Sunday, August 31, 2003

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A really subversive suggestion for APSA

The American Political Science Association is divided into organized sections. Most of these sections are based on research interests -- the various subfields of international relations, political theory, American politics, etc. According to this page on APSA's web site:

Organized Sections have become a vital part of the Association by sponsoring panels at the Annual Meeting, producing informative newsletters, and recognizing scholarly achievements of their members.

Now, one of the sections is called "New Political Science." According to the section's website:

The New Political Science Section of the American Political Science Association is organized by the Caucus for a New Political Science, an organization of political scientists united by the idea that Political Science as an academic discipline should be committed to advancing progressive political development.

I went to one of this section's APSA panels. Beyond the standard lefty refrains, most of the discourse was about how they felt marginalized within the power structure of the political science discipline.

This is a pretty amusing assertion. At least the progressives have their own organized section. Since one of APSA's chief function is to organize the annual conference, and since lefties can at least arrange their own panels, they can carve out a niche for themselves at the meeting. However, there is no organized section for conservative or libertarian scholars within APSA.*

I certainly don't begrudge the progressives for having their own section. And I honestly don't know if there would be enough of a critical mass within the discipline to create the political science equivalent of a Federalist Society. Such a section would certainly require people like John Lemon to come out of the closet, for example.

However, it seems to me that some professor -- I'm sorry, let me rephrase that -- some tenured professor might want to consider setting the wheels in motion for organizing such a section. [And what would you call it? Old Political Science?--ed. I'm perfectly happy to receive name suggestions below!!] If nothing else, such a move would help to nurture the persecution complex that pervades the New Political Scientists.

*To be fair, right-of-center "related organizations" such as the Eric Voegelin Society or the Claremont Institute do sponsor panels that take place at the APSA meetings. However, these do not have the same status as regular APSA sections, which include New Political Science.

posted by Dan on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM


John Lemon has thought about this idea before and is on the verge of doing something about it (if one considers "verge" to be about 2 years or so). I actually was asked to compile a list of possible people, but it was pretty short. I would call the section -- Cranky Political Science.

Also, I think the "new political science" thing is funny (they even have cute buttons, of which I have friends who wear them). I'm sure there will be a post-new political science section soon.

The perestroika reception was morose, with speeches and boring shit, so I bailed and can't remember where I ended up.

And John Lemon almost attended your panel by ducking out early or a more important panel, until he was stopped in the hall by someone who wanted to go drinking. Nonetheless, John Lemon looked for you.

John Lemon also got one of the best shoeshine's there, from a guy who had more wisdom than all the R Kent Jenning's combined.

posted by: John Lemon on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

Given the systemic untruths that characterize political science in the formal service of an ideology, how about countering with "True Political Science" vs. "New Political Science"?

posted by: Jope Katzman on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

Or other titles:

"Lemony Political Science"
"Blues Clues Political Science"
"Science-y Political Science"
"Stalinist Political Science" (to piss off perestroika)
"We Want More Panels (So My University Can Pay My Way To Meet With My Friends) Political Science"
"Polly's Sigh"
"Once-A-Year Drinking Club"

posted by: John Lemon on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

Because I graduated from Claremont McKenna College, where most government professors served as fellows at the Claremont Institute, I can't say that I was ever subjected to "new political science." I guess I should consider myself lucky.

As for a name, I'll follow Joe's lead and vouch for "Rigorous Political Science."

posted by: Robert Tagorda on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

You might co-opt the usual Birkenstock naming practice and call it the "New New Political Science" section. Now with less whining?

posted by: Kenton A. Hoover on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

A few minor points:

1. I don't think there's a need for Yet Another Normative Organized Section, even if it's one whose normative aims are consistent with my worldview. I could stand a "Madisonian" group that only sponsored receptions with open bars, however (cash bars are evil). Just no damn panels.

2. (Corrollary to 1.) APSA is already too damn big.

3. Did you see the Caucus for a New Political Science ad in the program? If I wasn't on the market this year, I'd scan it in and fisk the whole damn thing in my blog. (That and the layout was completely pathetic; I'd be embarrassed to be a member of the Caucus if that's the best design job they can do.)

Now I have to go and purge my brain of all the PoMo bullshit I've been subjected to (despite my best efforts to avoid it by exclusively going to methods and quantoid panels) the last few days.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

Chris, why do I get the feeling that, if nobody was around, you would've whipped out a can of spray paint and write "Non-" over the "New" in New Political Science? ;-)

posted by: Matthew on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

I have another suggestion for the new organized group (or section). Initially I thought "Newer Political Science" but decided upon "Newest Political Science" so they couldn't one up us anymore.

posted by: John Lemon on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

Matthew: I have no problem with the Caucus for a New Political Science (except for their silly ad); however, I have serious reservations about the resources of APSA being used to further the normative aims of any group within the association, particularly in matters external to it. I wouldn't extend this complaint to, say, the Perestoikans; since their aims are generally stated in terms of things that ought to be changed within the APSA, I don't have a problem with their having a formal role in the association.

The NPS organized section is dangerously fence-straddling here. Should political scientists have an active civic role (if they choose to have one)? Absolutely. But I don't think APSA (or any regional association) should be the vehicle for that activism; it risks politicizing the role of the association and forcing the association to make statements that do not reflect the sentiments of significant portions of its membership. (Nor would I favor a "PoliSci for Free Markets" section or a "CrunchyCon Political Science" section, for the same reasons.)

(I just realized this should probably be a blog post over at SN rather than a comment. Ah well.)

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

I agree that it would be better if there were no partisan section such as the "new" one in the first place. But since it appears to be here to stay, it's only fair to start a conservative section.

I hate that the left has co-opted all the positive-sounding words like "new" and "progressive" and (worst of all, as it was our side's first) "liberal." Instead, we've been saddled with the tired, dull, and inaccurate term "conservative." If any of you do propose a "conservative" section, please don't call it "conservative."

How about reclaiming the L word by calling it the Classical Liberal section? Shouldn't be too difficult to reclaim liberal, anyway, as modern-day liberals seem to be running away from the title as if it were made of Kryptonite. Ever notice how the NYT always refers to liberals as "left-of-center" or "left-leaning" these days? Of course, they never call conservatives "right-of-center" or "right-leaning."

Free market poli sci sounds okay too. Everybody likes the word "free."

posted by: Alistair on 08.31.03 at 06:58 PM [permalink]

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