A Preface to American Political Theory
Donald S. Lutz
Donald Lutz begins A Preface to American Political Theory by explaining what the book doesn't do.
It doesn't begin with a panegyric to the American founding. It doesn't answer the following questions: "What are the basic principles in the U.S. Constitution? What were the intentions of the founders with respect to (fill in your own topic)? What is the meaning of pluralism, or separation of powers, or democracy, or (fill in your own concept)?" In short, it doesn't provide an overview of the content, development, or major conclusions of American political theory.
“An important and useful book for anyone trying to understand the American political order.”
“Deserves serious attention and sustained discussion.”
—Journal of Politics
“Must be read by any serious scholar of American political thought and American constitutionalism.”
—Social Science Quarterly
“This important and valuable book should be consulted by anyone writing in American political thought.”
—Journal of American History
“Lutz isolates core rules for analyzing important questions of self-government. He articulates well the complexity of assessing American political theorizing about real political problems. He draws our attention especially to significant textual and theoretical works that outline the richness of the American traditions.”
—George J. Graham, Jr., Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University
“This book is not only a grand argument in favor of giving American political thought its due, but it is a tour de force of reasoned argument and analysis that blends history, law, political science, and philosophy. Lutz concentrates on the founding era and rescues the study of early American constitutionalism from the intellectual morass into which advocates of original intent, on the one hand, and proponents of constitutional interpretation as judicial fiat, on the other, have placed it. He does so by liberating the study of American political theory from narrow empiricism while showing that systematic empirical analysis is an essential part of that theory. The result is a powerful, persuasive, and long needed book that elevates the thought and action of the founding generation of this nation into a preface for understanding the evolution of American political theory generally.”
—Kermit L. Hall, Dean, Henry Kendall College of Arts and Sciences, University of Tulsa, and author of The Magic Mirror: Law in American History
“A masterful introduction to the study of American constitutional documents from a philosophic perspective. It will be used with great profit for many years by students of the subject.”
—Daniel J. Elazar, author of The American Constitutional TraditionSee fewer reviews...
What it does do is provide "a pre-theoretical analysis of how to go about studying questions like the ones above-how to conceptualize the project, how to proceed in looking for answers, how to avoid the logical traps peculiar to the study of American political theory."
Lutz sets out to emancipate American political theorists from empiricism and inappropriate European theories and methodologies. The end result is to establish the foundation for the systematic study of American behavior, institutions, and ideas; to provide a general introduction to the study of American political theory; and to illustrate how textual analysis, history, empirical research, and analytic philosophy are all part of the enterprise.
Designed for students and scholars in all disciplines, including political science, history, and legal studies, A Preface to American Political Theory doesn't provide answers to central continuing issues in American political theory. Rather, it provides an effective, sophisticated entree into the study of American political theory. Readers will be armed with the intellectual tools to engage in systematic study and makes them aware of the pitfalls they will inevitably encounter.