Charles Edward Merriam

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Charles Edward Merriam

Charles Edward Merriam, Jr. (November 15, 1874 – January 8, 1953) was an American political scientist and Professor of political science at the University of Chicago, founder of the behavioralistic approach to political science, a prominent intellectual in the Progressive Movement, and an advisor to several U.S. Presidents.


A History of American Political Theories, 1903[edit]

Charles Merriam. A History of American Political Theories. New York: MacMillan, 1903, 1920; 1928

  • The development of American political theories has received surprisingly little attention from students of American history. Even the political ideas of the Revolutionary fathers and the tenets of such important schools as those represented by Jefferson and Adams have not been carefully analyzed or put in their proper perspective. The political theory of the controversies over slavery and the nature of the Union has generally been presented from the partisan point of view, while recent tendencies in political thought have received no adequate notice.
    • p. vii; Preface, lead paragraph

The American Party System, 1922[edit]

Charles Merriam. The American Party System: An Introduction to the Study of Political Parties in the United States. New York: MacMillan, 1922.

  • This volume is an analysis of the American party system, an account of the structure, processes and significance of the political party, designed to show as clearly as possible within compact limits what the function of the political party is in the community. My purpose is to make this, as far as possible, an objective study of the organization and behavior of our political parties. It is hoped that this volume may serve as an introduction to students and others who wish to find a concise account of the party system; and also that it may serve to stimulate more intensive study of the important features and processes of the party. From time to time in the course of this discussion significant fields of inquiry have been indicated where it is believed that research would bear rich fruit. In the light of broader statistical information than we now have and with the aid of a thorough-going social and political psychology than we now have, it will be possible in the future to make much more exhaustive and conclusive studies of political parties than we are able to do at present. The objective, detailed study of political behavior will unquestionably enlarge our knowledge of the system of social and political control under which we now operate. But such inquiries will call for funds and personnel not now available to me.
    • p. v; Preface lead paragraph

Systematic Politics, 1943[edit]

Charles Merriam (1943): Systematic Politics. University of Chicago Press.

  • The technical apparatus of modem organization is far more complicated, elaborate, and scientific than that of preceding generations.
  • In modern industry the managerial groups in many areas rise to a position more significant than that of the owners or the workers. Decision often rests largely in their hands, providing, of course, they are able to point to a generous measure of financial success in their particular enterprise. Wages to the workers, profits to the owners, prices and goods to the consumers--these are allocated in great measure by the managers of the concern and tolerated on the terms just stated.
The managerial group develops also in other social groups as well as in industry. Labor, agriculture, and professional associations tend to set up a strong structure in which the managerial skills and personalities are very prominent. In the ecclesiastical groupings this form of organization has long been evident, not only in the Catholic church but in other creeds and organizations as well.
If we ask why cities must have managers, or the Dairymen's Association have a manager, or steel or motors have a skilled staff of managers, not so called perhaps, or the labor group, or the political party, we find the answer in the increasing number and specialization of functions and the correspondingly increasing need for ways and means of integrating these specializations. The increasing size of modern societies and the proliferation of their complex activities make new forms of binding the machinery together indispensable to successful functioning.
  • It is not necessary to conclude that the managerial groups have assumed complete domination over the concerns in which they are found, although this may be the fact in various instances, but only to reckon with the undoubted truth that the managerial factor in public and private enterprise has taken on a far more significant role than before.
This new role which has puzzled and alarmed the "owners" in industry and the policy-makers in government is not, however, primarily a power role, but a specialization of the evolving and complex character which we now confront in our civilization.
We may, of course, always raise the question-not in point of fact always raised-of what the relation of these managers is to the t!nds of the state or the ends of other groups and to the special techniques of the particular group and to its special social composition. In the complex power pattern of organization how are these managerial element-related to the organization of the consent of the governed, so vital a force in the life of every form of human association? In the struggle for advantage and mastery these larger factors may, indeed, pass unnoticed, but from the point of view of the student of politics and government, they are of supreme importance in judging the trends and possibilities of managerial evolution in modem society.
  • We now know how to produce, how to fight, how to administer social affairs, public or private, on a massive scale; and no modern group is unmindful of the technical tools available for this purpose. Masses of men and women-millions of them-now know more about organization, its meaning and apparatus, than ever before in human history. Its cult is no longer secret or magic. What now appears is a reasonable expectancy by those concerned that under such and such conditions such and such an outcome will follow, in an organizational pattern, of which they are parts, and in which they share responsibility.
  • The earlier political thinkers used the term "organization" in the broadest sense of the term, that is, with reference to the widest aspects of the patterns of political forces in a given state. Thus a political society might be organized as a monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy, as a city-state, feudal state, a national state, imperial state, or a world state. Emphasis was also placed on the organs of organization. These came to be standardized in the course of time under the categories of legislative, executive, and judicial organs, the combination of which in some form of balance was held to be the indispensable basis of sound organization.
  • Much attention has been given in recent years to what might be called the "higher organization" of the state, both in the practical experimentation of modem nations and in the domain of theoretical analysis. In almost every country in the world there has been experimentation with and discussion of the emerging evolution of political-economic forms and forces, now everywhere challenging the peace and security of mankind technology, cartels, unions, business and agricultural associations, armies, professions, churches, schools. The problem of a socialistic or a mixed economy has led to vigorous debate not only upon economic principles but upon the whole political setting of economics.

Quotes about Charles Edward Merriam[edit]

  • Charles E. Merriam... attributed a decisive position to the managers of a democratic society. As Chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago between the two World Wars, Professor Merriam inspired a generation of students and practitioners of public administration. As a local political leader in Chicago and as a national adviser to liberal American Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, Merriam recognized the practical significance of public management. In his overall treatise on Systematic Politics, Merriam devoted the final but perhaps the most significant section of his chapter on "The Organs of Government" to what he calls "the managerial organ."
  • The man instrumental in the creation of the Brookings Institution, Charles E. Merriam, sought to move toward a “science of politics.” In his presidential address to APSA in 1921, he spoke of what he called a pressing problem, the reconstruction of the methods of political study (Merriam 1921, 174). Thus began a trend that placed increasing emphasis on the development of theories and testable hypotheses.
    • Mary E. Guy, "Ties that bind: The link between public administration and political science." Journal of Politics 65.3 (2003): 641-655; p. 644.

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