Until the 1950s the dominance of the institutional approach within political science was such that its assumptions and practices were rarely specified, let alone subject to sustained critique. Methodological and theoretical premises were left unexamined behind a veil of academic ‘common sense’. Outside of political theory, the core activity within political science was the description of constitutions, legal systems and government structures, and their comparison over time and across countries. Institutionalism was political science. But this traditional form of institutionalism found itself under attack from a range of quarters. Rather than taking the functions of political institutions at face value, behaviouralists sought to explain how and why individuals acted as they did in ‘real life’ (see Chapter 2). The behavioural revolutionaries, as Goodin and Klingemann (1996: 11) argue, ‘were devoted to dismissing the formalisms of politics – institutions, organizational charts, constitutional myths and legal fictions’. A generation later, rational choice theorists sought to explain politics in terms of the interplay of individuals’ self-interest (see Chapter 3). From another direction, neo-Marxist accounts focused upon the role of ‘systemic power’ (deriving from capital/labour relations) in structuring political action and the organisation of government (see Chapter 7). ‘Modern’ political scientists of all colours seemed intent upon debunking the institutionalist certainties of their forebears. The clear message was that there was much, much more to politics than the formal arrangements for representation, decision-making and policy implementation.
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