From Distant Object to Close Subject: The Concept of Culture in Political Science


  • Ronald Stade


The relationship between researchers and their objects of study has varied and continues to vary across time and disciplinary traditions. A key element in such variations is the degree of reflexivity involved in the process of knowledge production. To what extent are researchers aware of how they themselves produce knowledge? This question is discussed in the context of political science. It is suggested that the various forms the study of culture has taken in political science can serve as an indicator of different levels of reflexivity or modes of engagement. Three influential conceptualizations of “culture” in political science are presented as examples: political culture theory, civilizational theory, and constructivism. Toward the end, the case is made for a cosmopolitan engagement with culture and examples from political science of this type of engagement are introduced.