Authenticity as Wellbeing in Critical Political Science

Alexander Miller-Tate


Across social science, far more academics adhere to the above aphorism than would be willing to admit it. Even the most adamant positivists reveal, if in nothing else then their choice of research topic, their desire to have an impact on policy and, by extension, the social order it creates. Social knowledge is rarely pursued for its own sake, however much we may protest to the contrary.

Yet, in the history of social enquiry, some have pursued this aim more explicitly and progressively than others. The desire to understand the social world, what is right and wrong about its organisation, and ultimately effect change for the better, is best embodied by the branch of social science known as ‘critical theory’ (Bohman, 2013; Horkheimer, 1982). In this wide sense, a critical theory can be defined as a research programme that ‘…has an emancipatory interest in human autonomy’ (Blaikie, 2007: 140). Necessarily, such theories require empirical, normative (roughly, ethical) and practical (in terms of how to change the social world for the better) dimensions (Bohman, 2013).

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