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“The impact of the behavioral approach on traditional political science”

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States stood as a metonym of the
very idea of political freedom for almost the whole Western world. Yet its political
theorists were increasingly concerned about the very possibility of preserving its
liberal democracy and the terms on which this might be achieved. Before the
economic shockwaves of the early 1930s and a series of collapses of liberal
regimes in Europe, they had been able to take the linear progress of the liberal
idea of political freedom almost for granted, as a direct outcome of increasing
levels of wealth, welfare and education (Ross 1992:257–300). Now the European
totalitarian regimes seemed to have been not only shockingly successful in
securing the support of the masses, but also in delivering the same – if not superior
– economic and welfare benefits as democracies. In 1935, Charles Merriam, one of
the most eminent political scientists at the time, published a recommendation to
introduce ‘planning agencies’ in the United States, with referring to recent similar
developments in Europe. It is clear that Merriam considered at least some of the
European changes progressive, noting that “especially since returning from Europe
last summer, I do not share the complaisance of those who look forward to a world
but little changed. … I anticipate fundamental changes in the scientific, technological, political, and industrial order – changes that will alter many of the presentday and historical social patterns and remake them in new … forms. The mold in
which the modern state was cast is broken or is breaking (Merriam 1935–210).”