The Nature and Consequences of Ideological Hegemony in American Political Science

The Nature and Consequences of Ideological Hegemony in American Political Science

by J. Matthew Wilson, Southern Methodist University

It is no secret that liberals and Democrats significantly outnumber conservatives and Republicans in American political science departments.  The imbalance, however, is even more acute than simple partisan affiliation numbers suggest, as certain widely-held political perspectives, like religious conservatism and populist nationalism, are virtually absent from the discipline.  These ideological blind spots have significant negative consequences for the discipline’s core missions of teaching and research, inhibiting engagement with significant sub-populations of students and leading to tendentious, self-affirming explanations of important political phenomena.  Work on authoritarianism, racial attitudes, and the sources of support for conservative candidates, to name just a few areas, has consistently suffered from these interpretive biases.

It also, over time, erodes public confidence in and governmental support for academic political science.  At a time when people are increasingly questioning the value and relevance of university education, the discipline does itself no favors by exhibiting a dramatic partisan and ideological skew and appearing inimical to and contemptuous of the values and perspectives of millions of Americans.  As pressures increase for government to limit funding for higher education generally and social science research specifically, political science can only suffer if it is perceived as an ideologically skewed enterprise.