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 GNT and public policy and is part of a series of proposed roundtables.
Given its core methodological commitments, grounded normative theorizing promotes several desirable aims. It increases the relevance of normative arguments to actual political and policy problems, and the usefulness of normative analysis to people engaged in political contestation (relevance). It increases the rigor and thoroughness of normative arguments by attending to a more comprehensive set of relevant positions (comprehensiveness). It clarifies, interrogates, and improves the quality of empirical suppositions that underlie normative political theory (rigor). Finally, GNT can improve the accountability of normative theorizing to people whose lives and political struggles may be misunderstood or neglected due to the biases, blind-spots, and unacknowledged privileges of normative theorists (accountability).