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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Political Science

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Over forty years ago, Hanna Pitkin expressed concern that social scientists were failing to give concepts the attention which they needed (Pitkin 1972, 277). This thesis takes up the same theme, asking how the concept of responsiveness is treated by political scientists. The goal to reveal confusion that surrounds widely used concepts such as responsiveness. The analysis offered in this thesis has significance for the discipline of political science in three ways. First, it highlights confusion surrounding the concept of responsiveness itself. Responsiveness is a widely utilized concept employed throughout the social sciences; however, as this thesis shows, there is wide disagreement in how the concept is understood. This confusion is fueled by the frequent failure of scholars to critically analyze the concept and the assumptions which have been attached to the understanding of responsiveness. Second, by analyzing the related concepts of representation and democracy, this thesis suggests that there is a lack of attention to concepts which are employed for research that extends beyond responsiveness. Many other concepts that are foundational to our discipline warrant increased scrutiny. Third and finally, the thesis highlights the danger of ignoring the ideological commitments of political scientists, commitments that can shape in hidden but consequential ways how we study the world around us.


First Advisor

Frederic Schaffer

Second Advisor

Timothy Pachirat