Political Science in Great Britain and Germany: The Roles of LSE (The London School of Economics) and DHfP (The German Political Studies Institute)

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The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Deutsche Hochschule für Politik (DHfP, German Political Studies Institute) in Berlin both emerged extramurally. LSE was founded in 1895 by Fabian socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb; DHfP was established in 1920 by liberal-national publicists Ernst Jäckh and Theodor Heuss. However, superficial resemblances ended there, as shown in the paper’s first part. The founders’ aims differed markedly; incorporation into London and Berlin universities occurred at different times and in different ways.

The chair of political science set up at LSE in 1914 was held, until 1950, by two reform-minded Fabians, Graham Wallas and Harold Laski. DHfP, which did not win academic recognition during the 1920s, split into nationalist, “functionalist”, and democratic “schools”. Against this backdrop, the paper’s second part discusses Harold Laski’s magnum opus (1925) A Grammar of Politics as an attempt at offering a vision of the “good society”, and Theodor Heuss’ 1932 study Hitler’s Course as an example of the divided Hochschule’s inability to provide adequate analytical assessments of the Nazi movement and of the gradual infringement, by established elites, of the Weimar constitution. Laski’s work and intellectual legacy reinforced the tendency towards the predominance, in British political science, of normative political theory. West German political science, initially pursued “from a Weimar perspective”, was also conceived as a highly normative enterprise emphasising classical political theory, the institutions and processes of representative government, and the problematic ideological and institutional predispositions peculiar to German political history. Against this background, the paper’s third part looks, on the one hand, at the contribution to “New Left” thinking (1961 ff.) by Ralph Miliband, who studied under Laski and taught at LSE until 1972, and at Paul Hirst’s 1990s theory of associative democracy, which builds on Laski’s pluralism. On the other hand, the paper considers Karl Dietrich Bracher’s seminal work The Failure of the Weimar Republic (1955) and Ernst Fraenkel’s 1964 collection Germany and the Western Democracies, which originated, respectively, from the (Research) Institute for Political Science – added to Berlin’s Free University in 1950 – and DHfP, re-launched in the same year.

In a brief concluding fourth part, the paper touches on the reception, both in Great Britain and West Germany, of the approaches of “modern” American political science since the mid-1960s.

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