Between Critical and Normative Theory

Political Research Quarterly 69:1-12 (2016)
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Over the last decade, a call for greater “realism” in political theory has challenged the goals and methods that are implicit in much contemporary “normative” theory. However, realists have yet to produce a convincing alternative research program that is “constructive” rather than primarily “critical” in nature. I argue that given their common wariness of a devotion to abstract principles, realists should consider adopting John Dewey’s vision of theoretical expertise as an expansive kind of prediction that engages all of our historical, scientific, and imaginative resources. After demonstrating that realists are in need of such an affirmative vision, I outline Dewey’s original proposal, and elaborate its value in contemporary circumstances as a “predictive” method for political theory that stands between familiar critical and normative approaches.

Author's Profile

Samuel Bagg
University of South Carolina


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