Why Would a Political Scientist Write a Biography?
by Bartholomew Sparrow, University of Texas at Austin
Why would a political scientist write a biography of a U.S. national security advisor? Biography focuses on a single individual and has no guidelines on where or how to collect evidence or on how to organize that evidence. Nonetheless, a biography of General Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, allowed me to provide a broad overview of forty years of U.S. foreign policy history, to conduct an in-depth study of the personnel and organization involved in the national security decision-making, and to narrate the life of an extremely influential and interesting public figure. Biography fulfills many of political science’s disciplinary objectives, in fact: it speaks to important issues of political science, it offers thick description and facilitates the drawing of causal inferences, it addresses agency and structure, it is falsifiable, and it is able to communicate with a larger public. Read the full article.