Home > News > Battle of the Americans: Writer at the American Enterprise Institute disparages the American Political Science Association
125 views 2 min 0 Comment

Battle of the Americans: Writer at the American Enterprise Institute disparages the American Political Science Association

- September 15, 2010

Steven Hayward at the American Enterprise Institute wrote an article, sure to attract the attention of people such as myself, entitled, “The irrelevance of modern political science,” in which he discusses some silly-sounding papers presented at the recent American Political Science Association and then moves to a larger critique of quantitative political science:

I [Hayward] have often taken a random article from the American Political Science Review, which resembles a mathematical journal on most of its pages, and asked students if they can envision this method providing the mathematical formula that will deliver peace in the Middle East. Even the dullest students usually grasp the point without difficulty.

Elsewhere on this blog, John Sides discusses and dismisses Hayward’s arguments, point on that, among other things, political science might very well be useful even if it doesn’t deliver peace in the Middle East. After all, the U.S. Army didn’t deliver peace in the Middle East either, and at a far higher budget than the American Political Science Association! You won’t be surprised to hear that I pretty much agree with John’s comments, in particular the idea that the relevance of an academic discipline to government officials will depend on what the government’s priorities are.

I’d like to make a slightly different point, though. I think few if any people would disagree with the assertion that an overwhelming majority of people who present papers at the American Political Science Association are on the left half of the political spectrum, often far left. Whereas the American Enterprise Institute is on the right. So I wonder whether much of Hayward’s critique is ideological. This is not to dismiss his claims–I think Sides is right to treat Hayward’s arguments with respect and address them directly (a task that I don’t need to do, since John did it already)–but rather to put them into some perspective, to ask why he was writing about the American Political Science Association in the first place.