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The descent of political theory: the genealogy of an American vocation.

This ambition was fueled by the less than stellar reputation of political science at that day (Dahl 1961). It was the poor relation of other disciplines, whether the natural sciences, jurisprudence and psychology, in part because it was still a relatively new discipline – in fact it existed only in the U.S. as a separate field of social science. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the younger generation of political scientists became increasingly convinced that their discipline needed a methodological, theoretical, institutional and programmatic metamorphosis. They set about producing it (Eldersveld et al. 1952). At the same time it is important to acknowledge that numerically it was still only a minority of the members of the profession who joined the innovative effort or even deemed it necessary (Berndtson 1997). Nonetheless, as few in number as the individual researchers behind these changes – commonly known as the ‘behavioural revolution’ – might have been, their disparate efforts came to constitute the mainstream through and then against which the discipline’s selfunderstanding was formed. While it was not until the 1950s that the vision of a new political science – one that sought to contribute to social progress in the same way as natural sciences had contributed to technical progress – started to enjoy wider influence, some of its basic ingredients went back to the 1920s and to one person in particular, Charles Merriam (1874–1953). Merriam worked and taught at the University of Chicago, where he chaired the Department of Political Science from 1923 to 1940 and founded what would later become known as the Chicago School (Heaney and Hansen 2006). More accomplished as a prophet than as a scientist, Merriam was an enthusiastic and skilled advocate for the imagined future role of this transformed discipline. In stark contrast to the natural sciences that had “made rapid progress” (Merriam 1922:317), political science had, Merriam insisted, “fallen behind the possibilities of our times, and that by a very long interval” (Merriam 1922:315).