HSS 50th Anniversary Lecture
John Ferejohn's scholarship focuses on the development of positive political theory, especially its application to the study of legal and political institutions and behavior. His current research concerns Congress and policy making, courts within the separation-of-powers system, constitutional adjudication from a comparative perspective, democratic theory and law, and the philosophy of social science. Colleagues credit Ferejohn (HSS faculty, 1972-1983) with defining political economy at Caltech.
We argue that the political psychology and institutional predictions that comprise The Federalist are best understood as political science—that "Publius," collective author of The Federalist, was not just a polemicist and normative theorist but also a political scientist. This talk will describe three respects in which Madison was forced to revise, after the successes of Hamilton's initiatives demonstrated the potency of the presidency during the 1790s, Publius's institutional predictions. Hamilton had to do less revision as things turned out. Rather than view these revisions as abandoning the political theory of The Federalist, we argue that Madison and Hamilton retained Publius's foundational assumptions while revising their predictions about institutional behavior in light of evidence—precisely the proper response of an empirically oriented political scientist. In this sense, Hamilton's and Madison's post-ratification breach was less a retreat from Publius's political theory and more a confirmation of The Federalist's status as, in part, political science open to revision in light of political experience.