Rafael Khachaturian has been awarded the Stephen Eric Bronner Award from the APSA New Political Science Organized Section for his dissertation, Discipline, Knowledge, and Critique: Marxist Theory and the Revival of the State in American Political Science, 1968-1989.
Rafael’s dissertation was supervised by Jeff Isaac with Russ Hanson, Bill Scheuerman, and Bill Rasch serving on the committee.
ABSTRACT: This dissertation is a study of the theorization and usages of the concept of "the state" within the history of American political science. I concentrate on the revival of scholarly interest in this concept between the 1960s-1980s, after it had initially faded from prominence in the midtwentieth century, asking why it took place in the time and manner that it did. I reconstruct this moment by focusing on how contemporary European neo-Marxist debates about the capitalist state were received and incorporated into the American social scientific context. I argue that, through the influence of these discussions, a renewed interest in the state provided a unique theoretical standpoint from which to critique the prevailing normative assumptions and professional practices within the field. I trace this influence of Marxist theory by focusing on two key research initiatives of the 1980s: the Social Science Research Council's "Committee on States and Social Structures," and the Woodrow Wilson Center's research project "Transitions from Authoritarian Rule." Through this critical genealogy, I suggest that discourses of the state can act as key vantage points for understanding the intersection of disciplinary identity, political power, and knowledge-producing practices in liberal democratic societies. Therefore, this research contributes to the intellectual history of American political science, by demonstrating the forgotten importance that Marxist theory played in the revival of the state; to contemporary political and democratic theory, by arguing for the ongoing relevance of the state as a concept bridging theory and practice; and to political discussions concerning the present crisis of liberal democracy.