Wednesday, August 21st, 2013
Last week, University of Virginia professor James W. Ceaser’s essay discussed the divided state of modern political science. This week, Peter Levine of CIRCLE responded to Ceaser’s piece, agreeing that political science ought to take a more active role in civic education.
Political science aims to be an empirical investigation into institutions and mass behavior, not an inquiry into what citizens should do. Investigating what citizens should do would require a combination of empirical evidence about how the world works, normative theory about how things ought to be, and strategic guidance about how to improve it (given the resources one has). Ceaser emphasizes the study of regimes, describing that as normative as well as empirical. I would agree, except that I am interested in investigating all scales of human action, of which the regime is only one. (Here I draw on the idea of “polycentrism,” developed by Vincent and Elinor Ostrom.)
To read more about the role of political science in civic education, read Ceaser’s entire essay available here. Check out our entire series of essays on The Professions and Civic Culture, including Christopher Caldwell’s take on the future of journalism, Paul Cantor’s essay on the literary field and David and Nathan Tucker’s work on music and civic life, among others.