Has Political Theory Become More Political? Evidence and Stakes for Future Theory

Has Political Theory Become More Political? Evidence and Stakes for Future Theory

By J. Mohorčich, Lehman College

This article presents evidence for a secular increase in political engagement in political theory from 1974 to 2019 and analyzes the implications of this growth. Analysis of 385 theory articles published across three periods (i.e., 1974–1976, 2005–2007, and 2017–2019) found a near doubling in topicality among theory articles published in PolityAmerican Political Science Review, and Political Theory since the 1970s. This change has been substantial, statistically significant, and previously unnoted in the literature. I suggest that the shift toward topicality entails and is entailed by the production of “real events” amenable to and consistent with the theoretical approaches in which successive generations of theorists have been trained. Finally, I explain this shift toward topicality with respect to theory’s responsiveness to real events and to rising levels of professionalization within the field.

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