Pivotal Politics as Normal Science

Pivotal Politics as Normal Science

The Journal of Politics. May
22, 2018, Vol. 80, Issue 3

Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking was conceived as an instance of normal science within a nascent but nebulous paradigm. In the two decades following publication of the book, three disciplinary changes are noteworthy. First, the paradigm in which much political science is conducted has become more clearly identifiable. Second, more scholars are working within the emerging paradigm. Third, adherence to the paradigm’s norms of good research practice has become more consistent. This essay explicates four conceptually distinct but implicit components of the paradigm. Labeled the Components of Institutional Analysis, the framework has many uses. Several of these are illustrated with reference to Pivotal Politics and to the subsequent, constructively critical literature. The preponderance of this scholarship is normal science in the best sense. In its entirety, paradigm-guided research on institutions comports well with William Riker’s prognosis for a science of politics and Gerald Kramer’s requirements for scientific understanding.