Political Science papers

by Henry on June 25, 2007

Ezra Klein asks

This is one of my perennial bafflements, but the lack of suggestions on my request for political science blogs reminds me how odd the robust representation of economists in the blogosphere really is. Between Tyler Cowen, Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, Max Sawicky, Dani Rodrick, Greg Mankiw, Kash Monsori, the folks at Angry Bear, and all the other econobloggers out there, a fairly broad channel has arisen for publicizing and popularizing relevant economic research in the political sphere. Not so with relevant political science research, even as it it would seem, if anything, more relevant. Why have economists taken to the blogosphere in so much greater numbers, and with so much more apparent success, than practitioners of other disciplines that also intersect with contemporary politics?

and the blogosphere delivers, sort of. I’ve set up a blog to link to new political science papers that are likely to be of interest to a general audience (where ‘general audience’ denotes the kinds of people who read Ezra, CT, Dan Drezner’s blog etc). At the moment, it consists of nothing more than abstracts of interesting papers and links to them. I hope over time to do a bit more than that (but not for a couple of months; I also have a book to finish over the summer). This is intended to be somewhat more specifically pol-sci focused than Political Theory Daily Review (now at Bookforum) but also to appeal to people who aren’t cardcarrying political scientists. Please feel free to email me suggestions for papers to link (I know that there are a fair few political scientists who read CT, including a couple of journal editors; send me stuff and if it’s appropriate, I’ll happily link to it). Such suggestions should include the abstract or other relevant info for the paper, the bibliographical details, and, of course, the URL. Feel free also to make suggestions as to how the site can be improved (it’s rather barebones at the moment, but will get a little prettier over time).



matt 06.25.07 at 10:03 pm

People interested in such things might also find the Equality Exchange of use. It’s both broader (including lots of people who are not political scientists) and more narrow (focusing on issues relating to egalitarianism, though somewhat broadly construed.) It’s here:


I think I might well have learned about it from this blog. If you sign up it sends you emails when new papers are posted.


Jacob Christensen 06.25.07 at 10:53 pm

I’ve sent the chairwoman of the Swedish Political Science Association – and a couple of other guys (hmm…?!?) – a note about the initiative.

We shall see if the Swedes and the Danes will descend upon you.


Brad DeLong 06.26.07 at 12:34 am


Henry 06.26.07 at 1:07 am

Let’s take over!

Haven’t you guys been trying to do that for a while????


Kieran Healy 06.26.07 at 3:10 am

Last I heard, Henry, they’d succeeded. :)


Matthew Shugart 06.26.07 at 3:45 pm

I have often lamented the shortage of blogging political scientists, although our number has certainly grown in the last year or so.

The idea of have a place to post working papers for a more general audience is a really terrific idea.


leederick 06.26.07 at 5:53 pm

Why have economists taken to the blogosphere in so much greater numbers, and with so much more apparent success, than practitioners of other disciplines that also intersect with contemporary politics?

How big is political science – compared to economics and the other social sciences?

I’ve looked up the numbers of PhDs awarded each year in the US and on paper (from a total of about 4k) the big four social sciences are economics on 1200, political science on 1000, with 600 for sociology and 500 for anthropology. The other subjects like criminology, geography, and demography are minor.

How much of the ‘political science’ figure is actually political science? The headline number includes public administration, public policy analysis, and government – which I’m guessing have more to do with social policy and administration than the sort of things political scientists worry about.

Is political science big enough to expect it to make as much of an impact in the blogosphere as economics?


JimPortlandOR 06.26.07 at 11:48 pm

The new blog is a good start. Things that would make it better:

– reader comments allowed
– if a subscription is required for the article, then some discussion in addition to the abstract (interactivity rather than just an index)
– more contributors (to ease the burden and diversify)
– links to think tank stuff in addition to journal articles

and finally: more ‘thinking out loud’ (not just polished (and referreed) content, along with relevance of professional output to current events.


AnIRprof 06.27.07 at 3:32 am

For leederick:

I don’t think numbers explain it; they are actually pretty equal.

In terms of the production numbers you cite, a far higher percentage of the econ PhDs go into non-academic jobs, such as central banks and finance ministries, Wall Street and consulting firms, etc. The vast majority of the “poli sci” PhDs really are in political science (some diferences are only semantic — Harvard’s poli-sci department is called “Government” but really is a plain old political science department, as opposed to the Kennedy School which really is more public administration).

At most universities and colleges, poli-sci faculty actually outnumber economics faculty by small margin. Membership in APSA and the AEA is about the same: 17,000 for AEA vs 15,000 for APSA.

I’m pretty sure there really are a smaller percentage of academic political scientists visible in the blogosphere than economists (also smaller than law professors). Why so is an interesting question — theories?

On a side note, I note that APSA dues are twice as high as AEA dues, yet AEA has better benefits (three journals and online EconLit) and makes job listings and the member directly available free on the web (APSA’s are paid-member only). Either APSA is fantastically wasteful or AEA has significant funding streams that APSA doesn’t.


David Wright 06.27.07 at 6:04 am

Forgive my ignorance, but just how is political science “relevent” to contemporary political questions? Last time I checked, a political science major was just a liberal arts major who took bit more political history and philosophy and a bit less art and literature. Is there any question that a contemporary policy-maker might want to pose to a political scientist? I mean one to which he could give a positive answer that represents the rational consensus of the field, not just his opinion.


joejoejoe 06.27.07 at 11:53 am

“where ‘general audience’ denotes the kinds of people who read Ezra, CT, Dan Drezner’s blog etc.”

I don’t think you’ll draw in much of that general audience with such a tight focus on polisci papers (however readable). You might just chat up Ezra and see if you can offer your summaries in a format similar to Ezra’s ‘Think Tank Round-Up’ on Tapped. I’m sure they’d give you a regular post to do a ‘Political Science Round-Up’ when you feel the urge – that would reach your general readers, Tapped would archive your posts, and you could post intermittently without worrying about maintaining your own blog. If you can only manage 5 brisk summaries every month or so because of other commitments that’s still a nice recurring feature on a group blog.

I think it’s more practical to take an existing stream of intelligent blog traffic and add the political science rather than build a new stream of traffic out of political science from scratch – especially if it’s general readers you are targeting. If you desire to build a blog archive of abstracts of general interest poltical science papers with the Political Science Weblog that’s one thing but IMHO you are building a blog that Ezra Klein would read which is not the same as building a blog for Ezra Klein’s readers.


AnIRprof 06.27.07 at 1:57 pm

For david wright:

You ought to check again. At the graduate/faculty level political science is all about empirical research, with a strong (but not universal) bent towards quantitative approaches. Heck, in my PhD program I took six semesters of quantitative courses and zero philosophy. Unlike economics though there is also plenty of qualitative research that tries to be rigorous and generalizable, not just bloviating opinion.

Some examples:

IR: work by people like Meagan O’Sullivan and Dan Drezner on the detailed conditions under which economic sanctions (and which types of sanctions) are effective at coercing governments.

Comparative: There’s a large literature on democratization, post-conflict reconstruction, and “nation-building” that is absolutely on point for Iraq and Afghanistan, everything from how many troops in what sort of situation to how to design constitutions in multi-ethnic societies.

As for relevance, I’ll use this anecdote: after several days teaching this material to a group of Army and Marine colonels, the general reaction was, “I wish to hell someone had shown me this *before* commanding in Iraq!” and “If all this was already known by you PhDs in 2002, how come the guys in charge screwed things up so badly?”

American: Want to assess/predict the effects of campaign finance reforms, redistricting plans, electoral changes like vote-by-mail, the effectiveness of different campaign techniques? Plenty of literature on any of those questions.


Henry 06.27.07 at 2:49 pm

Jim – I hope to build some of this in as I move along (this is only a start); I’ve responded at greater length in Ezra’s comment section.

joejoejoe – that is an interesting idea, but I think that there’s a virtue in doing more than just an occasional roundup. I doubt that I will have a couple of new papers every day when this gets going (perhaps I am wrong) but 4-5 a week seems not unreasonable, which is probably more than the readers at TAPped are interested in finding out about. But it may be that an occasional round up post over there might be helpful – when I get things properly going here, I will think more about it …


Daniel McIntosh 06.27.07 at 7:46 pm

Political science has a very hard time defining itself. As a past president of the APSA once put it, everyone sits at “separate tables” divided by differences over topic and ideology and methods. I know some political scientists who are very much in the positivist/behiorist mode (they usually work at large midwestern universities–there is a definite geography of appropriate methods) who have no time for political philosophers. I have a friend who’s a political philosopher who’ll cross the road to keep from coming into contact with a rational-choice theorist. I could go on, but why bother?

The problem with political science is there’s no there there.

P.S. I work in a political science department, although I don’t consider myself to be a political scientist. That’s something else that seems to happen more in the PS (and sociology) departments.


anotherirprof 06.28.07 at 1:41 pm

Within international relations, isn’t at least part of the problem due to the rise in popularity of system-level analysis following post-Waltz 1979?

Such work just isn’t going to be as interesting to bloggers, policy wonks, or the educated general public and it seems odd even to expect it to compete with applied economics for public attention.



Fr. 06.28.07 at 2:56 pm

Henry, that’s an excellent initiative. I would like to contribute by emphasizing what I consider to be its major weakness, which is already visible in the comments to this post: its American ethnocentricity.

For instance, about your categorising: “Comparative Politics” actually compares politics everywhere in the world but the US, where it designates “ROTW Politics”.

Identically, the justification of polisci through quanti-training (comments 10;12) is preposterous outside Am. polisci, which is only one specific configuration of the discipline, dominated by p-valued journals (APSR/AJPS/JOP) and sub-disciplines. European polisci (although I can speak only for the UK and France, plus Germany by hearsay) is weberian in theory and historical in practice, and works with words, which apparently count as mere “opinion” for some readers.

I am sure you have read about these differences, since you must have read the same (rather recent) issues of, say, CPS about quali-quanti barriers, or the JPH on APD. The bottom line is that Am polisci is one intellectual configuration of the field among others.

I really like this initiative. Your blog could move closer to this model (short papers using recent events to build policy mini-reviews), what do you think?


Henry 06.28.07 at 3:09 pm

fr – the American bias is clearly there. Having moved around a lot, I’ve studied or worked in depts where the ROTW Politics was set against specialist fields of Irish Politics, German Politics and Canadian Politics. I’m not sure of any very good way to get around it though (I do recognize that it is a loaded choice, but can’t think of a good alternative). On the qual-quant thing, I will certainly be doing stuff inside American politics from American Political Development (which I suspect will have a lot of interesting pieces), and various non-US sources (I’ll be putting up some of the MPIfG work on the EU and market domination soon). I am of course limited by what I know about, so nominations of interesting pieces that I don’t know about are gratefully appreciated.


Daniel Zaccariello 06.28.07 at 10:14 pm

Interesting. I’ll have to add it to my “to-read” pile.

The abstract on the politics of the DH entry makes it sound like there was some sort of prevailing mythos that Republicans favored the DH over Dems…who knew!?

I’m also interested because I’m suspicious about the interactive effect of age + party affiliation. I’m curious to find out if the Dem-Rep divide highlighted in the abstract is due to a bias against party identification among younger people (i.e. more “independents” these days). That’s not to say they aren’t as ideological (or more) than the older folks.

Please let me know how I can contribute my pair of eyes to the blog. I’ve often felt the same lack in the “blogosphere” of representation of my own field.


Fr. 06.28.07 at 11:40 pm

Thanks for the detailed reply, Henry.

I really like the “icy embrace of economics” in your last post :)

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