Ending Political Science?

by Patrick J. Deneen on October 5, 2009 · 2 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

A missive has gone out across the land and globe from the Director of the American Political Science Association urgently alerting members of the Association that Senator Coburn (R-OK) has proposed an amendment that would eliminate National Science Foundation funding of political science research projects. The letter reads:

Dear Colleague,

APSA has just learned that Sen. Coburn (R-OK) has proposed an amendment to eliminate
NSF’s political science program. It is an amendment to the Senate Commerce, Justice,
Science appropriations bill, which is currently on the Senate floor today.

Calls today to your Senator’s office are important.  The message should be:
vote against Coburn’s amendment to eliminate the political science program at
the National Science Foundation (NSF).  It is amendment No. 2631 to the Senate’s
consideration of HR 2847.

There is more information on Senator Coburn’s position here: http://coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=82180b1f-a03e-4600-a2e5-846640c2c880,
that may help you craft a response.

The letter tells its membership what our position on this amendment should be, urging us to call for its rejection.   As an Association, we are supposed to have a unified position on the issue of government funding of social science research.  But why should this be the case?  Why is the default position to be that we, as an association and profession, require funds from the Federal government in the “production of knowledge”?  This form of governmental support contains a political philosophy, one based upon Progressive era assumptions (and before that, Baconian philosophy) about the need for a social science to do for human institutions and arrangements what the natural sciences have done in the natural world – one that I’ve sought in various places to elucidate – that would itself be worthy of investigation, reflection, and thereby, conscious evaluation.  This little action by Senator Coburn reveals almost as much as the decision to site the most recent conference in Canada the deepest philosophical presuppositions of political, and further, social science, and shows that the one thing it is incapable of examining – and for which we can expect no NSF funding – are its own deepest presuppositions.

In the meantime, I will indeed be contacting my Senators.  Thanks for letting me know about this, APSA.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Bob Cheeks October 9, 2009 at 6:22 am

Bravo, every member should applaud Sen. Coburn’s legislation. Thank God Plato wasn’t a Welfare Queen!

avatar Jeff October 15, 2009 at 10:32 am

I was going to post about this as well. What strikes me in part is that political scientists oppose pork unless it’s their own. Without NSF funding we wouldn’t have groundbreaking projects on “THe Professional Life and Political Times of Otmar von Scheurer” or “Village Democracy in China” or “Geography and Identity Among Russian Buddhists” (these are actual projects being supported). Well, maybe they’d be done anyway, but the poor political scientist in question wouldn’t be able to buy that new Volvo without the government grant. We could do it on our own, but it’s more lucrative to be a whore of the state.

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