Philosophy and Global Affairs

Volume 2, Issue 1, 2022

Roxanne L. Euben
Pages 3-14

“Comparative Political Theory” and the Displacement of Politics

Over the course of the past few decades, comparative political theory has acquired a measure of institutional legitimacy and intellectual recognition as part of the ongoing, interdisciplinary challenge to prevailing academic categories, coordinates, and borders. This arrival has been accompanied by a conspicuous focus on methodology both by those who claim the mantle of comparative political theory and those who reject it. The following reflections read this focus symptomatically, as revealing intellectual, institutional, and professional exigencies rather than as distinct to any particular scholar, argument, or publication. Neither a “state of the field” nor a proprietary defense of what comparative political theory is or should be, these observations toggle back and forth between reflections on my own engagement and disengagement with the topic of comparative political theory on the one hand and, on the other, concerns about how this preoccupation with method simultaneously expresses and exacerbates the displacement of politics in the very field that aims to understand it. Among the questions I raise are: What might be driving this disproportionate focus on methodological arguments in and about comparative political theory? What are the stakes of such a focus, particularly for younger scholars in political science departments decreasingly hospitable to political theory? Finally, what does this augur for the future of the study of politics broadly understood within disciplines dedicated to the scientific study of human behavior?