Activism and objectivity in political research

Frazer, Michael L. (2023) Activism and objectivity in political research. Perspectives on Politics, 21 (4). pp. 1258-1269. ISSN 1537-5927

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There are two opposed views on the proper relationship between academic research and political activism. The first argues that academics who study politics must remain objective, hence precluding activism. The second argues that academics can and should also be political activists, hence precluding scholarly objectivity. This article argues against an assumption shared by these otherwise opposing positions: that activism and objectivity are incompatible. It conceptually identifies and then normatively defends a form of objectivity characterized by active engagement with evidence that is what Max Weber calls “inconvenient” for one’s existing beliefs and commitments. Far from being incompatible with political activism, this form of objectivity is essential to its success. Since scholars, activists, and scholar-activists alike would all benefit from active engagement with inconvenient evidence, I conclude that academic institutions should promote this form of objectivity among both activist and non-activist scholars, while political organizations should promote the same virtue among both academic and non-academic activists.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published in Special Section: Methods, Ethics, Motivations: Connecting the How and Why of Political Science. Acknowledgements: Previous versions of this paper were presented at the annual meeting of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Methods of Political Philosophy section and in talks at Corpus Christi College Cambridge, King’s College London, and the University of East Anglia. My thanks to the organizers and the many helpful comments from attendees. The author would also like to thank Associate Editor Daniel O’Neill and the four anonymous reviewers from Perspectives on Politics; their suggestions for improvements throughout the article have been too numerous to cite individually. Research funding was provided by a generous grant from the Spencer Foundation and by the University of East Anglia.
Uncontrolled Keywords: activism,objectivity,neutrality,impartiality,ambivalent partisanship,weber max,political science and international relations,philosophy,sdg 16 - peace, justice and strong institutions,sdg 17 - partnerships for the goals,4* ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3300/3320
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Policy & Politics
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Cultural Politics, Communications & Media
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Political, Social and International Studies
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2023 10:30
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2024 08:30
DOI: 10.1017/S1537592723000518


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