Thursday, December 2, 2004

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Musings on blogging and scholarship

I believe I am officially the last scholar-blogger in America to point out that Gary Becker and Richard Posner have decided to start a blog together. It's a testimony to their intellectual heft that their "test" post already has sixteen trackbacks. Having participated in workshops with both of them, all I can say is that the rest of the blogosphere is in for a treat.

Henry Farrell makes a keen observation about the legitimation effects of senior scholars taking up blogging:

There are lots and lots of philosophy blogs and law blogs, but many other academic disciplines, including economics, seem surprisingly under-represented in the blogosphere. I suspect that one of the important causal factors is legitimation. Junior academics may be unwilling to get involved in blogging. Not only is it a time-suck, but it may seem faintly disreputable - senior scholars in many fields of the social sciences take a dim view of ‘popularizing.’ However if there is a well known senior scholar in a discipline who blogs, it’s much easier for junior people in that discipline to dip their toes in the water without worrying that it’ll hurt their tenure chances.

Hmmm.... this leads to a small problem for Henry and myself. As one of the commenters to Henry's post points out, "I’ve noticed this lack of blogging from big names in my own field of political science." Indeed, perusing Crooked Timber's list of poli sci bloggers, I certainly do not see anyone approaching the stature that Becker or Posner have in their fields. To go further, there is no tenured political scientist at a top twenty institution who also blogs (see below).

[Insert sound of lonely wind blowing here--ed.]

To which I say.... shame on my tenured brethren!! To be sure, a lot of blogging (and some of my blogging) is entirely unrelated to matters of scholarship -- but that doesn't mean it has to be this way. Tyler Cowen has an excellent post in response to Eszter Hargittai on how blogging and scholarship are compliments rather than substitutes. Surely these reasons must be persuasive to some of my letter-writers for tenure senior people in political science!

Readers both in an out of political science are hereby invited to suggest which senior political scientist they would like to see start a blog. Must be someone who holds a Ph.D. in political science and holds a full-time tenured position at a Ph.D.-granting institution [Doesn't that impose some ideological constraints?--ed. Feh -- as Jonah Goldberg put it, "wrong and liberal are not synonymous terms."]

UPDATE: Hey, it turns out there is a tenured political scientist at a top twenty institution who's a blogger. Michael Munger -- chair of the department of political science at Duke, former president of the Public Choice Society, a prolific scholar who lists his occupation as "professional wrestler" in his Blogger Profile -- has had a blog since June of this year.

[He also appears to be threatening you with bodily harm--ed. Oh, yeah??!! Like I'm really scared of some newbie, candy-assed, penny-ante North Carolina blogger who calls himself "KGrease"? Bring it on, Duke boy!!! I'm not sure this kind of discourse is going to encourage other tenured faculty to start blogging--ed.]

posted by Dan on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM


Do emeritus professors like James Q. Wilson count?

I think someone like Fukuyama would be excellent, since he has not only a wide range of research interests but also a wide range of professional experiences.

posted by: Robert Tagorda on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Jon Elster.
Adam Przeworski.
Jennifer Hochshild.
Stephen Macedo.

Hmm. Maybe the first two violate condition 1.

posted by: Kieran Healy on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Mo Fiorina was one of my favorite political science profs many, many years ago at Caltech. I think he's at Stanford now. He'd probably be great. And he must be a really, really senior guy by now.

Or Bruce Cain. I liked him too.

posted by: Kevin Drum on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

John Diulio was a prof of mine at Princeton before he went to work for the White House (he coined the term "mayberry machiavelli's) . Not only is he a dynamic thinker, but he is also able to make academic poli sci research accessible and relevant to the public. This is something I think the field desperately needs more of.

posted by: Danny Hidalgo on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

This is easy: Samuel P. Huntington.

posted by: Dave C. on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Niall Ferguson - or does he count?

posted by: Peter Nolan on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Philippe Schmitter --if only for the flowery language but also enormously astute mind. Like Huntington (he'd hate this comparison), a big thinker.

Also: John Ferejohn, one of the fastest-talking but one of the smartest senior Americanists out there.

posted by: Diego on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Dave C.'s right: Samuel P. Huntington.

Does Fukuyama count? He's at SAIS, which grants Ph.Ds in International Relations, but not political science.

posted by: Minipundit on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Too easy:

Joseph Nye,

for obvious literary reasons.

posted by: PolSci on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Joe Nye, Samuel Huntington, Graham Allison.

posted by: Paul on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Ian Shapiro would be interesting.

posted by: praktike on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

I know in Middle East Studies Juan Cole has opened the floodgates to anyone who wants in. Some people who had never heard of a blog a year ago or thought it a ridiculous idea think it may have been what catapulted him forward professionally even more than he already was.

posted by: Brian Ulrich on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Alan Abramowitz of Emory University is one of the sharper observers of trends in public opinion and voting behavior. Also he has the all-important William and Mary connection.

But the key to having a blog that people will want to read is being able to write well. Most academics aren't. They think they are, because their academic writing gets reviewed and praised by other academics, but writing for a general audience is different.

I should add that a talent for written expression is useful in other fields as well. In that connection I wonder that Richard Posner's name has come up on so few short lists (or wish lists) for a seat on the Supreme Court. He is a conspicuously better writer than any Justice now sitting, and he has the kind of broad experience outside the legal world that we ought to want on the Court. Of course he is 65, and Bush like the Pharoahs may want to leave his enduring imprint on the landscape, in this case by appointing someone who can serve on the Court for the next 50 years. My own view is that changing the landscape is what the Corps of Engineers is for; a Justice whose intellect and combativeness stirs up the Court for 10 years is worth three reliable mediocrities who can each serve for 25. The first President Bush started what seems to be a modern trend of settling for Supreme Court nominees who are just good enough. It's a trend we can dispense with.

posted by: Zathras on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Oh, yeah, I'm really scared of some candy-assed, penny-ante North Carolina blogger who calls himself "KGrease"? Bring it on, Duke boy!!!


have you ever met munger? he is a giant of a man, sweats vile acidic fluids and has a crown of medusa curls for hair.

if you were a real man you would be trying to set-up a blog roundtable for APSA and invite MM/KGM. and that wonketee. she sure is cute.

posted by: beengreased on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

I gotta echo what beengreased said. I've met both you and Munger and Munger's got you by 6 inches and about 50 pounds. Luckily, he's a nice guy.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

oh yeah dan, munger will f u up fo sho!! I have seen him eat 39 tangerines in the scant space of 2 hours!

posted by: kevin grier on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

What about Arend Liphart?

posted by: M on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

AHA, Munger has a Ph.D. in Economics, not in Political Science

posted by: M on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

I don't think Arend Liphart could eat even 10 tangerines in a full day

posted by: kevin grier on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

How about Larry Sabato. I know he gets plenty of face time on television, but he never seems to get out all the information he wants to. His research would also seem to lend itself more to the topical nature of the blogsphere than some.

posted by: Iconic Midwesterner on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]


Maybe you could pursuade your colleague Dr. Wendt to start blogging!

posted by: nick galasso on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Samuel P. Huntington. ?

posted by: kenny on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Nick --

Prof. Wendt is now at Ohio State.

posted by: Whoo hoo on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Hey...Louisville is ranked #8 (by some measures), 17th by others, the school offers the PhD in Urban and Public Affairs, I received tenure years ago, I'm on Crooked Timber's list...and I've been blogging since September 2003.

Oh, wait, those rankings.


posted by: Rodger on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

In addition to Mo Fiorina and Alan Abramowitz (both great choices), I think Mike Munger's colleague John Aldrich would be a good choice.

Among people I know personally, I think Bill Jacoby (Mich. State) and Jim Johnson (Rochester) would make interesting bloggers.

posted by: Chris Lawrence on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

Sabato has something pretty close to a blog, where he gets out pretty much everything he doesn't have a chance to say otherwise. He calls it "Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball", here's the link:

You can get weekly email digests of it which, until recently, (when one of Sabato's TA's mercifully unsubscribed the list) were sent to all of the Politics grad students here at UVa.

As to the original question: Randy Schweller. A good scholar and a crazy man. A Schweller blog couldn't fail.

posted by: Philip J. Brinkman on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

I'd recommend John Zaller (UCLA) and Larry Bartels (Princeton) as interesting candidates.

posted by: J on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

James Fearon, if only to see how many blog posts he could write in a single week ;-)

posted by: Matthew Stinson on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]


posted by: Angry Moderate on 12.02.04 at 12:13 AM [permalink]

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