A local history of "the political"

Political Theory 32 (1):34-60 (2004)
This essay interprets changes in how "the political" was employed by a group of political theorists connected to the University of California, Berkeley, from the late 1950s up to the present. Initially, the political names both what students of politics ought to study and invokes a way of studying meant to have broad appeal. In later uses, however, the political takes on an evanescent quality compared to the solid realm of generality represented in earlier work. Also, only from the 1970s on is the political explicitly identified with democracy. Finally, later uses of the political no longer invoke a mode of study with broad appeal but one that even most self-described political theorists fail to practice. Though the changes the author analyzes in how the political was conceived are specific to the work of a small group of theorists, they suggest a more general story about the late twentieth-century development of political theory in the American academy
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