Initial Dissertation Conception of 2010-2012

Hello everyone!

As I spent the summer polishing my dissertation and searching for a Detroit job, I decided to spend a few moments to reflect on the “origins” of my; say, life’s work. I chose Wayne State because I believed after researching about 30 programs that Philip Abbott would help my find answers to deep-rooted questions I had been unable to answer regarding national versus local / state political power. In 2010, I researched “republicanism” as a class project (Abbott) and republicanism “is” the answer to most of my previously held questions. No money could pay for the efficacy I developed over the years at Wayne…

This week, I will post parts of one essay I wrote as a “pre-prospectus.” Philip Abbott revealed to me many differences between republicanism and liberalism; however, everywhere we see the reliance on liberalism and not much practical usefulness stemming from republicanism during critical times. Further, there may be “republican” political solutions that are new, yet they may be “incorporated” by liberalism. Like, the people putting marijuana on the ballot and legalizing it regardless of national law is about as “republican” as it gets! On the other hand, liberalism’s “market” will surely usurp the distribution and cultivation sectors within the private sector and the government is going to tax it for liberal ends… this is where the solid science gets wet and liberalism and republicanism make nice brown… mud.

With this background, take a peek at my “early” conceptualization for “multiple traditions” that are distinct and capable as self-sustaining singular regimes, even if reality is a mix–a debate–of mud slinging!


What is the interplay of structure, culture and agency in politics? Can scientists empirically explain the essence—or the first cause(s)—of a state’s or a people’s habits of rules and regulations? I argue that scientists can answer the former questions by explaining (1) political languages as self-sustaining structures, and (2) the researcher may “parse” specific legislation and public policy to the corresponding political language (e.g., this is liberal legislation because liberal groups X123 attained legislative victory). And if this is possible, then isn’t an empirical a path for discovering the essence of governance by their form and order possible too?

The line of research for determining political development in American is called American political development (APD). Orren and Skowronek explain in “The Study of American Political Development” that “…practitioners of APD seek knowledge of how governance changes over time; they are interested in specifying the processes by which political innovations are negotiated and new political relationships generated” (Katznelson and Milner 2002, 722). APD may illuminate “the distinctive political problems that arise within the categorical realm of rules and operations to which individuals are expected to conform under threat of legal sanction” (Ibid, 723). APD seeks patterns and configurations to consider interactions over time.

I propose that APD’s interactions could widely benefit from considering Bourdieu’s habitus.

Political scientists have long sought to explain American political development but they have experienced great difficulty in developing a multiple traditions theory for APD and illuminates causal interactions by endogenous political language structures. Hartz, for example, contended that America was entirely a liberal society (1955). All-Americans think like little lockean entrepreneurs, expecting a fair shot, and therefore a fair shot for all (i.e. democracy) in a system where they prove themselves (i.e., capitalism) is the essense of their culture. However, other scholars persuasively argue that the American culture consists of multiple traditions; i.e. republicanism, communitarians, and authoritarians (e.g., Bellah [1985], 2008 , Smith 1993, 1997 , Wood 2012).

For example, Smith (1993, 1997) argues that an ascriptive hierarchy has permeated America’s past. People are not born equal. Large groups of Americans were treated as second class citizens over the centuries, and many Americans endured gross violations of liberalism throughout their lifetime too by the exploitive side of capitalism (greed is contractually legal via liberalism). America may never see ideal liberalism (empirical equal opportunity for all), but the severe degree to which entire groups of Americans were excluded from the political and economic opportunity demonstrates that authoritarianism—or a tradition other than liberalism—was and “is” significantly apparent in America. Americans, through the centuries, were not “born equal,” as Tocqueville said. Indeed, Hartz based much of the liberal tradition on the fact that Americans were born equal, which actually accounts for an infusion of bias into APD research.

A stalemate arises in the literature: You can understand APD based on liberalism and the liberal tradition; and, you can understand APD through multiple traditions. Regarding the former, a new liberal generation replaces the old liberal generation, and this liberal enlightenment explains APD. This is a highlight of American exceptionalism (Abbott 1999, 1-41). To be sure, an APD analysis without liberalism will not suffice (Abbott 1999). In the latter, multiple traditions fight against each other, and even though liberalism has won many battles over time, discovery and evidence of APD often involve authoritarianism, or biblical thought, or republicanism. An analysis of APD using only liberalism is likely an incomplete analysis, even if explanatory. Further, there may be times when only “liberal” research is necessary, but it is far more scientifically prudent to “begin” each inquiry as a multiple traditions inquiry, if and when possible. This is a stalemate of course because no one has delineated “how multiple traditions is possible for empirical research.”

In order to resolve this stalemate, this essay seeks a new way to understand interactions. Conceptually, I will humbly attempt to enable the reader to undergo a gestalt shift regarding Bourdieu’s habitus in the “science of science” for sociology—to political science.

Whereas Bourdieu briefly explained how sociologists, by denoting their history, could help remove bias from the field and also increase reflexivity; I explain how political languages should be seen as external actors with a history of political patterns that seen through many iterations of historical observances. Therefore, if I explain these actors’ structures, and how they are structuring by observing their positions and position-takings against exogenous political structures (e.g., types of sociologists, types of political languages), then I can take an issue and say: “Mrs. Republicanism, Mr. Liberal, and Ms. Authoritarianism; what is your ‘response’ to this issue or event?”

Bourdieu’s habitus was the sociologist’s “realized, embodied theory” of knowledge (40). For example, Bourdieu argued that any given scholar’s habitus is an accumulation and understanding of 25 millennia of his or her topic’s knowledge. The scholar, because of his or her education, socialization, and circumstances, reveals ingrained research patterns—or habits. I simply argue that scholars can see the habitus of authoritarianism, liberalism, and republicanism, for example, as an up-to-date master scholar.

For instance, imagine that a super-distinguished scholar of (1) authoritarianism, (2) liberalism, and (3) republicanism were present in the Oval Office after 9/11 (or in the bunker or on Air Force One). Each has in interest in swaying the President regarding policy formation and implementation. Each explain the event and solutions. Liberal consensus scholars argue that liberalism utterly dominates. Multiple traditions scholars feel there is an equal opportunity for any of the former three super-distinguished scholars to win the right of APD.

In theory, researching the habitus of a political object as the accumulation of scientific capital and the exchange of said capital does illuminate the change and impact upon society. Society’s interactions are revealed. Human agency interacts with institutions, structure and/or culture and causes development—just as the Nobel Peace Prize recipients over the past generation have caused change in the field of science. Bourdieu’s habitus records the habits of rules and regulations of an object, even though the object may deviate from any particular preferred outcome.

Each political language’s interaction is never far from the core!

In line with APD, researching the habitus will be useful to rational choice, structure and culture. The habitus of institutions, structure and/or culture (e.g., liberalism, republicanism, authoritarianism, etc) are themselves the independent variables of political inquiry which shall illuminate political development, allowing to much greater weight to be finally given to “rational choice” (thank God). If habitus is a caused interaction and is influencing external institutions, structures and culture, then we can compare the present reality to the habitus of specific structures.

This means that humans are, on the one hand, able to plug into any given political language and utilize the system’s habitus (e.g., we protect this natural resource via liberalism’s privatization mode). I eventually argue that political languages are like different planets (working papers), not simply three different super-distinguished experts. This will allow researchers to understand different authoritarian or liberal or republican countries on each respective political planet.

On Planet Republicanism, for instance, the people in country U may solve collective action problems much like Ostrom advocated in Governing the Commons (1990).

On Planet Authoritarianism in country Y, a few dictators manage the commons without the consent of the people—and they don’t even need to consider the people.

Our scientific questions become:  Is there no observable republicanism in America when there should be loads of it? Should Americans anticipate a 21st century republicanism to overcome the 20th century American liberalism?

How surprised would you be if the answer is “yes”!?

To Be Continued tomorrow!

**I researched Bourdieu’s “The Science of Science and Reflexivity” for the “Philosophy and Science” capstone course under the direction of Lawrence Scaff.


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