Putting European political science back together again

Michael Keating

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Political science is the product of modernity and the nation-state. A dominant tradition within it has striven for a positivistic and universal form of understanding, based on the individual actor. Developments in recent years have questioned our understanding of modernity, universalism, science, and the nation-state. Political science has responded in two ways: by reinforcing the positivist approach, or by adopting various forms of intepretivism. This has created an artificial division within the discipline. Political scientists can overcome this artificial divide by looking outside the discipline. There are promising developments in this direction but these are inhibited by trying to confine them within the dominant positivist mode. They have also responded by borrowing from neighbouring disciplines, but in doing so, they have too often appropriated concepts in simplified form or coined empty concepts. They need to take neighbouring disciplines more seriously and work across disciplinary boundaries. A pluralistic approach is possible, which neither seeks a grand synthesis of all the social sciences, nor sees them as independent and self-standing, but which encourages cross-fertilization and combinations of approaches. The existence of distinct European national and disciplinary traditions, far from being an obstacle to the development of the discipline, gives European political scientists an advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-316
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Political Science Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2009


  • methods
  • political science
  • interpretive approaches
  • epistemiology


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