Political Scientists: Too Interested in the International, or Not Interested Enough?

Political Scientists: Too Interested in the International, or Not Interested Enough?

Alan Wolfe started a thread over at The New Republic’s new Open University by suggesting that the recent APSA was too focused on things foreign as opposed to things domestic. I was there, too (to do a panel on birthright citizenship and to take in the excellent roundtable on international tribunals, among a few others). But my impression, at least judging from panel titles, was that the international stuff was under-represented in the program. Of course I’m biased. The comparison, though, to book titles in the massive exhibitor hall was telling – publishers seem to think international subjects are pretty hot, or else political scientists with international interests are publishing more than their domestically-oriented colleagues. There was a lot to browse through for anyone with IL interests.

This was my first APSA, and it made me glad to be a lawprof. The program was sprawling (the directory is as big as a phone book for a medium-sized city), and having so many concurrent panels makes everything feel sort of lonesome. Jacob Levy reports that the terrorism and the Constitution panel with Jack Balkin, Marty Lederman, Orin Kerr and others (which unlike Levy I take to count as an international subject rather than a domestic one, or at least bridging the two) was by far the best attended of the panels he went to, but it didn’t look like many people to me (perhaps 40 or 50). I guess this is mostly a product of the relative sizes of the discipline (200 law schools versus I don’t know how many thousand political science departments) but I wonder if there aren’t some professional-culture drivers as well. We may lament the AALS annual meeting for being thin on content, but I have picked up at least as much intellectual energy at them than from what I saw at the APSA meeting, and much more interest in transnational developments.

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Marty Lederman
Marty Lederman

Not that it matters, or says anything about the relative worth of our panel (I’ll leave that to others), but by my rough count, somewhere between 110-130 people attended the panel.

Peter Spiro
Peter Spiro

Marty, Don’t get me wrong, it was a great panel, a genuine roundtable with the panelists really speaking to each other with some diversity of perspectives (too bad Viet Dinh didn’t make it, though). My point is that at the AALS it would have been SRO in the same-sized venue. Inevitably it adds some electricity to these events when they happen before capacity crowds rather than half-empty rooms.



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