Tradition, Interpretation, and Science

Political Theory in the American Academy

Edited by John S. Nelson

Subjects: Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Political Theory: Contemporary Issues
Paperback : 9780887063732, 372 pages, December 1986
Hardcover : 9780887063718, 372 pages, November 1986

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Table of contents


Abbreviations for Publications By John G. Gunnell

I. Irony and Autonomy: How and Why to Read John Gunnell
John S. Nelson

II. Political Theory, History, and Myth: A Salute to John Gunnell
J. G.A. Pocock

III. History and Theory: Methodism Redivivus
Sheldon S. Wolin

IV. Philosophy and History: John Gunnell and Leo Strauss on Tradition and Interpretation
Nathan Tarcov

V. Rigidities in the Study of Political Theory
George Kateb

VI. Philosophy, Political Theory, and Practice
Richard E. Flathman

VII. Remembrance of Times Lost: On the Recoverability of Political Traditions
Russell L. Hanson

VIII. Social Critique in Contemporary Political Theory: On the Contributions of John Gunnell
 Paul F. Kress

IX. Time, Historicity, and Political Theory: John Gunnell's "Detour" in Postmodern Perspective
Hebert G. Reid

X. Why Should Practicing Political Scientists Care About the Philosophy of Social Sciences?
J. Donald Moon

XI. Politics and Values in a World Without Criteria
Ira L. Strauber

XII. Destroying Political Theory in Order to Save It (Or, John Gunnell Turns on the Western Tradition)
John S. Nelson

XIII. Annals of Political Theory: Replies and Reflections
John G. Gunnell



This book reassesses the academic field of political theory and brings into sharp relief its problems and opportunities. Here for the first time, diverse theorists coordinate their arguments through a common focus. This focus is the writing of John G. Gunnell.

Gunnell attacks a set of myths said to plague almost every recent theory about politics: the myth of the given, the myth of science, myths of theory, the myth of tradition, and the myth of the political. He argues that these all alienate political theory from substantive inquiry and actual practice.

Contributors include Richard E. Flathman, Russell L. Hanson, George Kateb, Paul F. Kress, J. Donald Moon, John S. Nelson, J. G.A. Pocock, Herbert G. Reid, Ira L. Strauber, Nathan Tarcov, and Sheldon S. Wolin. They respond on behalf of projects in the new history of political theory, epic theory, phenomenology, traditional theory, and political deconstruction. These discussions also address the theories of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jürgen Habermas, Karl Marx, Leo Strauss, Alain Touraine, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

At the conclusion of the volume, Gunnell reconsiders his arguments in light of the respondent's remarks. His challenges thus provide a series of confrontations – both exciting and provocative – among major theorists. The result is a lively debate about what political theory is, how it relates to political history and practice, and how it involves epistemology. The authors probe a broad range of questions about practices of politics and traditions of discourse, and they identify priorities for the future of the field.

John S. Nelson is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Co-Director of The Rhetoric of Inquiry Project at the University of Iowa. His book, What Should Political Theory Be Now?, was also published by SUNY Press.