Sunday, September 2, 2007

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An APSA wrap-up

Another year, another APSA into the archives. A few random thoughts about this year's meetings.

1) Here's an interesting etiquette question. Say you're a very senior scholar who's in the audience for a panel of interest. Now say the panel chair calls you out by name to say that it's great that you're here and that everyone is looking forward to hear your thoughts on the panel during the Q & A. Are you obligated to stay and say something profound?

2) Rob Farley dissents from my "anti-dowdy" defense of political scientists:

Color me unconvinced that the sartorial sense of political scientists has improved. Casual observation on the night before the first day of the conference indicates that the uniform remains substantially unchanged; navy blazer with brass buttons, button down shirt with no tie and t-shirt showing at the neck, pleated slacks.... and please, people; there's no reason to be wearing your name tag to the bar before the damn conference even starts.
First, let me say "Amen!" on Farley's last point.

Second, I'll concede to a bit of hindsight bias on the sartorial question. I realize now that after a conference, the stylish choices stick in my brain while the "uniform" washes away from my brain. Of course, Farley's "uniform" is mostly the domain of graduate students, who face harder budget constraints

Nevertheless, I'll stand by my statement on the whole. Remember, I was declaring political scientists as less sartorially challenged than economists. I've seen enough of the latter to remain firm in this conviction. Plus, this weekend downtown Chicago was populated by either a) political scientists, and; b) Iowa football fans -- and the political scientists won that dress competition hands down.

3) Speaking of sports, this result revealed a surprising amount of anti-Michigan sentiment among APSA attendees.

4) You know you have a good panel topic when 30 people show up for an 8:00 AM-on-Thursday time slot. Props to Laura, Tim Groeling, Matt Baum, and the other paper presenters.

5) The most interesting thing I learned at this conference: back in the 1930's, APSA produced a weekly broadcast for NBC radio. Matthew Hindman explains:

From 1932 to 1936, the APSA sponsored a nationwide radio program on NBC. Entitled "You and Your Goverment," it was run by some of the most famous scholars in the discipline's history, including Charles A. Beard and Charles Merriam. Incredibly, the show aired on Tuesday nights after Amos 'n' Andy--guaranteeing a lead-in audience of tens of millions. Six percent of the APSA's membership--and nearly all of its leading lights--were featured in the most prominent time slot in broadcast history.

At the start of the broadcasts, the committe organizing the broadcsats declared that they were "the greatest single opportunity directly to effect citizenship in the United States that has ever been offered." The program signified "the opening of the door of wider usefulness for the political scientist." Yet a few years later, when NBC cancelled the program, these same political scientists had changed their tune, calling broadcasting "a positive menace to culture and democracy."

Click here to read Hindman's paper on the subject.

6) When booksellers offer a book for three or five dollars during the peak of the conference, it's a sign that they overestimated demand. Among the books I saw in that category this year: Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift, and the paperback version of Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat.

7) Your quote of the conference, "For $750,000, I'd blame the Israel Lobby for all our problems too."

posted by Dan on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM



Can you provide some additional information on the "quote of the conference"? Who, exactly, is said to be getting $750,000 to say that the Israel Lobby is to blame for all our problems? Where do I sign up for that gig? And, who made this statement (assuming it was said for public consumption and not at the APSA bar)?

On the quote of the conference, I have another candidate. On a panel about the IR discipline Alex Wendt announced that he was "officially out of the Constructivism business." He did not elaborate on the meaning of this pronouncement.

This came as a surprise to many people in the room -- well, to me anyway -- since he had just convincingly explained how IR scholars were constituting the discipline by the way in which they defined concepts and measured variables. Then he went even further to explain how our research would not only constitute the IR disciplince, but would help to constitute international relations (like the real world of IR, not the discipline). It all sounded appropriately constructivist to me. Then, he renounced his own church in the Q&A.

posted by: Mike on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM [permalink]

$750,000 is the advance that Walt & Mearsheimer received for writing their Israel Lobby book. A cheap shot in my opinion -- they clearly took that position long before it was obvious they'd get a high six-figure book deal out of it.

posted by: on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM [permalink]

On the Iowa football fans. Seriously, how many different permutations of black-and-yellow on a t-shirt can clothing manufacturers come up with? Evidence from Chicago suggests that the answer has not yet been found.

posted by: anon on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM [permalink]

I resent your remark about how economists dress. For the record, we don't drink all that much, either.

posted by: Donald A. Coffin on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM [permalink]

To elaborate on Wendt's comments, I believe he wasn't "renouncing" the constructivist church but rather moving beyond constructivist theorizing. How much more can he contribute considering he wrote the Bible of Constructivist IR. It's no secret that his current project (quantum social science: see )is occupying most of his time.

posted by: a really unofficial Wendt spokesperson on 09.02.07 at 09:52 PM [permalink]

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