Main

September 20, 2007

Ames, Barker, Bonneau and Carman on Whether Academia Discriminates Against Conservatives

Abstract: Do conservatives suffer discrimination in academe? In “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte argue that “conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats.” Using a survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities, they conclude that their results are “consistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism confers a disadvantage in the competition for political advancement.” In this response, we show that Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte’s work is plagued by theoretical and methodological problems that render their conclusions unsustainable by the available evidence. Furthermore, we offer an alternative hypothesis theoretically consistent with their findings. Unfortunately, we were unable to subject our alternative hypothesis to empirical assessment (or even to replicate the initial results of Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte) since they have refused to make their data available to the scientific community.

Barry Ames, David C. Barker, Chris W. Bonneau, and Chris J. Carman (2007), “Hide the Republicans, the Christians, and the Women: A Response to “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” unpublished paper. Available here.

September 17, 2007

Ames, Barker, Bonneau and Carman on Whether Academia Discriminates Against Conservatives

Abstract: Do conservatives suffer discrimination in academe? In “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty,” Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte argue that “conservatives and Republicans teach at lower quality schools than do liberals and Democrats.” Using a survey of 1643 faculty members from 183 four-year colleges and universities, they conclude that their results are “consistent with the hypothesis that political conservatism confers a disadvantage in the competition for political advancement.” In this response, we show that Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte’s work is plagued by theoretical and methodological problems that render their conclusions unsustainable by the available evidence. Furthermore, we offer an alternative hypothesis theoretically consistent with their findings. Unfortunately, we were unable to subject our alternative hypothesis to empirical assessment (or even to replicate the initial results of Rothman, Lichter and Nevitte) since they have refused to make their data available to the scientific community.

Barry Ames, David C. Barker, Chris Bonneau and Chris Carman, “Hide the Republicans, the Christians, and the Women: A Response to “Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty.” Unpublished paper. Available here.

September 12, 2007

Gelman on Axelrod and Trench Warfare

Abstract: The Evolution of Cooperation, by Axelrod (1984), is a highly influential study that identifies the benefits of cooperative strategies in the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. We argue that the most extensive historical analysis in the book, a study of cooperative behavior in First World War trenches, is in error. Contrary to Axelrod’s claims, there soldiers in the Western Front were not generally in a prisoner’s dilemma (iterated or otherwise), and their cooperative behavior can be explained much more parsimoniously as immediately reducing their risks. We discuss the political implications of this misapplication of game theory.

Andrew Gelman (2007), “Methodology as Ideology: Mathematical Modeling of Trench Warfare,” unpublished paper. Available here.

September 04, 2007

Hindman on APSA and commercial broadcasting

Description: In recent years, many have called for political science to engage more strongly with the public. In his 2004 APSA presidential address, Robert Putnam declared that “attending to the concerns of our fellow citizens is… an obligation as fundamental as our pursuit of scientific truth.” Other scholars (and other APSA presidents) have echoed this theme. APSA committees on inequality, and on civic education and engagement, have recently striven to make their work more accessible and more “relevant.” There is a strange omission in these debates. In calling for political science to have a “stronger public presence” (in Putnam’s words), scholars have ignored the historical period when the public presence of political science was at its zenith. This paper looks at a nearly forgotten episode in the early history of radio. From 1932 to 1936, the APSA sponsored a nationwide radio program on NBC. Entitled “You and Your Goverment,” it was run by some of the most famous scholars in the discipline’s history, including Charles A. Beard and Charles Merriam. Incredibly, the show aired on Tuesday nights after Amos ‘n’ Andy—guaranteeing a lead-in audience of tens of millions. Six percent of the APSA’s membership—and nearly all of it’s leading lights—were featured in the most prominent time slot in broadcast history. At the start of the broadcasts, the committe organizing the broadcsats declared that they were “the greatest single opportunity directly to effect citizenship in the United States that has ever been offered.” The program signified “the opening of the door of wider usefulness for the political scientist.” Yet a few years later, when NBC cancelled the program, these same political scientists had changed their tune, calling broadcasting “a positive menace to culture and democracy.” The political scientists blamed the network and the public, while ignoring or excusing their own errors. Seven decades later, as political scientists again try to make themselves useful to the public, some of these same errors look likely to be repeated.

Matthew Hindeman (2007), “Amos, Andy ‘n’ the APSA: Political Scientists, the Public, and the Creation of Commercial Broadcasting,” unpublished paper. Available here. Via Matthew Hindman’s blog.

August 21, 2007

Josep Colomer on the Americanization of European Political Science

Josep Colomer:

the very creation of the European Consortium for Political Research was to a significant extent an American enterprise. As the story is told by Jean Blondel, one of the founding fathers of the ECPR, the idea to promote a model of “Americanized” political science in Europe was conceived as a synonymous for “modernization”. This was in contrast to the Parisian model at the Institute d’Etudes Politiques, better known as Sciences-Po, “which does not actively deserve its name since it is concerned only to a limited extent with what is conventionally regarded as political science in most parts of the world”. It was Blondel (born French but at the time at Essex, UK), together with Rudolf Wildenmann (at Manheim, Germany), Hans Daalder (at Leiden, the Netherlands), and Stein Rokkan (at Bergen, Norway), who undertook the initiative. “It was in New York city, in the magnificent glass Ford Foundation building, that the European Consortium was born, in the late spring of 1970”. Again in Blondel’s words, “only Americans, with their funds, but also with their skills in research management, could bring together a ‘representative’ body of European political scientists”.

More here.

August 15, 2007

The Forum

Berkeley Electronic Press’s The Forum has a new issue available online. Like some other BEP journals, it aims to build links between political science research and more general public debates. It’s available for free after a mildly annoying registration process. This issue’s articles include:

Jeffrey Kraus on Bloomberg’s ascendancy in New York.

Robert G. Boatright on 527s and interest group theory.

Peter Haas on global environmental governance.

August 04, 2007

Fabio Rojas on Political Science and Sociology

Fabio Rojas posts on the differences between sociology and political science.

Up until 1975 or so, political science and sociology were in similar boats, but only political science adopted mathematical modeling as a core research method in the last 30 years. Sure, there are pockets of mathematical soc folks, but now major chunks of political science have been recast in formal models, like theories of political conflict and competition (game theory), policy formation (Euclidean policy space models), legislative politics (more game theory), etc. And all serious researchers are expected to know these theories. There has been no equivalent transformation of sociology. Why the divergence?

More here.

July 02, 2007

Acemoglu, Bautista, Querubin and Robinson on Political and Economic Inequality and Growth

Abstract: Is inequality harmful for economic growth? Is the underdevelopment of Latin America related to its unequal distribution of wealth? A recently emerging consensus claims not only that economic inequality has detrimental effects on economic growth in general, but also that differences in economic inequality across the American continent during the 19th century are responsible for the radically different economic performances of the north and south of the continent. In this paper we investigate this hypothesis using unique 19th century micro data on land ownership and political office holding in the state of Cundinamarca, Colombia. Our results shed considerable doubt on this consensus. Even though Cundinamarca is indeed more unequal than the Northern United States at the time, within Cundinamarca municipalities that were more unequal in the 19th century (as measured by the land gini) are more developed today. Instead, we argue that political rather than economic inequality might be more important in understanding long-run development paths and document that municipalities with greater political inequality, as measured by political concentration, are less developed today. We also show that during this critical period the politically powerful were able to amass greater wealth, which is consistent with one of the channels through which political inequality might affect economic allocations. Overall our findings shed doubt on the conventional wisdom and suggest that research on long-run comparative development should investigate the implications of political inequality as well as those of economic inequality.

Discussion [Crossposted at Crooked Timber]

Tyler Cowen points to a very interesting new paper by Daron Acemoglu and his colleagues (PDF - it was here this morning, but this link isn’t working for me any more; see here for a slightly earlier version) on the relationship between political and economic inequality. Tyler’s gloss is that this provides general insights into the “meme” of whether economic inequality is bad for growth, and concludes that “at least from that data set, the real problem seems to be rent-seeking behavior through the political process.” Thus, unless I misunderstand him (which is possible; he may just be blogging in shorthand), he is saying that this paper provides significant evidence suggesting that economic inequality isn’t the cause of slower economic growth; instead, political inequality and rent-seeking are at fault.

Continue reading "Acemoglu, Bautista, Querubin and Robinson on Political and Economic Inequality and Growth" »

June 28, 2007

Hall on the Dilemmas of Contemporary Social Science

This forthcoming article by Peter Hall doesn’t have an abstract, but deserves wide readership. Hall writes as a political scientist who is deeply interested in how his discipline has engaged with other disciplines (and vice versa) as it has developed. He argues that while quite substantial gains have been made over the last twenty-five years in related fields (history, economics, political science, sociology), we have lost something important too. The article begins by examining how post war social science began from the desire to make sure that the catastrophes of the Holocaust and collapse of democracy in Weimar Germany never happened again. Consonances between history (in its Annaliste and social historical moments) and the social sciences created the possibilty of dialogue between these various disciplines - the modernization paradigm, flawed as it was, provided common ground for debate. Economists like Gerschenkron and Landes played an important role in these arguments too. This dialogue combined respect for historical specificity with generalizing aspirations.

Over the last twenty-five years we have seen a bifurcation between scholars interested in culture and those interested in material forces - the former moving closer to cultural studies and the latter towards economics. “Like the kid left to play alone, American sociology has flirted with the others without being able to draw them into a game of its own.” This has yielded many benefits. Historians deconstructed the assumption that historical classes were unified actors, and cultural history and gender studies yielded important advances. The various schools of institutionalism within political science have also done much to elucidate politics, even while rational choice social scientists have pulled the discipline into the icy embrace of economics. Economics itself has changed - we no longer see the conditions under “which a Hirschman could debate a Hoffmann,” and economic history has become an endangered species, even while some economists have sought to apply their insights far outside the market economy. This has all yielded gains - we have a more richly coloured quilt of insights across the disciplines. But cultural studies and cultural history have perhaps exhausted themselves, while political scientists’ arguments about credible commitments are becoming more formulaic and uninteresting. Furthermore, a gap has opened between a history linked to cultural studies and a political science mesmerized by economics, which not only hampers debate, but means that both disciplines miss out on part of the picture. “On neither side are systematic explanations for political and economic outcomes being integrated with contextually informed analyses of social relations.”

Both disciplines may be swallowed up by an emerging intellectual hegemony that privileges a combination of economics and genetic science. More generally, there is a feeling of dispiritedness among liberals and leftists in the university - “the formative context for young scholars today is not the collapse of Weimar or the politics of the 1960s but the experience of life under neo-liberalism and globalization.” Radicalism has shifted towards cultural studies, but has been shron of any tools for systematic investigation of social problems and identification of solutions as a result.”

There’s plenty that I at least disagree with in this essay, but it deserves wide readership, and seems extremely well suited to adoption in graduate Intro to Political Science courses. Available here.

June 27, 2007

Review: Scott Page - The Difference

[cross-posted from Crooked Timber]

Scott E. Page, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies (Princeton University Press). Available from Powells, Amazon.

Scott Page, who’s in the political science department at University of Michigan, has written a book that’s valuable on two levels. First, it provides a more rigorous take on some of the issues that James Surowiecki dealt with in his popularizing book, The Wisdom of Crowds. To say that Surowiecki’s book is written for a popular audience of course isn’t to say that it’s bad (to the contrary, see dsquared’s review), but it certainly doesn’t go to the same kinds of lengths as does Page’s to establish careful definitions, dot terminological i’s, and cross conceptual t’s. Page also goes rather further than Surowiecki in specifying his arguments about group decision making (providing a very good, if individually flavoured, account of the relevant cognitive science literature in the process), which means that he’s able to offer more specific claims than Surowiecki about the circumstances under which groups will or will not be able to beat experts. Second, Page uses this to offer a broad defence of the cognitive virtues of diversity. When the members of a group have diverse sets of mental tools, group decision making (under certain assumptions) is less likely to get stuck at suboptimal solutions, and more likely to arrive at superior ways of doing things. As Jim Johnson pointed out a few months ago, this means that Page is able to offer a pragmatic defence of diversity practices in hiring, education etc - having a diverse set of points of view in a group means better decision making.

Continue reading "Review: Scott Page - The Difference" »

June 25, 2007

Chong and Druckman on Framing Theory

Abstract: We review the meaning of the concept of framing, approaches to studying framing, and the effects of framing on public opinion. After defining framing and framing effects, we articulate a method for identifying frames in communication and a psychological model for understanding how such frames affect public opinion. We also discuss the relationship between framing and priming, outline future research directions, and describe the normative implications of framing.

Dennis Chong and James N. Druckman, “Framing Theory.” (2007), Annual Review of Political Science 10: 103-126. Available (sub needed) here.