In a piece that’s bound to generate controversy among political scientists, Isaac looks at the “big picture” of the defunding of (many forms of) political science via the Coburn Amendment. What’s likely controversial about the piece?
First, Isaac argues that the defunding of political science is simply a wedge in the broader conservative “war on science.”
It seems very clear that the move to defund political science is linked to a broader conservative political agenda targeting many aspects of science and the humanities, and rooted in a hostility toward intellectuals; that it hypocritically singles out the relatively small amounts of the NSF budget spent on political science; and that it rests on a range of specious assumptions and claims. One is the notion that most important NSF-funded natural science is technologically driven applied science. This is obviously false, and the distinction between theoretical and applied science is well established within the natural sciences—and scientists well understand that the practical advances that science makes possible are only enabled bytheoretical advances. Another is the notion that the only way to be a “real” science is to be a science like physics or chemistry. And the third, and most serious, specious assumption is that the principal scientific and social value of American political science is its ability to promote the “national security” and “economic interests” of the United States.