America’s Constitutional Soul

The Johns Hopkins University Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)


When it comes to American politics, I am an amateur. I love America at its best, or even at its most characteristic: “only in America.” Perhaps this kind of love ought to qualify me as a professional, because it requires one to learn what those two Americas are. But in practice, professionals, elected politicians, journalists, and professors of American politics-look down on amateurs. All would look askance at someone who thinks amateur means “lover” instead of “bumbler.”

Nonetheless, though an amateur, I have listened to the professionals from an early age (my concern here is with the professional academics), and having become a political scientist of a different sort myself, I have watched things happen for more than forty years.

In that time I have seen two revolutions in political science, the behavioral revolution in the fifties, led by Robert A. Dahl’s A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956), and the postbehavioral revolution of the late sixties exemplified in Theodore Lowi’s The End of Liberalism (1969). In what follows I shall concentrate on these two revolutions, and not attempt to draw up a catalog of notable figures and varieties of opinion. The two revolutions were actual events; I am not speaking of ideal types or heuristic constructions. But I shall not cover all positions possible to take or actually taken by the professionals in American politics, and I mention only a few names. Thus I leave it to my colleagues to decide for themselves in the privacy of their consciences whether they have done justice to the American Constitution. There the worst sentence they can receive (as Edmund Burke once said) is a private whipping.

Program on Constitutional Government [pdf]