Unearthing grounded normative theory: practices and commitments of empirical research in political theory

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 27 (2):156-182 (2021)
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Many normative political theorists have engaged in the systematic collection and/or analysis of empirical data to inform the development of their arguments over the past several decades. Yet, the approach they employ has typically not been treated as a distinctive mode of theorizing. It has been mostly overlooked in surveys of normative political theory methods and methodologies, as well as by those critics who assert that political theory is too abstracted from actual political contestation. Our aim is to unearth this grounded normative theory (GNT) approach – to identify its definitive practices and highlight its potential significance. We detail four overlapping commitments characteristic of GNT. These include commitments to expanding the comprehensiveness of input for normative arguments through original empirical research and/or analysis, recursivity in the development of normative claims, attentiveness to the systematic inclusion of a range of voices and ways of knowing, and accountability to those engaged by the theorist in empirical contexts. We discuss methodological distinctions within GNT, including between more- and less-solidaristic approaches. We discuss how GNT answers calls for theorists to engage more closely with empirical political dynamics and we consider responses to possible critiques.



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Philosophy and Real Politics.Raymond Geuss - 2008 - Princeton University Press.
Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression.Kristie Dotson - 2014 - Social Epistemology 28 (2):115-138.
Realism in political theory.William Galston - 2010 - European Journal of Political Theory 9 (4):385-411.

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