Perspectives on Politics

Research Article

Scholasticism in Political Science

Lawrence M. Meada1

a1 New York University


Criticism of trends in political science centers on specific methodologies—quantitative methods or rational choice. However, the more worrisome development is scholasticism—a tendency for research to become overspecialized and ingrown. I define that trend more closely and document its growth through increases in numbers of journals, organized sections in the American Political Science Association, and divisions within the APSA conference. I also code articles published in the American Political Science Review to show a growth in scholastic features in recent decades. The changes affect all fields in political science. Scholasticism serves values of rigor. To restrain it will require reemphasizing relevance to real-world issues and audiences. To do this should also help restore morale among political scientists.

Lawrence M. Mead is professor of politics and public policy at New York University, where he teaches public policy and American government ( He has written several books about American social policy.


A list of permanent links to supplementary materials provided by the author precedes the references section.