List of Participants ||Format of Roundtable || Invitation letter Excerpt 
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
George Graham, Jr. [chair]
John Siew Tien Quah
Click on any name to send a note to that individual, or write Fred Riggs to send comments to the whole list.
Instead of the usual headtable/audience format, everyone attending this roundtable will be invited to sit in circles without making any status distinctions. We want to minimize the distinction between listed and un-listed participants, especially because many involved in our discourse will not be listed formally due to restrictions imposed by the Program Committee. No papers will be read and no initial statements will be offered. Instead, everyone will have read in advance at least three papers, plus exchanges carried on through the INTERNET.
The first paper, by Riggs, is called: FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS OF POLITICAL SCIENCE and may be read at: Narrative It offers an interpretation of the different concepts used as focal themes for IPSA research committees, as reported in a preliminary analysis available at: IPSA RCs Although copies of these papers, on paper, can be made available, readers will learn more by using the Web Page because it contains hypertext links to various related sources that will not be operational on paper. A second paper by Matti Dogan will deal with The Distorted Internationalization of Social Sciences and a third paper by Enid Bloch will focus on conceptual transformations involving use of the term, The State. These papers -- plus any others that may be added -- will be made available to anyone interested in reading them, but they will not be "read" at the Quebec Congress.
Instead of papers and presentations at the Roundtable, we will have a discourse organized as an agenda of questions that all participants will have an opportunity to help shape. The chair will pose these questions and anyone volunteering to respond can be recognized regardless of where they are sitting. We will take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the INTERNET to enable all those listed above -- plus others who may yet sign on for the project -- to discuss the key concepts of Political Science as they have originated in different countries and moved about around the globe. The outcome should be a kind of intellectual chronology and map of how our discipline has evolved conceptually, and where it is heading at the start of the new millennium. This "map" will provide a useful context for locating the more specific concepts that have evolved in the work of all the IPSA research committees.
Anyone interested in this discourse is invited to share their thoughts about the key terms and concepts used in the times and places, anywhere in the world, that they know best. Just write Fred Riggs. He will post your contribution or add your name to the list, as you wish. Our goal is to build a useful mini-library of texts not only to provide a basis for the Roundtable discussion, but also to support any continuing uses of this information that may seem appropriate.
The following paragraphs taken from the invitation letters originally sent to participants contains some information that may help readers understand the context and utility of the planned roundtable.
In this context, there is increasing interest in indigenous experiences and thought which may differ radically from superimposed models developed abroad. No doubt political and administrative practices and dynamics in the non-Western (or Southern?) countries of the world differ in many ways from well known examples in the more industrialized democracies. How should these phenomena be understood and what concepts are appropriate for use when talking about them? There has been a growing emphasis on indigenous concepts, including not only old concepts rooted in ancient systems of thinking in many non-European societies, but also in new concepts that have evolved to help us think about responses to imperialism,, and the pervasive effects of globalization as seen in the rising flow of information, goods, capital and people throughout the world today.
The conceptual problems we now face can be explained in part by the elasticity of terms. Words that mean one thing in the context where they were created take on new meanings as they are applied to similar yet different situations. A few examples may clarify this abstract claim. The word president was understood by Americans as referring to a popularly elected chief executive who is both head of state and of government. In parliamentary regimes, however, a "president" may be only the elected head of state while the functions of head of government are exercised by a premier and cabinet responsible to parliament. In constitutional moarchies, of course, the head of state is not elected and is not called a "president." Moreover, in countries under authoritarian rule, the same term may be applied to a dictator who has seized power by violent means. As a result, "president" has very different meanings in different contexts.
The same is true of party which may stand for a competitive political faction in a democracy, a single party that monopolizes power in some authoritarian regimes, or even a competitive electoral group that has no significant political influence under a military dictatorship. The word, cabinet, can refer to the ruling group in a parliamentary democracy, to a president's administrative entourage whose members must be approved in congress but may not be discharged by no-confidence votes, or even the heads of government departments under the control of a dictator.
This kind of conceptual stretching means that words which seem to be well understood in one context become fuzzy and imprecise in another. More abstract terms like development, justice, equality, responsibility, liberal, conservative, and even democracy have a wide array of meanings as used in quite different contexts. However, if in every language and polity terms were to be used that refer, however precisely, just to local practices and values, international communication would become impossible as if every participant in an IPSA Congress were to insist on speaking only in her or his home language!
The goal of the COCTA Roundtable in Quebec will be to identify some of these differences as viewed by political scientists active in different countries around the world. Which terms are used in their conferences, universities, and text books? Are they indigenous or borrowed? If the latter, how well do they fit local conditions and what semantic changes are needed to make them useful and precise? If possible, we seek information about the historical sequence in which the concepts of Political Science gained acceptance in different countries, and what changes have taken place as some terms were replaced by others. To what extent were the evolving terms indigenous, reflecting local situations and problems, or exogenous, a result of translating foreign terms into local languages, with whatever change of meanings these translations caused?
When COCTA was launched following the IPSA Congress in Munich in 1970, its founders hoped that they might be able to create a dictionary of precise terms that political scientists everywhere could use to sustain truly scientific studies of politics in many countries. They soon found that to be a vain hope and have turned, instead, to inquiries into usage, thinking that if we could make transparent what scholars in many different contexts do have in mind when they use key terms we would be able to make a modest improvement in the quality of our discourses in Political Science. We are also sensitive to the need for new concepts. As the world changes new situations and problems will not be easily understood in terms of old concepts. Methods are now available to help creative scholars gain more rapid and widespread acceptance for whatever important new concepts and terms they develop. The COCTA Roundtable planned for the Quebec Congress aims to extend the utilization of these methods by providing a forum to talk about how representative political scientists from different countries have thought and talked about their own political situations, and how they visualize the progress we would all like to make.
For more information write to Fred Riggs
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