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Although the estranged relationship between mainstream political science and much of the subfield of political theory has been properly attributed to developments during the last half of the twentieth century, the roots of this alienation are historically deeper. Many of the conversations of political theory are the progeny of a discursive form that attended the birth of modern social science. This genre was a legitimating rhetoric situated in the interstices of social science, philosophy, and politics. The study of the history of political thought originated as such a rhetoric, and it constitutes a paradigm case for examining the extent to which such a discourse can be transformed into a practice of knowledge. This field has succeeded to a greater extent than certain other elements of political theory which, transfixed by the tension between their practical aspirations and academic context, have become anomalous appendages to the social scientific study of politics.