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Publius and Political Science

Thursday, March 31, 2016
5:00pm to 6:00pm
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Baxter B125
  • Public Event

John A. Ferejohn, Samuel Tilden Professor of Law, New York University School of Law

NOTE: The lecture start time is 5:00 p.m. (not 6:00 p.m. as originally posted.)

Ferejohn argues 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.

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.

This lecture is part of a series honoring the 50th anniversary of Caltech's Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).

Contact: Sheryl Cobb, [email protected] or 626-395-4220

For more information, please contact Sheryl Cobb by phone at (626) 395-4220 or by email at [email protected].