The case for methodological naturalisation: Between political theory and political science

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Contemporary political theory demonstrates a turn towards data-sensitive research. Waldron, Shapiro, Carens, Blau and Floyd emphasise the importance of grounding political theory in empirical data. Political scientists developed methods aimed at improving the ways in which political institutions are studied. What can empirical political theory borrow from this literature, that would advance its aim to precisely evaluate political institutions? It is suggested to naturalise within political theory political-science methods. We point to three methods: the usage of case studies, avoiding sampling by the dependent variable and process tracing. In order to demonstrate their relevance, we re-read three studies in contemporary political theory (by Walzer, Spinner-Halev and Wenar), in light of the noted methods. If empirical political theory aims to fulfil its own stated goals and evaluate the desirability of political institutions according to reliable data regarding their functionality, it would greatly benefit from naturalising the methods of political science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-632
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Michael Walzer
  • case studies
  • contextualism
  • methodology
  • political theory
  • process tracing
  • research design

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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