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Political Theory in/ and/ as Political Science: Democracy in Theory and Practice

Sat, September 1, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hynes, 200

Session Submission Type: Full Paper Panel

Session Description

Political science stands out among the social sciences for its continued integration of normative and ideational with empirical study. Many of the leading contributors to the discipline have long engaged in scholarship that draws comfortably on ideas as well as institutions, beliefs as well as behaviors. And the phenomena of politics call for such multimethodological work. The ideas and ideals that motivate political action and the norms that shape understandings of legitimacy are part of the empirical political world. Coexistence under circumstances of disagreement, the problem of costly coordination, and the regulation of collective violence help to define the political condition that normative theories of politics (current as well as historical theories) are about.

It has been particularly true of the study of *democratic* politics that theoretical and empirical work at their best draw on each other. Democratic institutions and ideas about democratic legitimacy are deeply entangled; so are contestatory democratic movements and activity with the normative visions of society they pursue.

This panel works toward rebuilding sometimes-decayed connections between the normative or ideational and the empirical branches of political science. One paper, Wiens’, is methodological. It draws on his important body of work infusing empirical questions into normative research, and suggests a way of thinking about both types of method of inquiry in parallel. Both Bednar and Phillips & Forestal confront the challenges facing democratic politics directly. Bednar builds on her important work on federalism to show its institutional potential as a solution to some of the fundamental problems of democratic theory. Phillips & Forestal bring democratic theory to bear on the current problems of anonymous and dubious sources of news, information, and public revelation, treating the problem as one of institutional rules, not simply normative judgment about good or bad speakers and speech. And Carugati draws on both normative and empirical work about ancient Athens to offer an argument about the reconstruction of democracy today, especially in the developing world. She suggests reasons to think that challenges to *liberal* democracy need not be fatal to the democratic project as such.

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