John Dewey and American political science

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23 Scopus citations


The constructive purpose of this essay is to initiate an exploration of what John Dewey wrote about political science and what political scientists wrote about him. It is a study of intention and reception. The textual strategies proceed, with mitigated skepticism, against a backdrop of recent claims about pragmatism and even "Deweyism" in the discipline. Yet, Dewey criticized the political science of his day, whether positivist or statist. He thematized meaning, interpretation, and criticism over laws, prediction, and the comparative method. His democratic allegiances made him a tireless critic of propaganda, which many political scientists thought necessary to the maintenance of democracy. Until the 1960s, political scientists, with a few noteworthy exceptions, overlooked or barely acknowledged Dewey, and the exceptions included those that seriously misrepresented, selectively used, or roundly rejected him. Besides Dewey, Merriam, and Lasswell play especially important roles in this exploration, with discussion of Bentley, Elliott, Sabine, Simon, Truman, and Lindblom among others. The essay concludes with some questions about Dewey, historiography, and current debates that are taken up in various ways by other essays in this symposium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-541
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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