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American Political Development as a Problem-Driven Enterprise

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2022

Daniel J. Galvin*
Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Chloe N. Thurston*
Department of Political Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Corresponding author: Daniel J. Galvin, Email: and Chloe N. Thurston, Email:
Corresponding author: Daniel J. Galvin, Email: and Chloe N. Thurston, Email:


We argue that American political development's (APD's) relentless preoccupation with the substantive problems that shape and animate American politics and how they emerge and develop over time has been a key source of the subfield's durability. We elaborate on three main payoffs to conceptualizing APD as a problem-driven enterprise: (1) it highlights APD's main comparative advantage within the American politics subfield, noting the tremendous agility APD's substantive breadth lends the enterprise; (2) it resolves the methodological debate, granting simply that the question chooses the method rather than the other way around; and (3) it reorients the critique: simply because a subfield considers itself to be problem-oriented does not mean that it is identifying the right problems to study.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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