POLITICAL THEORY AS A VACATION: Dan Drezner writes:
"Which is the other dirty secret about my profession -- there's a difference between political science and politics. Most of the presentations and papers given at APSA do not address normative debates about the way politics should be. Instead, they are more detached analyses of why things are the way they are. Sometimes the answers can be ideological, but most political scientists just care about whether their answer is correct -- or more precisely, whether someone else can demonstrate that their preferred answer is wrong."
One of the more interesting discoveries I've made in the last couple of weeks is that my conception of political theory is radically different than that of most of the other people in my program. It's not that I'm uninterested in normative questions*, but it seems like there's enough as-yet-undone analytic and conceptual work in theory itself that's a preqrequisite for doing normative theory.
*though in some ways, I am. It seems like before you even get to questions of what the political order should be like, you have to have a pretty good idea of how and why things got to be the way they are. I've heard a couple of normative arguments that I don't think would pass serious muster because it's unclear, for example, what their underlying theories of social and individual choice are not very robust.