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

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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.

About the Author

Donald S. Lutz is professor of political science at the University of Houston. He is author of The Origins of American Constitutionalism and numerous articles on American political theory.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series