The Wars began in 2000 when a group of disgruntled political scientists, fed up with political science’s fixation with hard explanations, formed a new movement having no singular revolutionary purpose. Perestroika is an eclectic approach which resists what its members consider “a methodological bias toward the quantitative, behavioral, rational choice, statistic, and formal modeling approaches in American political science.” In part, Perestroika expresses unhappiness with what they perceive to be the American Political Science Association’s exclusionary practices. The revolutionaries condemn the APSA for excluding important work in political science just because it does not reflect the rationale behind the paradigms of hard science. This movement has now resulted in Kristen Renwick Monroe’s Perestroika: The Raucous Rebellion in Political Science. The book introduces the reader to the Perestroika Wars as well as a range of issues, including methodology in political science, graduate education, the governance of professional organizations, and competition in publishing. It raises important challenges to the very idea of social science.
The controversy between hardies and softies ranges far beyond political science or even social science generally. Indeed, western intellectual history is replete with such dichotomies as objectivity-subjectivity, realism-nominalism, certainty-skepticism, universality-contextualism, and so forth. Isaiah Berlin’s useful metaphor of the hedgehog and the fox, like the Perestroika Wars, is grounded in the idea that there are two fundamentally different ways of understanding the world, and that conducting rational inquiry should reflect this difference. For Berlin, some people (hedgehogs) are content to know just one large truth; while others (foxes) are busy discovering a bunch of little and varied truths. The difference between hedgehogs and foxes reflects the difference between those theorists who seek unity in science and knowledge generally and those who insist that there is no guarantee that all of what we know or what we value will fit together nicely, and there is reason to believe that it will not. The controversy, one might say, defines controversies in virtually every intellectual pursuit. It is a controversy that lawyers committed to hard social scientific paradigms should take seriously.