The postwar Behavioral Revolution, Michael Desch argues, aimed to infuse social science with “scientific” approaches while preserving its applicability in the policy world. Focusing on two of the Behavioral Revolution’s leading figures, Talcott Parsons and Gabriel Almond (and their ties to the SSRC), he contends that, in fact, the goal of relevance was sacrificed through the pursuit of behavioralist theories and approaches. With a focus on comparative politics, Desch claims that the marginalizing of area studies, by focusing on more universal models of politics, took attention away from the contextual knowledge that was more needed by, and thus relevant to, policymaking.
Michael C. Desch
Michael C. Desch is Packey J. Dee Professor of International Relations at the University of Notre Dame and Brian and Jeannelle Brady Family Director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. He also served two terms as chair of the Department of Political Science. Prior to joining the faculty at Notre Dame, he was the founding Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs and the first holder of the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Among other scholarly and administrative appointments, he was assistant director and senior research associate at Harvard’s John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies. In addition to numerous scholarly and broader interest articles, he is the author of When the Third World Matters: Latin America and US Grand Strategy (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), and the Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2018).