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Race and the Making of American Political ScienceRace and the Making of American Political Science

Jessica Blatt

Narrated by Rosemary Benson

Book published by University of Pennsylvania Press

Race and the Making of American Political Science shows that changing scientific ideas about racial difference were central to the academic study of politics as it emerged in the United States. From the late nineteenth century through the 1930s, scholars of politics defined and continually reoriented their field in response to the political imperatives of the racial order at home and abroad as well to as the vagaries of race science.

The Gilded Age scholars who founded the first university departments and journals located sovereignty and legitimacy in a "Teutonic germ" of liberty planted in the new world by Anglo-Saxon settlers and almost extinguished in the conflict over slavery. Within a generation, "Teutonism" would come to seem like philosophical speculation, but well into the twentieth century, major political scientists understood racial difference to be a fundamental shaper of political life. They wove popular and scientific ideas about race into their accounts of political belonging, of progress and change, of proper hierarchy, and of democracy and its warrants. And they attended closely to new developments in race science, viewing them as central to their own core questions. In doing so, they constructed models of human difference and political life that still exert a powerful hold on our political imagination today, in and outside of the academy.

By tracing this history, Jessica Blatt effects a bold reinterpretation of the origins of U.S. political science, one that embeds that history in larger processes of the coproduction of racial ideas, racial oppression, and political knowledge.

Jessica Blatt is Associate Professor of Political Science at Marymount Manhattan College.


“Blatt has provided a service to intellectual historians. This well-documented and clearly written book achieves its objectives by squarely positioning racist assumptions at the heart of political science's origins in the modern academy.”

The Journal of American History

“Jessica Blatt has delivered a masterful account of the illiberal fiber inherent in American political reality. That is, how a country committed to democratic equality and freedom has invested so much ink, blood, and money in ideas of racial difference to produce a conjoined history of unfreedoms and massive inequalities. She brings history to life on the page in her compelling telling of the ways that key intellectuals shaped the early field of political science through varied but sustained commitments to normalized white supremacy. Blatt has opened the way for a watershed reflective moment in her field—and beyond.”

—Duana Fullwiley, Stanford University

Race and the Making of American Political Science is one of those rare books that makes an important scholarly contribution and a significant intervention in civic discourse. In examining carefully how racialist ideologies shaped the first half century of American political science, Blatt also provides a richly theorized and historically grounded account of what 'race' is as an ideology of essential human difference, how it has evolved, and how its premises continue to shape academic and popular discourses. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of the social sciences and anyone concerned with making sense of race ideology and how it works in our society.”

—Adolph Reed, Jr., University of Pennsylvania

“In an exhilarating story, which never flags in energy or excitement, Jessica Blatt shows how foundational racism and concepts of race were to American political science, not just at the beginning but in its heyday as a social science. A pioneering work exploding with insights and discoveries on every page, her book is also a cautionary tale for today, when academics and journalists increasingly turn to race as a category of political explanation, unwittingly repeating the maneuvers that Blatt so vividly documents and describes.”

—Corey Robin, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center

“Jessica Blatt has written a fine book. She is correct that race is a dimension of disciplinary history that has not been seriously explored. Everyone notices the founding generation's Teutonism, but none of the major historical studies have taken it seriously as a species of racialism or examined its lingering consequences.”

—Dorothy Ross, Johns Hopkins University

Race and the Making of American Political Science illuminates key elements in the past of American political science—the founding of the discipline around a core racialist scheme and the subsequent evolution of ideas about race within the discipline as practitioners adapted to the rise of U.S. power in the world.”

—Howard Brick, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

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