, Volume 129, Issue 2-3, pp 235-245
Date: 23 Jun 2010

Taking evolution seriously in political science

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Abstract

In this essay, we explore the epistemological and ontological assumptions that have been made to make political science “scientific.” We show how political science has generally adopted an ontologically reductionist philosophy of science derived from Newtonian physics and mechanics. This mechanical framework has encountered problems and constraints on its explanatory power, because an emphasis on equilibrium analysis is ill-suited for the study of political change. We outline the primary differences between an evolutionary ontology of social science and the physics-based philosophy commonly employed. Finally, we show how evolutionary thinking adds insight into the study of political phenomena and research questions that are of central importance to the field, such as preference formation.