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Sarfaraz Ahmed asked: What is ‘Resurgence of Political Theory’?

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  • Rajeesh Kumar replies: In the second half of the 20th century, some scholars announced the decline of political theory. It was overplay of values, principles, and history in political theory that provoked these scholars to pronounce the demise. For instance, David Easton, one of the major proponent of this argument, wrote that "the ever-increasing role of historicism is a major cause of the decline of political theory." He also added that in addition to historicism, hyper-factualism and domination of moral theory also contributed to the decline. Later, political scientists like Alfred Cobban took this criticism further and argued that political theory has ceased to develop, and it is no longer a progressive science.

    However, this decline of political theory discourse met a forceful rebuttal. Political theorists like Dante Germino, Isaiah Berlin and David Miller argued that the political theory is never dead and it is evolving in newer forms with newer engagements. Germino, for instance, argued that what had been described as the decline of political theory was actually a crisis in positivist political science He also said that "political theory is today rising from the ashes, and instead of acceding to its funeral, we should instead commemorate its rebirth." In his 1962 article titled “Does Political Theory Still Exists?”, Berlin too refuted all the points raised by the advocates of decline and argued that "political theory can never see it end."

    This ‘decline’ vs ‘revival’ debate resulted in the broader conclusion that the traditional method of analysing political phenomena is not adequate, and novel techniques and tools are needed. The significant outcome of this new thinking was the behavioural, plural and cultural turn of the political theory.

    Posted on July 24, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.

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