Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Chris Tenove (University of British Columbia)
Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Fonna Forman (University of California – San Diego)
Abstract: A grounded approach to normative theorizing is not new. Indeed, it has been used in some of the most influential works of classical and contemporary political thought. For instance, Jane Mansbridge conducted extensive field work to inform her theorizing of democratic practice in her influential monograph, Beyond Adversary Democracy. However, grounded normative theorizing (GNT) has rarely been treated as a cohesive approach to doing political theory, and has received relatively little attention in the literature as an approach. This proposal is for a roundtable on the conceptual foundations of GNT, and is part of a series of proposed roundtables, which is aimed at developing GNT as a distinct approach.
GNT derives from a long-standing orientation to political theory that holds that lived experience, practices, institutions, and beliefs reveal what we should do and should value. In different ways, theorists have argued for normative analysis to engage the concrete realities of people’s lives, “taking men as they are and laws as they might be...so that justice and utility are in no way divided” (Rousseau 1762), or arguing that theorizing should not be “something which can go on in the head without including observation of new facts as part of itself” (Dewey  2004: 141). Today, political theorists frequently call for normative theory that is more practice-dependent, more realistic, or less focused on “transcendent institutions” (Sen 2009). We seek to explore intellectual traditions that have contributed directly to the contemporary turn toward grounded normative theory and the development of its methodological commitments.