Yesterday I finally received my doctorate. The actual piece of Latin-inscribed paper showed up at my door care of Fedex (classy move, Harvard!), officially licensing me in the practice of political science.
Yesterday was also the deadline for submitting proposals for the 2005 meetings of the American Political Science Association. And in a not-entirely-unrelated story, yesterday also saw President Bush announce his choice for Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice — herself a political scientist.
This confluence of events had me thinking about what the hell it means to be a political scientist, anyhow. I don’t think there is a tent big enough to hold me and one of the chief architects of the present war in Iraq. And I have to wonder about our collective pretensions to positive social science when someone can hold onto her political science credentials while acting as one of the most persistent defenders of that “weapons of mass destruction” trope.
So I’ve been thinking: shouldn’t political science have its equivalent to disbarment or excommunication? After all, if we want the term “political scientist” to mean something, then a doctorate shouldn’t be a one-way ticket. When political scientists promulgate ideas or institute policies that violate even the most generous interpretations of our collective wisdom, they are not only disregarding their own academic training, but devaluing the intellectual authority and standards of our field. So shouldn’t there be some threshold — it can be a generous one — beyond which one loses the right to practice political science?
Ah well. Any field that still claims Henry Kissinger as one of its own can certainly survive Condoleezza Rice.
UPDATE: COMMENTS AND ACCOUNTABILITY
This thread has certainly brought a lot of free speech advocates out of the woodwork. I’ve had lots of comments on this post, as well as on my subsequent entry, some of which you can read below. But it is interesting to note that many of these would-be free speech defenders have submitted their comments anonymously — which is not exactly in keeping with a committment to free and open debate. The difference between diatribe and dialogue is that in a dialogue, people both talk and listen; if you’re not available to receive responses to your comments, you’re not listening, and you’re certainly not engaging in dialogue or debate.
For that reason, I will only approve comments that have a verifiable e-mail address, and not one created for the sole purpose of commenting on this blog. That doesn’t mean you have to use your real name to post — one of the great things about the Internet is that people can build meaningful reputations and accountability using traceable or untraceable handles. (Another theme of my dissertation, by the way, for those of you who are actually interested in whether my own research meets the standards I am advocating.)
But I do expect people to take on some form of accountability for their comments. After all, I have put my name on my posts — why should my fellow defenders of free speech be shy about standing behind theirs?
UPDATE: FOR THE RECORD
What I think about what other people think about what I think. What do you think?