Political science, punditry, and the Corbyn problem
Jeremy Corbyn’s continued leadership of the Labour party has been contrary to the publicly stated expectations of many pundits and political scientists. This punditry has underpinned coverage of Corbyn and his Labour party that continually plays out in print, broadcast and social media. My claim is that the manner in which Corbyn and his supporters were discussed by prominent political scientists and pundits was reflective of a dismissive underlying attitude towards the political dynamics that his candidacy and subsequent leadership represent. In this paper, I do three things. First, I identify a group of intensely politically involved individuals who collectively hold the power to shape shared political meanings and understandings and locate some British political scientists within it. Second, I outline five points of opposition that this group had to Corbyn, demonstrating that although these maintain an appearance of objectivity, they are nonetheless normative in nature and largely conform to a dominant ideological standpoint seemingly shared among the group. Third, I reflect on the role of British political science in this context, raising concerns that our inculcation into this group might be affecting our academic endeavours as well as how we present ourselves and our work to the wider public.
KeywordsPolitical science Jeremy Corbyn British politics Power Epistemic snobbery Political punditry
Thanks are offered to Nick Clarke, Jonathan Dean and David S. Moon for providing written comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks are also due to audiences at the University of Bath, University of Leeds, the John W Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, and the 2018 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting for comments on various presented versions of these ideas.
- Allen, P. 2018. The Political Class: Why It Matters Who Our Politicians Are. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Barry, B. 2005. Why Social Justice Matters. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- Blair, T. 2010. A Journey. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
- Cammaerts, B., B. DeCillia, J. Viera Magalhães, and C. Jimenez-Martínez. 2016. Journalistic representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press: from “watchdog” to “attack dog”. http://www.lse.ac.uk/media-and-communications/assets/documents/research/projects/corbyn/Cobyn-Report.pdf.
- Christiano, T. 2003. An Argument for Democratic equality. In Philosophy and Democracy: An Anthology, ed. T. Christiano, 39–67. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Criddle, B. 2015. Variable Diversity: MPs and Candidates. In The British General Election of 2015, ed. Philip Cowley and Dennis Kavanagh, 336–360. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Davis, A. 2018. Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of Establishment. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
- Dean, J. 2016. Do Academics Have a Corbyn Problem? https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/do-academics-have-corbyn-problem [last accessed 02-06-2018].
- Dean, J. 2017. On Corbyn, Book-Eating and the Future of UK Political Science. https://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/corbyn-book-eating-and-future-uk-political-science [last accessed 02-06-2018].
- Fleck L. 1986. Scientific Observation and Perception in General . In: Cognition and Fact. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol 87. Springer, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
- Friedman, S., D. Laurison, and L. Macmillan. 2017. Social Mobility, The Class Pay Gap and Intergenerational Worklessness: New Insights from The Labour Force Survey. London: Social Mobility Commission.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A. 2013. The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Goodin, R.E. 2009. The Oxford Handbook of Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Issenberg, S. 2012. The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
- Jones, O. 2015. The Establishment: And How They Get Away with It. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Mair, P. 2006. Ruling the Void? The Hollowing of Western Democracy. New Left Review Nov-Dec 25–51.Google Scholar
- Nagel, T. 1989. The View From Nowhere. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pearce, S., and D. Evans. 2018. The Rise of Impact in Academia: Repackaging a Long-Standing Idea. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Sturgis, P., B. Nick, C. Mario, F. Stephen, W. Jennings, K. Jouni, L. Ben, and S. Patten. 2016. Report of the Inquiry into the 2015 British General Election Opinion Polls. London: Market Research Society and British Polling Council.Google Scholar