Notes on key terms used in the creation of Political Science as an
academic discipline in the U. S.
Prepared for a roundtable of the Committee on Conceptual and Terminological Analysis, International Political Science Congress, Quebec City, August 2000.
 Precursors || Founders || Science || Boundaries || Cleavages || Globalization || Post Script 
What concepts were in the minds of those who paved the way for the development of Political Science? In the U.S. context this includes the founding fathers as reflected in the Federalists, and foreign observers, like de Tocqueville and Bryce. Of course, there are much more ancient figures in other countries -- I am thinking of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Max Weber and many others whose concepts provided some frameworks for us. Much less noted in the West were ancient philosophers of China, India, Iran, and Egypt whose ideas persist in the minds of non-Western Political Scientists and may influence their thinking about new concepts imported from the West. Westerners could also enrich their vocabulary by studying these works.
What were their key concepts? My sense is that they were sometimes utopian, setting forth ideals of what good governance or the ideal state would be like as in Plato's Republic.. They were often pragmatic, offering prescriptions to guide rulers and reformers, as in Machiavelli's The Prince.. Sometimes, as with Aristotle, they did attempted to describe political systems as they existed, but these were exceptional. However, the basic words we use, like "politics," "state," "regime" "rule," "justice," "virtue," "security," "democracy," "constitution," etc. have ancient origins.
Enid Bloch, a Classisist in our group, has studied the adaptations of the German term "der Staat" as an ideal type or reification when it came to America to be used more empirically in the founding of American Political Science -- a note from her is copied below..
The Greek "polis"may be even more influential in our concepts of "politics" as the root term in "Political Science." Similar terms in non-Western traditions may have no easy translation into English. What are some of the more important indigenous concepts in these traditions? Do they help shape Political Science discourse in non-Western countries? Within IPSA, RC31 (Political Philosophy) may be the home for discussion of these concepts.
I have sorted the IPSA committees and groups into several classes on the basis of my personal impressions and one can see the resulting list in: ANNEX
I shall refer to this list again, but mention only the "Annex" without repeating this URL. Anyone interested in comparing the themes addressed in IPSA committees with those found in the American Political Science Association can find their list of names at: Sections
When Political Science came into existence, what were the core concepts used in these discourses? In the American case, I think they followed ancient traditions in looking for ways to reform and re-design existing structures of governance. The word "civics" is still used in secondary education for courses intended to instruct students in the practices of good government, strategies for reform and proper behavior for citizens -- their rights and duties. Related words like "civility," "citizenship," "civil servant," "civilian," "civil rights," "civil law," "city," "citadel" and even "civilization" come to mind.
The Civil Service Reform League antedated the establishment of the American Political Science Association. No doubt these notions precede the establishment of the discipline, and they persist as key concepts, especially in undergraduate introductions to the discipline. Perhaps the distinctive feature of this framework is its normative emphasis -- it focuses on good government, its basic principles and pathologies, with an emphasis on how to improve governance by reform, better education or training and by political activism.
For background studies on the development of Political Science, one should consult the IPSA RC33, which is devoted to: "The study of political science as a discipline". According to its announcement on the IPSA Home Page, this committee: "Promotes theoretical and research studies on the historiography and development of the discipline of political science, working with its permanent sub-committee, the International Committee for the Study of the Development of Political Science (ICSDPS). The committee's approach is a comparative and eclectic one; it is intended to include the theoretical concerns of philosophers of social science, sociological and anthropological views of disciplinary origins and evolution, historical and institutional studies." The Home Page site with more details is: Research Committees
Our roundtable on key Political Science concepts is sponsored by this committee and our findings will enter into its resource base. Its leader is Michael B. Stein <email@example.com>.
What were the core concepts in this transition? The idea of a "science" of politics evolved as a crucial marker to identify the analysis of what exists and to promote the understanding of cause-effect relations. No doubt interest in normative questions remained, but it came increasingly to reflect the view that fundamental reforms could be achieved only on the basis of a better understanding of cause-effect relations, on explanation as a prerequisite to prescription. Of course, not everyone believed there could be a scientific understanding of politics -- what affects us so much must color our perceptions and whatever we see is, therefore, shaped by our self-interest. Others see our discipline as merely a politicized enterprise masking as a science in order to gain respectability and financial support. Moreover, for many the normative questions remained primary and the turn to empiricism was seen as a "cop out" by academicians who preferred their ivory tower sanctuaries to harsh challenges facing the real world.
Structure vs. Function.
The empirical approach was itself subject to controversies about how best to understand what exists. The most obvious first step was anatomical -- to describe existing structures or institutions. Terms like "Public Law" and "Government" were focal during the first phases of the science of politics. This involved systematic description of governmental institutions as they relate to each other in concrete settings -- i.e. in selected countries, especially one's own.
This approach is best represented among the IPSA research committees by by RC27 (Structure and Organization of Government). In order to improve theoretical understanding, it has broadened the framework for analysis from the few "Great Powers" attended to by the founders to include many smaller coutries and some non-Western polities. The emphasis in RC27 on national governments is complemented by the work of RC05 (Local Government). IPSA now has 49 committees, and about a fourth of them focus on governmental structures and functions as an empirical or "scientific" challenge.
About 8 of them, including the two mentioned above, have a structural focus on government, though normally on just one of its segments -- e.g., legislatures(#8), the judiciary(#9), the armed forces (24), electoral systems(#34) and civil bureaucracy in developing societies(#4) -- notably not bureacracy in developed countries! -- and federalism(#28). Increasingly, the focus on structure has shifted to functional concerns and questions of process or dynamics have come to the fore. This is reflected in the pattern of the RCs -- as shown in the study of elites ( 2); democratization (#13); socio-political pluralism (#16); human rights (#26); power (#36); and development(#37).
Of course, many other groups also stress functional analysis, but usually in the context of some contextual constraint, such as area, a related discipline, or a supra-state environment. I made a rough assessment of the conceptual focus of IPSA committees in preparation for our COCTA Roundtable, and it provides the data referred to here. One may find the text of this review at: Annex. The identification of Political Science with Government implied the existence of post-Westphalian states. This raises two kinds of boundary problems. The first involves the state as a unit of analysis -- it raises questions about inter-state or supra-state issues, and also about sub-state politics. I'll talk a bit about that later. Here let me look at a different kind of issue which raises questions about what properly belongs to government as a sphere of action, and what is non-governmental. Let me first take up the question of Law.
Every system of government is capable, in principle, of adopting and enforcing a system of laws, but laws (especially in Common Law) are seen as having a civilizational basis that transcends individual states.
Moreover, the normative/empirical divide is inherent in legal thinking which concerns the rules of conduct that state's are obliged to enforce. Although Laws are prescriptive, the case study method popular in Common Law countries (where judicial precedents rather than legislation provides the basis for much jurisprudence) has an empirical dimension since it requires students to analyze the way laws were applied in concrete situations. My understanding is that in Civil Law countries the boundaries between Law and Government are much less clear and these two fields really merge, and precedents are less important. The normative component of PS has strong roots in notions of the "rule of law." At the practical level, one professional application for undergraduate students of Political Science involves its value as part of the general education that prepares one for entrance to a Law School, and many basic concepts of Political Science have their roots in Law as a larger field from which the discipline was formed. There continue to be subjects where Law and Political Science overlap. I am thinking especially of "Jurisprudence," a subject mainly taught in Law Schools although it has important political aspects and implications but seems to be largely ignored by political scientists. Jurisprudence may be viewed as the empirical study of legal systems and their historical evolution in changing political contexts -- at least that is how Roscoe Pound taught it in a course that made a lasting impact on my own thinking.
Another subject that, for different reasons, overlaps Law and Political Science is "International Law." This topic is important for International Relations, but, like Jurisprudence, it seems to fit uneasily within Political Science because it require a perspective that goes outside the state-centered approach typical for our discipline. (The split with International Relations is discussed below.)
Perhaps our most important link with lawyers involves Public and Constitutional Law. When I received my Ph.D. at Columbia University, our department carried the name, "Public Law and Government," a reflection of its Germanic origins. Enid Bloch, the Classicist on our panel, can help us understand this connection. She wrote me as follows, and I quote with her permission:
What I would be writing about is the transfer of the German idea of "der Staat" to America, through a group of American scholars who traveled to Germany to study in the universities in the second half of the 19th century, and who mistook rather backward German political institutions and ideas for modern, sophisticated ones. They bought into the mystical, organic concept of "der Staat," never even noticing that the concept of "the State" had become so grand an "Idea" in Germany in large measure because there was no German "state" in actual existence. In doing so they rejected as intellectually naive the American belief in natural rights and individual liberty. These men returned to create both graduate schools (e.g., Columbia and Johns Hopkins) and the discipline of political science in America. "The State," with many of its German implications, would serve as the central concept of the American Political Science
Despite these foundations, the study of Courts and Law from a political empirical perspective have been neglected in American Political Science. A crucial concept involving the "State" in American Political Science hinges on the role of the Constitution in a regime based on the separation-of-powers principle. This means that there is no visible embodiment of the state in the American system of government. The main legitimizing force in American government is the "Constitution," viewed not as an historical compromise among competing interests but as a sacred fountain of sovereign authority, having almost the fundamental legitimacy of Divine Writ. The government, by contrast, is an assortment of branches and agencies of governance, at many different levels, but not a unified system; and the public/private divide is sharply drawn. By contrast, states with a parliamentary constitution are able to pin-point a living embodiment of the state in the king or parliament -- the "chief of state" is an office that has more than sentimental implications or touristic value. It is the focus of a system that embraces not only the government but the governed -- the whole polity or regime includes all its subjects and its legitimacy or sovereignty. In this context it is interesting to try to understand why Theda Skocpol's " Bringing the State Back In" (1985) has had such an impact on contemporary American Political Science. Perhaps it reflects a growing awareness among comparativists of the basic fragility of government, the threats of revolution and coups d'etat which challenge its legitimacy and the need for new states and would-be-nations to achieve their own structures of sovereignty.
Conventional Political Science has tended to assume the existence of stable governments and to ask how they work, not why they persist. Perhaps the very existence of states has now become problematic.
Democracy as Problematic
Increasingly, in recent years, the ability of states to represent citizens and for citizens to exercise their sovereignty as the source of legitimacy has been problematized. We may see this emphasis as a way to link structures and functions: what constitutional designs and institutional arrangements are most likely to support stable democratic governance? Or, starting from the other side, how can democratic norms be most effectively actualized in the design or reform of systems of government? How can and should revolutionary transformations be accomplished with minimal violence?
This focus is very much, I think, a product of globalization. Early work in Political Science took it for granted that states would be democratic, and that principles of freedom, equality, and justice
would be protected and enhanced by all governments. In that context, it was useful to study the details and improve the efficiency of governmental operations, but it was scarcely important to ask about what would make a state operate democratically. With the emergence of all the post-imperial new states, this question suddenly became urgent. Initially, the imperial powers that were democratic at home seem to have assumed that their constitutional designs could and should be transplanted to their former colonies. Subsequent experience was disillusioning. Meanwhile, in Europe itself, the rise of single-party dictatorships (both Fascist and Communist) threw grave doubts on the easy assumptions about the organization of democracy.
The triumph of capitalism and the open market system has accelerated the global power of international corporations and the uncontrolled movement of money, capital and property around the world, thereby undermining the authority of sovereign states and compelling Political Scientists to question traditional assumptions based on the primacy of states and the maintenance of democracy. Moreover, new ethnic nations, especially among indigenous peoples, are demanding sovereignty and competing for statehood. They seriously challenge complacent assumptions of conventional Political Science.
As a result of these traumas of modernity and globalization, a new interest in the prerequisites for creating and maintaining democracies has become salient in the discipline. It has also undermined classic premises that neatly enclosed politics within established institutional boundaries. It is no longer easy to distinguish what is public from what is private; what is governmental from non-governmental. It was never easy to distinguish the proper domain of Political Science from that of neighboring social science disciplines, but these boundaries have now become more fuzzy and confusing than ever before.
A major concern for political scientists, therefore, has been where to draw the line between our discipline and others. The initial tendency may have been to make a sharp distinction between the study of government and of other social phenomena. However, increasingly the trend seems to be to expand the definition of the field by building bridges to other disciplines starting, perhaps, with Economics.
Within Economics itself, the distinction between "Political Economy" and "Personal (or Domestic) Economy" provided a seed-bed for the emergence of Political Science. However, although the American Political Science Association has a Section(#25) for "Political Economy" no counterpart with this heading exists in IPSA. However, It does have two sections with an explicitly economic orientation: (#17) Economic order, and (#20) Political Finance & Corruption. However, I doubt if these groups address the broad questions raised by "Political-Economy." Rather, they seem to focus on problem areas within political economy. Paradoxically, Economists themselves apparently pay little attention to the political context which shapes market systems, to say nothing of the role of public enterprises. Instead, they speak of "externalities" as a cover-all for any non-economic factors affecting the economy.
Political-economy has, I think, become an umbrella for protest movements within Political Science. It starts with a Marxian critique of established institutions and power structures, attributing their power to bourgeois or capitalist forces. It is less concerned with systems of government than with structures of power: who rules and why, with what consequences? One can see a whole range of linked tendencies in contemporary Political Science. Thus political- economy moves beyond analysis of how economic forces affect politics to look at the impact of governments on the production and distribution (or maldistribution) of wealth, and especially to explain poverty and social conflict. Revolutionary thinking and "New Political Science" stress forces and movements that expand the scope of Political Science, moving away from governments to people and populism.
A closely linked shift in focus is implicit in the recognition of individual behavior and opinions as a political phenomenon. A hybrid field has emerged involving Political Psychology -- it points to individual behavior at many levels, that of heroes and victims, of voting and alienated citizens, of legislators, lobbyists, lawyers and laymen. The emphasis on explaining individual behavior in political contexts can be found in IPSA/RC23 which focuses on "on political socialisation and political education and citizenship rights and responsibilities," and in RC29, "Psycho-Politics," which uses Psychology to help understand political phenomena. "Members study governmental institutions and international relations, though the emphasis is on political behaviour."
Perhaps the strongest foundation for the empirical analysis of politics can be found in Sociology, a discipline which remains close to Political Science -- we are indebted to Mattei Dogan for having demonstrated empirically that communication between these two disciplines remains close and is stronger than that between any other social sciences.
One of the earliest and most active IPSA committees is6 Political sociology -- which also happens to be a joint committee with the International Sociological Association. It seeks to "bring together political scientists and sociologists, ...promoting dynamic interdisciplinary exchange of scholars and ideas..." In both disciplines, one can find the same tension between a normative emphasis on improving the human condition and an empirical focus on the empirical study of what exists. In some European countries our discipline is called "Politology" which makes this connection quite overt.
Strangely, this term, which parallels Anthropology, Psychology, Ecology (or even Epistemology, Ontology, and Criminology!) has never been accepted by American Political Scientists, although it might help clarify the goals of the discipline internationally. In some countries the "political" in Political Science is a put-off -- they fear a "science" that can be used for political purposes. Perhaps a useful distinction could be made between the study of Politology (as a empirical science) and that of Politics (as applied praxis). Both tend to be mixed together in American academic departments, generating both tensions and misunderstandings. They have contributed to some internal conflicts, producingschisms within Political Science. One consequence of the combined influence of Sociology and Psychology -- perhaps we should refer to Social-Psychology, itself a hybrid -- that can be seen in American Political Science involves the shift from structural and institutional concepts to functionalism and behavioralism. Survey methods, public opinion polls, and quantitative data based on the views and actions of individuals has become almost a dominant trend, transforming much thinking in mainstream Political Science. Its most important terms often lack political specificity: they include methodology, data, perceptions, outcomes, games and win/lose calculations. "Behaviorism" is the leading term for this movement although, of course, all human activities, political or not, involve some kind of behavior. A corresponding shift from talk about government to a focus on governance seems relevant here: it subtly shifts attention from institutions to the behaviors of everyone with a political interest -- those who influence and those who are affected by government.
A felt need to team up with specialists in other disciplines is growing in Political Science, as indicated by the proliferation of IPSA's hybrid research committees. I have identified 19 such groups and list them here as evidence:
I have commented on these groups which are listed, with their full names, at: Annex More research committees of IPSA are now hybrids than any other category included in this list -- 19 out of 49, or almost 40#. Does this represent a trend to erase disciplinary boundaries and see, increasingly, that politics is part of the seamless web that includes all human endavors?
Moreover, Political Science began to exclude some aspects of governance, notably Public Administration, on the pretext that bureaucracies performed only administrative, not political functions. Legal questions were also segregated out and Political Scientists began to marginalize those interested in the judiciary and jurisprudence as topics better left to the Law Schools. No doubt, in the context of globalization and the inclusion of non-Western polities in our purview, these boundaries restrictions have lost their justification and counter-tendencies have emerged -- as I shall explain below. Here, however, let me focus on the cleavages that developed within Political Science in its heyday.
No doubt the fractionation of the discipline had expedient causes unrelated to substantive questions. It was surely affected by the increasing specialization of sub-fields in all academic disciplines. This tendency is reflected in the proliferation of IPSA Research Committees. A window on this process can be seen in the partitioning of every IPSA Congress among competing panels that look ever more deeply into smaller and smaller topics. There are powerful expedient reasons for this trend since financing travel to congresses often hinges on one's ability to participate in a panel. Such pressures are unavoidable and can scarcely be resisted, but we need to see how they reinforce the fragmentation of the discipline, and increasingly produce specialized concepts and technical vocabularies that only experts in each sub-field can understand. One can most easily become a leader in a field by creating a new one!
The Cleavage with Public Administration
One of the first fields to establish a separate identity was Public Administration. Modern governments, conceived as a whole, include both a polyarchic and a hierarchic sector. The former can be seen in elections, political parties, representative assemblies, and public opinion polls. The ladder is manifest in bureaucracies, executive offices, public policies and laws. The unity of Political Science as a holistic discipline was, I think, fragmented by specialization on the polyarchic and hierarchic dimensions of governance. into parts that could scarcely communicate with each other and, unfortunately, resulted in segmental reifications in which parts of a system have been seen as wholes. For the most part, legal dimensions of governance were surrendered to the domain of Law Schools, and the crucial bureaucratic aspects migrated to new units devoted to Public Administration.
The shift from "government" to "politics" as a focal term raised a basic question about bureaucracy. Concepts of government surely embrace all public officials, including military officers and civil servants as well as elected politicians. However, the notion of politics can be narrowed to a focus on elections and what elected office-holders do. Although no conscious decision was made to narrow Political Science so as to exclude administrators, those whose special interest was in Public Administration began to feel unwelcome and, in many contexts, opted out of Political Science to establish a separate discipline, or they became second class citizens within the PS establishment. The most conspicuous example in America was the cleavage which led to the birth, within ASPA, of the American Society for Public Administration.
This cleavage was reinforced by the older normative/empirical clash mentioned above. For the most part, Public Administration as a discipline, has a normative focus because, I think, they are able to train future officials. By contrast, no profession of "politicians" evolved -- and the main occupation for Political Scientists has remained academic -- students of PS go on to teach and do research but not to become practicing politicians -- Woodrow Wilson was a striking exception! Preparing future public officials meant that teachers of Public Administration had to confront the ethical and practical problems that face all professionals. Although the study of Public Administration does include an empirical component that looks at public bureaucracies from a "scientific" point of view, its main interest appears to be in the "practice" of an art or craft that informs public service.
Interestingly, IPSA has no committee with a focus on Public Administration, although #27, "Structure and Organization of Government" (SOG) does look at many administrative problems from a political (top-level) perspective: its announced goals involve a focus on "executive politics; this includes chief executives and cabinets, the permanent bureaucracy and appointed officials, and the relations between them." This emphasis on the political aspects of bureaucratic behavior is most welcome, but it excludes the managerial dimensions which are the focus of attention in Public Administration. Since they are part of a single interactive process, the distinction has a fragmenting effect.
Interestingly, IPSA also has #4, on "Public bureaucracies in developing societies." This group, however, is preoccupied with non-Western countries.. According to its announcement, it studies "the organisation and function of public bureaucracies in developing societies." It does seek to link the managerial and political aspects of "...bureaucracies in the formulation and implementation of public policies, and their interactions with other political institutions and functionaries." However, its focus on the Third World precludes interest in Public Administration in more developed polities. At the international level, the International Institute of Administrative Sciences seeks " to promote the development of the administrative sciences and the better operation of public administrative agencies at all levels." Details can be found at: IIAS From this clue we can see that Public Administration has not only hived off from Political Science in Western countries but also at the international level. One might hope that the existence of RC4 might indicate that in non-Western countries, the linkages between politics and administration could be sustained in their departments of Political Science. Unfortunately, I fear, they may have even intensified the gulf between these two dimensions of governance.
The Cleavage with International Relations
Another source of fragmentation in the discipline involves "International Relations." The classic concepts of our discipline were rooted in the state system -- each state was viewed as a separate universe that could be studied by itself, as though other states did not exist. This bias was especially strong in the U.S. where most American Political Scientists thought and spoke about politics as though it existed only in their own country. However, quite a few of them were attracted to the study of relations between states, and they organized themselves to focus on this theme.
A bridge to this theme was provided by International Law, a subject that is taught in Law Schools but with little enthusiasm because it is so weakly institutionalized. No doubt there are international tribunals, but their authority is limited and their power hinges on the willingness of states to enforce rulings that may adversely affect their interests. Students of international relations turned from legal concerns to diplomacy, treaties, and increasingly the growth of international institutions, colored by all the forces of globalization. Perhaps more than in main-stream Political Science, students of International Relations saw the importance of cross-disciplinary communication and concepts.
Within the American Political Science Association a movement to promote the multi-disciplinary study of International Relations led first to the creation of a restless section that, before long, split off to create the International Studies Association -- for details see its Home Page at: ISA . As international organizations have became increasingly important in the context of accelerating globalization, it is no longer possible to rely on categories based on intra-state relations to understand global politics.
Moreover, increasingly, international non-governmental organizations of many varieties came to exercise important powers -- as the emphasis of the Quebec Congress on "World Capitalism" shows, global economic forces now impinge more forcefully than ever before on the field of International Relations. There is growing concern about the power of multinational corporations, global finance, and free trade.
As the recent WTO conference in Seattle demonstrated, concerns about environmental impact, social justice and wages mingle with interest in the way global markets operate. This has led to a growing realization of the need for cross-disciplinary cooperation. It has led International Relations to hive off from Political Science as a separate disciplinary focus with its own professional societies.
The emphasis on "political economy" is nowhere more evident and dynamic than in the study of globalization. Surprisingly, nevertheless, few IPSA groups are explicitly oriented to international relations -- there is a study group for statistical data on international politics, and another group is looking at "New World Order." For a global society of Political Scientists this seems astonishing. No doubt the Quebec Congress, with its focus on "world capitalism" will bring some more attention to this domain as a suitable focus for Political Science.
Political Science, as an academic discipline, was a product of Western thinking, based on Western realities. Today, with IPSA as its main instrument, Political Science is a global enterprise. National and regional associations give voice to adaptations of the discipline designed to deal with realities that differ greatly from those familiar in the West. The IPSA Home Page lists seven national political science associations with Web Sites: see Associations Links; plus a few sub-state and inter-state regional associations. Actually, there are more than that -- I have listed 13 on my SITES page at: Sites
Nevertheless, key terms rooted in Western experience have been used to talk about problems and principles in the new states of the world system although they are often quite different from those familiar in the West. In this process, familiar terms are often stretched to cover quite different phenomena, thereby hampering communication and promoting misunderstanding.
No doubt, there are also indigenous terms and concepts that can be understood locally but it is usually hard to use them in any international context. Their use remains confined to the languages and cultures in which they are familiar. Of course, there are exceptions. Gandhi's colorful terminology, rooted in the Indian experience and the struggle for independence and social justice, has entered the vocabulary of a few Political Scientists, and there are counterparts in other countries. The Chinese word translated as "Mandarin" has been used, especially in Europe, to refer to a class of generalist public administrators that exercises great power in many states. However, a comparable Japanese term, "Samurai," has not been generalized to Political Science and it remains an exotic expression for novelists and Japan specialists. .
The Birth of Area Studies
Shortly after World War II it became apparent to agencies interested in working on problems confronting the new states established on the ashes of collapsed empires that we knew much too little -- indeed, almost nothing -- about these countries. Support for research in them, and for their students to attend universities in the West led to an explosion of knowledge in which political science was merely one of the disciplines involved. The result was an emphasis on inter-disciplinary area studies that has led to many academic programs on university campuses, and the creation of professional societies dedicated to research in selected regions. A list of them can be found at: Glocalization The development of multi-disciplinary area studies has challenged Political Science in an ambivalent way.
Some political scientists, fascinated by the concerns and opportunities offered by area studies, have deserted their parent discipline to join forces with colleagues from other disciplines primarily interested in some developing area of the world. The results can, I think, be added to those listed above that have wrought cleavages in the discipline. However, in another way, area studies have enriched the discipline by forcing some political scientists to pay serious attention to unfamiliar problems and phenomena.
They have been able to do so under the heading of comparative politics. Ideally, this term should support a better understanding of all political systems, in the West as well as in the non-Western world. In practice, however, it has produced some new cleavages. This is visible among the new IPSA research committees which include #18, Asia and the Pacific, but no parallels for other world regions. However, there are two new groups -- (SG1) Developing societies (& welfare states) and (SG29) Third world (Military rule and democratization) -- that look at all new states.
No IPSA research groups focus on Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, or North America and Australia/N.Z. However, at least 7 research committees use the word comparative in their titles: #5 local government, #9 judicial systems, #13 democratization, #25 health policy, #28 federalism, #30 public opinion, and #34 representatiion. No doubt many other committees have also adopted a comparative perspective, examining politics in many countries. Peraps we ought to assume that all of them do, in which case the use of "comparative" as a modifier is redundant. Local government or public opinion, for example, can only be studied comparatively -- perhaps the use of this word is a carry-over from a tradition of one-country studies -- it signals the intention of a group to look at different countries and to formulate generalizations.
Fortunately, a growing number of indigenous political scientists from the new states are able to work with Western scholars in efforts to understand political phenomena in these unfamiliar environments. They join forces on many campuses around the world, in both Western and non-Western environments. As a result of their efforts, we may well expect to see the emergence of many new terms and concepts that reflect political realities outside the familiar Western terrain. One result is already evident in the statements by IPSA research committee about their goals where the word, "comparative," explicitly suggests that the focal topic of the group will be examined in more than one country and, often, in a global context.
Globalization is accompanied by a host of new orientations and interests that will assuredly bring far-reaching changes to Political Science during the coming years. Literally, postmodern can be understood as a futuristic look into the future and an effort to anticipate changes that will affect everyone in the world. Unfortunately, in my personal opinion, the term has been captured by "archeologists" of past usages and cynical "deconstructionists" of establishment vocabularies who seem to be mainly interested in debunking received wisdom than in creating new understandings.
However, I admit this may be an unfair assessment of things I don't really understand. Whatever it may be called, new ways of looking at the world ride on the shoulders of enthusiasts who are, indeed, bringing many important new insights and concerns into Political Science. I am thinking, for example, of the work of feminists, ethnic activists, anarchists, liberals, conservatives, and many other contemporary movements, all liberated by the INTERNET and e-mail to create global groups of sympathizers. we can see Political Science entering a new kind of limboland in which old certainties have dissolved and new potentialities, but vaguely envisioned, beckon in all directions at once. No doubt these perspectives affect all IPSA groups, but they may be most important in three research committees that relate to sex roles and ethnicity(#7 Women in Developing Nations, #14 Ethnicity, and #19 Sex Roles).
Post Script :
As a kind of fantasy footnote, consider that it is now possible (perhaps?) to create a polity in cyberspace -- a post-modern state -- spun by a fertile [if not criminal] imagination and, perhaps, anchored by some gullible earthlings. For an incredible example, consider the kingdom of DOM, which proclaims that: "Melchizedek is fast becoming known as the Switzerland of the Pacific. DOM has also been referred to as the "Sovereign Order of Melchizedek", (SOOM), the "Kingdom of Melchizedek" (KOM), and the "Kingdom of [Jeru]Salem" (KOS)." Details can be found at DOM
Exponents of game-playing in Political Science might toy with the possibility that DOM can become part of an invisible web of power comprising industrial estates, tax havens and gambling casinos dispersed in remote islands and luxury hotels around the world. DOM has already attempted [without success] to entice the people of Rotuma -- look under Forum on their Web Site to find clues to their views of DOM, sovereignty and their status as a global enclave. For more realistic leads on diaspora nations and the local in the global take a look at: Glocalization. See also: Diasporas and Area Studies.
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