Another setback for political science

FreshDesignElements-0955

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?

28 Comments

  1. Good idea. Like the liberal arts aren’t politicially-inbred enough as it is. Now you’re talking about kicking anyone out of the profession who disagrees with your way of thinking.

    Good to see such open-mindedness coming out of the academies. It bodes well for your future career in academia that not one day after getting your diploma you’re fantasizing about crushing dissent.

  2. Good idea. Like the liberal arts aren’t politicially-inbred enough as it is. Now you’re talking about kicking anyone out of the profession who disagrees with your way of thinking.

    Good to see such open-mindedness coming out of the academies. It bodes well for your future career in academia that not one day after getting your diploma you’re fantasizing about crushing dissent.

  3. Read my response.

  4. Read my response.

  5. You have to be kidding – a former provost of Standford looses her rights to Ph.d. while the cat with the diploma mill Ph.d. gets to opine at will?

    Relax bro. No sense in getting worked up over everything.

  6. You have to be kidding – a former provost of Standford looses her rights to Ph.d. while the cat with the diploma mill Ph.d. gets to opine at will?

    Relax bro. No sense in getting worked up over everything.

  7. Since when is Harvard a “diploma mill”?

  8. Since when is Harvard a “diploma mill”?

  9. Fresh Harvard PhD is advocating Political Science community to act as Political Inquisition. Nice.

  10. Fresh Harvard PhD is advocating Political Science community to act as Political Inquisition. Nice.

  11. What a way to begin a career in ‘liberal’ politics! The Internet never forgets and you have certainly given your future detractors, the ones you would banish, a sound bite for all time.
    I am curious now as to which of your instructors at Harvard provided you with such a liberal view of permitted political dissent.

  12. What a way to begin a career in ‘liberal’ politics! The Internet never forgets and you have certainly given your future detractors, the ones you would banish, a sound bite for all time.
    I am curious now as to which of your instructors at Harvard provided you with such a liberal view of permitted political dissent.

  13. Hmmmm, I looked at the article you linked to, and the only place where Dr. Rice mentioned weapons of mass destruction with regard specifically to Iraq was “Because we acted in Iraq, Saddam Hussein will never again use weapons of mass destruction against his people or his neighbors.”

    Is your argument that he never used them against his people or his neighbors? Or did you have some other “trope” in mind?

  14. Hmmmm, I looked at the article you linked to, and the only place where Dr. Rice mentioned weapons of mass destruction with regard specifically to Iraq was “Because we acted in Iraq, Saddam Hussein will never again use weapons of mass destruction against his people or his neighbors.”

    Is your argument that he never used them against his people or his neighbors? Or did you have some other “trope” in mind?

  15. Don’t worry, no one will ever confuse you with Dr. Rice. Leaving such exalted company as yours for the company of the excommunicated – Galileo and Martin Luther spring immediately to mind – doesn’t seem such a bad thing.

  16. Don’t worry, no one will ever confuse you with Dr. Rice. Leaving such exalted company as yours for the company of the excommunicated – Galileo and Martin Luther spring immediately to mind – doesn’t seem such a bad thing.

  17. Don’t worry, no one will ever confuse you with Dr. Rice. Leaving such exalted company as yours for the company of the excommunicated – Galileo and Martin Luther spring immediately to mind – doesn’t seem such a bad thing.

  18. Don’t worry, no one will ever confuse you with Dr. Rice. Leaving such exalted company as yours for the company of the excommunicated – Galileo and Martin Luther spring immediately to mind – doesn’t seem such a bad thing.

  19. In response to Pat Curley’s comment above, there’s no shortage of coverage indicating that Dr. Rice was either insincere or incompetent in her support for the WMD hypotheis. For a fuller and more convincing overview, see this story from the Washington Post.

  20. In response to Pat Curley’s comment above, there’s no shortage of coverage indicating that Dr. Rice was either insincere or incompetent in her support for the WMD hypotheis. For a fuller and more convincing overview, see this story from the Washington Post.

  21. And we are supposed to accept anything that is printed in the Washington Post because it can never be unbiased and will always be true (check out Janet Cooke). No thank you. Condi has proven herself far too often to be brought down by a rookie trying to make a name for herself.

  22. And we are supposed to accept anything that is printed in the Washington Post because it can never be unbiased and will always be true (check out Janet Cooke). No thank you. Condi has proven herself far too often to be brought down by a rookie trying to make a name for herself.

  23. There is a widespread opinion among Creationists that scientific opinion is simply a mask for left-wing propaganda. Do you have any idea of where they would get such a bizarre notion?

  24. There is a widespread opinion among Creationists that scientific opinion is simply a mask for left-wing propaganda. Do you have any idea of where they would get such a bizarre notion?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Whatever It Is, I'm Against It - Excommunication of Heretics This is charming. A new Poli Sci Ph. D., the ink fresh on her diploma, is fantasizing about …
  2. The Volokh Conspiracy - Excommunicating Condoleeza Rice.-- Eugene comments on these snarky assertions of a newly minted Harvard Ph.D. at AlexandraSamuel.c...
  3. Signifying Nothing - Political scientists have credentials? Well, yeah, especially if they have PhD’s, like Chris. However, it seems like an astonishingly authoritarian move …
  4. Kalblog - Piled Higher and Deeper Alexandra Samuel's got a couple of posts up where she, among other things, argues that Condoleeza Rice …
  5. Mekanisme Tanggung Jawab Seorang Blogger | Migrasi Windows Linux - [...] But I do expect people to take on some form of accountability for their comments. After all, I have …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Share This