Friday, September 05, 2008

Change we can believe in!

APSA debates abolishing American Politics (and not a moment too soon):

"Spurred by discussion of how the discipline should respond to globalization, the APSA has been talking about whether the way the discipline organizes itself — with a prime position for American politics — makes sense any more.The precise number of subfields within political science is itself the subject of debate. Most people would include American politics, comparative politics, political theory and international relations. Some would add methodologies or area studies or various other topics, but American politics always makes the list. Should it? What would new organizations for the field look like? While the discussion of this issue Thursday at a panel of the political science association’s annual meeting didn’t find a consensus, there was agreement that the current structure has real flaws.

Scholars who called for the abolition of American politics as a subfield were not arguing that scholars shouldn’t study American politics, which may have been reassuring to audience members, most of whom identified by a show of hands as Americanists. But they said that using the United States as an organizational structure, in isolation from the rest of the world, is producing flawed ideas.

Mary Hawkesworth, a political scientist at Rutgers University, said that when the United States is studied in isolation, “certain things get masked.” The “notion of American exceptionalism,” she said, produces “a social amnesia.” For example, she said that that the violence and corruption of the American revolutionaries receives little emphasis, so when students are exposed to the violence of other revolutions, they see no connection to the American revolution and have little tolerance for those other revolutions. Similarly, she said that slavery is taught only as “an aberration in the United States rather than as part of a racist feudalism” imported from Europe.

American politics scholars, she said, largely embrace a view of their work as “non-ideological and moderate,” limiting the critique they may offer of American society. And the current organization of political science, she said, isn’t producing the kinds of understanding that the public needs. Where was political science in predicting the reunification of Germany or the rebound of Russia? she asked. A more global perspective might make the discipline more aware and useful, she said."

So Mary wants to do away with American politics because its practitioners don't emphasize enough how much America sucks? Is this a great country or what?


Justin M Ross said...

What's interesting is the central planner approach to their own discipline. Everything needs to have a categorized subfield? Where is the spontaneous order?

Anonymous said...

As a recovering graduate of Col. Rutger's University, it's a nice reminder of why I felt dumber when I graduated than when I...what's that word...masticated?...noooo...oh yes, matriculated. I guess study for the SAT was more useful then studying poli sci at RU.

- anonyman for Obama.

Tom said...

Damn. I thought this was going to be an anarchist thread.


Anonymous said...

Whereas the rest of us wish to do away with the American subfield because it is vapid and yet hegemonic in most of our departments.

Anonymous said...

"Where was political science in predicting the reunification of Germany or the rebound of Russia?"

How dare Americanists not predict these phenomena!

Angus said...

lol, anon @ 2:48. that was my favorite part of the screed.