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Cult of the IrrelevantThe Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security$
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Michael Desch

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691181219

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691181219.001.0001

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The “Renaissance of Security” Languished until the Owl of Minerva Flew after 9/11

The “Renaissance of Security” Languished until the Owl of Minerva Flew after 9/11

Chapter:
(p.205) 8 The “Renaissance of Security” Languished until the Owl of Minerva Flew after 9/11
Source:
Cult of the Irrelevant
Author(s):

Michael C. Desch

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691181219.003.0008

This chapter traces the development of political science after Vietnam, chronicling how the discipline continued to professionalize on the model of the natural sciences. The result was to privilege the refinement of method over practical relevance. It was disciplinary professionalism, as much as ideology, which widened the gap between the academic and policy worlds after Vietnam. Thus, a complete explanation for the decline of policy-relevant national security studies must also include the dynamics of academic normal social science combined with the changing international security environment. The chapter then suggests that political science is most useful to policymakers when it takes a problem-driven, rather than method-driven, approach to setting the scholarly agenda for academic security specialists. Important problems—defined in terms not just of internal disciplinary agendas but also the priorities of policymakers and the general public—ought to be the primary focus.

Keywords:   political science, Vietnam, natural sciences, practical relevance, disciplinary professionalism, national security studies, social science, international security, academic security specialists

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