Political Studies as Narrative and Science, 1880–2000



Today we are often skeptical of the role played by representations of the nation state in constructing and legitimating ways of life and public policies. We portray what once appeared to be neutral, scientific representations of our practices and our heritages as contingent historical objects. How did we become so skeptical? The answer has several parts: developmental historicism dominated the human sciences in the latter half of the nineteenth century; the turn of the century witnessed an epistemic rupture and the rise of a modernist empiricism that came to dominate the social sciences; modernist empiricists reformulated their approach during the latter half of the twentieth century in response to alternative visions of social science; and, finally, the close of the twentieth century also saw the rise of a radical historicism that spread from philosophy and literature to history and even social science. In short, we have become skeptical as we have moved toward a radical historicism that challenges scientism and decenters the grand narratives of yore.