and could never be reduced to a system. Professors were supposedly experienced at all these things. They could teach students finally to construct their own arguments from the ground up. Students who could do this they certified as doctors of philosophy, hence their peers.
Today, however, this progression has been stood on its head. The students are often broader than the teachers. Ph.D. students have become so specialized that they no longer become philosophers, only technicians. Many are trained in a certain analytic method, but they are no longer responsible for their entire arguments. They take their assumptions and methods from their specialty and never have to justify them independently. Their research is mostly derived from the work of their advisors, so they need not frame their own question, which is the core of research. Their work is nearly all “normal science,” in Kuhn’s term, framed on premises set in advance.[26] It does not invent any new world. And because scholars are so narrowly trained, they are likely to keep doing the same kind of work later. They lack the deeper intellectual capital that graduate education used to give, whereby they could keep coming up with good questions through a long research career.
Lack of philosophic substance undercuts teaching. Course enrollments need not suffer. Some scholastics are quite successful in the classroom. They convince some students of their methods, even recruiting them as disciples. The methods, however, presume that questions are already well formed before they can be applied. And the meat of a liberal education should be precisely to deal with the ill-formed question, indeed to decide what the question is. Most of life—in and out of academe—is about this. But that is the art that scholastics cannot teach, because they have not mastered it themselves. To conduct the philosophic enterprise—the university’s core purpose—is beyond them. With that, something vital to the life of the mind has died.
A Narrowing of Discourse
Scholasticism means that we must give up the idea, still prevalent in popular culture, that university faculty are people of unusually deep learning and reflection. Supposedly, they can respond to the great questions facing their students or the society with greater wisdom than ordinary people. The truth today is often the opposite—academics are often less thoughtful than the lay people they might presume to teach or advise. The university, after all, has no monopoly on intelligence. Ordinary graduates of selective colleges are likely to learn more, due to their own demanding careers, and have more to say about it than today’s professors, closeted as so many are in academic cliques.
I recently attended a dinner given at NYU for scholars interested in inequality in America. About ten faculty attended. The idea was that we would discuss the issues raised by inequality and discover common interests. It was a throwback to the older, wider style of academic discourse. But scholasticism took over. We wound up talking almost entirely about statistics—databases and how to analyze them. The senior faculty—myself included—could have managed a wider discourse. The junior faculty could not. They were harshly specialized and obsessively focused on specific literatures. Statistics was the only language they knew.
When AQ readers oppose the politicization of the university, they are probably thinking of baby boom professors who, imbued with the radicalism of the 1960s, shifted the academy to the left. That generation is now retiring. The result, however, will not be a return to political balance. The ideologues are being replaced, not by even-handed philosophers, but by technicians who often lack any politics at all.[27] That also is a threat to the university, and perhaps a greater one. Political correctness is at least visible and controversial, provoking debate. Scholasticism has occurred largely invisibly. Politicization is being replaced, not with reasoned dialogue, but with silence and denial.
In a future article I hope to explore why scholasticism arose, and what can be done about it.

[1]Patricia Cohen, “Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left,” New York Times, January 18, 2010, C1, C8.

[2]The following is based in part on Lawrence M. Mead, “Scholasticism in Political Science,” Perspectives on Politics 8, no. 2 (June 2010): 453–64.

[3]On my comprehensive examinations, my oral examiners included Samuel Beer, Samuel Huntington, and Henry Kissinger, among the giants of political science in that era.

[4]JSTOR lists sixty-two total titles in political science, but some are journals founded under one name and continued under another. Allowing for this, forty-two titles are active today.

[5]See also Stanley W. Trimble, Wayne W. Grody, Bill McKelvey, and Mohamed Gad-el-Hak, “The Glut of Academic Publishing: A Call for a New Culture,” Academic Questions 23, no. 3 (Fall 2010): 276–86.

[6]Catherine E. Rudder, “Report of the Executive Director, 1987–88,” PS: Political Science and Politics 21 (Summer 1988): 715–16.

[7]Jonathan Cohn, “Irrational Exuberance: When Did Political Science Forget About Politics?” New Republic, October 25, 1999, 25–31.

[8]Mickey Edwards, “Political Science and Political Practice: The Pursuit of Grounded Inquiry,” Perspectives on Politics 1, no. 2 (June 2003): 349–54.

[9]For details of the coding, see Mead, “Scholasticism,” 458. In the five years examined, the proportion of articles showing none of the four scholastic features was 31, 27, 18, 9, and 13 percent, respectively.

[10]To be scored positively for methodologism, an article had to make a point of methodology, not only use advanced methods.

[11]See Lawrence M. Mead, “Econs and Humans,” review of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, Claremont Review of Books 9, no. 2 (Spring 2009):18–19.

[12]Orlando Patterson, “The Last Sociologist,” New York Times, May 19, 2002, <>

[13]Robert W. Pearson and Lawrence W. Sherman, “Preface: The Achievements, Disappointments, and Promise of the Social Sciences,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 600 (July 2005): 12.

[14]Trimble et al., “Glut of Academic Publishing.”

[15]“The Father of Fractals,” The Economist, December 6, 2003, 35–36.

[16]John Horgan, “Einstein Has Left the Building,” New York Times Book Review, January 1, 2006, <>

[17]“In Praise of Hucksters,” The Economist, March 16, 2002, 40.

[18]David R. Mayhew, Congress: The Electoral Connection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974); Morris P. Fiorina, Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989)

[19]Elinor Ostrom, “A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action,” American Political Science Review 92, no. 1 (March 1998): 1–22; Margaret Levi, “Why We Need a New Theory of Government,” Perspectives on Politics 4, no. 1 (March 2006): 5–19.

[20]At a panel at the 2000 APSA conference on the policy influence of political scientists, James Q. Wilson and I were the names explicitly mentioned. Others one might cite include Graham Allison, John DiIulio, Richard Nathan, Joseph Nye, and Allen Schick. None of us was included in the Lupia symposium on the public value of political science, mentioned below, probably because none of us uses narrow, scholastic methods. We are not political scientists in the current academic meaning.

[21]Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences,“Knowledge in Action: Confronting Social Problems,” The Yard (Fall/Winter 2007), <> In this symposium, only two of eleven faculty featured clearly combined qualitative with quantitative research and gave serious attention to institutions or actual programs.

[22]Lawrence M. Mead, “Research and Welfare Reform,” Review of Policy Research 22, no. 3 (May 2005): 401–21; and“Policy Research: The Field Dimension,” Policy Studies Journal 33, no. 4 (November 2005): 535–57.

[23]Arthur Lupia, ed., “The Public Value of Political Research,” PS: Political Science and Politics 33, no. 1 (March 2000): 2–64.

[24]Patricia Cohen, “Field Study: Just How Relevant Is Political Science?” New York Times, October 20, 2009, C1, C7.

[25See, for example, George Saunders, “A Survey of the Literature,” New Yorker, September 22, 2003, 118–25.

[26]Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962).

[27]Patricia Cohen, “On Campus, the ‘60s Begin to Fade as Liberal Professors Retire,” New York Times, July 3, 2008, A1, A20.



Image: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain 

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