John G. Gunnell: History, Discourses and Disciplines, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

John G. Gunnell

History, Discourses and Disciplines, 1st Edition

Edited by Christopher C. Robinson


260 pages

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pub: 2016-10-19
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John Gunnell has compelled political theorists to rethink their relation to political science, the history of political thought, the philosophy of social science and political reality. His thinking has been shaped by encounters with Heidegger and Plato, Wittgenstein and Austin, the Berkeley School and émigrés such as Strauss and Arendt. His writings have challenged the idealist assumptions behind the idea of a Great Tradition of Political Thought and the philosophical claims about mind and language. Gunnell has engaged and challenged colleagues in political theory, political science and the philosophy of social science on a range of issues from political action, time, pluralism, ideology, concepts, conventions, "the political" and democracy to the roles of philosophy, science, literary theory, cognitive science, mind, and history on the enterprise of theorizing today.

The book focuses on his work in three key areas:

Political Theory and Political Science

Gunnell’s work has often focused on the historical emergence of the study of political theory as a subdiscipline of political science, and its critical relation to and alienation from political science from the postwar era. His argument has been consistent: political theory self-identified as an interpretative social science and mode of historical reflection is an invention of political science. Political theory divorced from political science weakens both activities in their ties to, concerns with and relevance to political society and the contemporary university.

Interpretation and Action

Gunnell has been particularly interested in the nature of concepts and how they change. These investigations begin with analysis of theory and theorizing as they are constituted and practiced in historiography, the philosophy of social sciences, the philosophy of science, political science and metatheory. He engages with thinkers whose positions inform and oppose his own and explores concepts such as: democracy, justice, time, pluralism, science, liberalism, and action.

Theorists, Philosophers, and Political Life

Gunnell’s work has developed through a series of encounters with theorists and philosophers. He has rejected attempts to present politics as a stable and essential set of phenomena. There are common themes that guide conversations with the German émigrés, ordinary language philosophers, and theorists from the history of political thought. This book includes works that focus on Max Weber, Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Christopher C. Robinson


Political Theory and Political Science

1 Deduction, Explanation, and Social Scientific Inquiry (1969)

2 The Alienation of Political Theory (1986)

3 American Political Science, Liberalism, and the Invention of Political Theory (1988)


Interpretation and Action

4 Political Theory and the Theory of Action (1981)

5 Interpretation and the History of Political Theory: Apology and Epistemology (1982)

6 Interpretation and the Autonomy of Concepts (2011)

Part III

Theorists, Philosophers and Political Life

7 Why There Cannot Be a Theory of Politics (1997)

8 Speaking Politically (1998)

9 Reading Max Weber: Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin (2004)

10 ‘Leaving everything as it is’: Political Inquiry after Wittgenstein (2013)

An interview with John G. Gunnell:

Questions from Christopher C. Robinson

About the Editor

Christopher C. Robinson is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. He has published in the fields of contemporary political theory, the philosophy of language, and environmental political thought.

About the Series

Routledge Innovators in Political Theory

Routledge Innovators in Political Theory focuses on leading contemporary thinkers in political theory, highlighting the major innovations in their thought that have reshaped the field. Each volume collects both published and unpublished texts, and combines them with an interview with the thinker. The editorial introduction articulates the innovator’s key contributions in relation to political theory, and contextualises the writer’s work. Volumes in the series will be required reading for both students and scholars of 21st century politics.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Political Parties
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / General