fellow public administration scholars!
Welcome to the Fall 2004
edition of the PA section electronic newsletter, your source for information concerning
section activities and events. Each newsletter also contains a topical editorial
and a number of links to important information sources.
Newsletter is edited by Domonic Bearfield
of the University of New Hampshire, with important technical assistance provided
by Mel Dubnick of Rutgers University-Newark
and Queen's University of Belfast.
A note of special thanks to Patrick
Wolf, former editor of the Newsletter for taking the time to 'show me the ropes.'
-- Domonic Bearfield
am happy to be serving you as incoming Chair of the Public Administration Section
of APSA. Many thanks to our outgoing Chair, Lloyd Nigro, for his terrific leadership.
Another item of interest is the
ongoing effort of APSA to promote mentoring. Please
direct interested graduate students as well as new faculty to the Mentor Database,
which is intended to connect grad students and faculty with professors in the
field who can provide mentorship on matters of the profession and career development.
I am happy to say that we are currently 564 members strong. Please remember to
encourage new faculty and graduate students to join our ranks, as well as those
who have allowed their membership to lapse.
Please keep in touch!
the 2004 meeting in Chicago, the section welcomed new leadership with Norma
Riccucci of Rutgers-Newark assuming the role of section chair.
following officers will assist Norma in the leadership of the section:
Kathryn Newcomer, George Washington University
Program Chair (and future chair-elect): Katherine
C. Naff, San Francisco State University
Sharon H. Mastracci, University of Illinois, Chicago
Julie Dolan, Macalaster
Richard Feiock, Florida
University of Baltimore
University of Nebraska, Omaha
Milward, University of Arizona
P. Moynihan, Texas A&M University
Naff, San Francisco State University
Nigro, Georgia State University
J. Piotrowski , Rutgers University, Newark
& List Manager: Mel Dubnick, Rutgers University - Newark
Editor: Domonic Bearfield, University of New
APSA's Perestroika Movement
and the P.A. Section
Department of Public Affairs and Administration
State University, Hayward
should a virtual organization that exists only as an email listserve and numbers
"only" some 700 members - a very small fraction of the total APSA membership
- matter to the Public Administration Section?
Perestroika - as distinct from the Soviet movement from which the name derives
- was birthed in the Fall 2000 from an
email posted initially to a handful of political scientists around the US. Signed
"Mr. Perestroika," the private email bemoaned the state of affairs in
US political science - in effect, that it had denuded itself of the study of politics
in favor of a technicized, mathematecized analysis abstracted from the lived social
realities of political life, systematically sidelining research of a more qualitative,
field-based sort and those scholars who pursued such research.
48 hours, the email message had bounced widely around the country, leading not
long afterwards to the creation of the listserve that bears the name "Perestroika
glasnost" . Now four years old, the listserve continues to be administered
anonymously, and subscriptions are handled personally and privately by the list
owner, whoever he, she or they is/are. Indeed, the identity of the initiator(s)
and owner(s), singular or plural, remains unknown to most, if not all, Perestroikans,
and the anonymity of the P-list makes it possible for graduate students and junior
faculty, fearful of going public either with their views or as Perestroikans,
to post their comments.
Why should such fears exist? Perestroikans contend
that US political science journals, faculty searches, and curricula have been
commandeered by research oriented toward complicated statistical, rational choice,
and modeling methodologies, such that scholars doing in-depth, single case analyses
based on extended (participant-)observation, conversational interviewing, and/or
documentary analysis cannot get their work published or get hired and students
are not exposed to such methods in their doctoral training or in undergraduate
curricula. That so many have been, or feel themselves to have been, marginalized
within the profession has led to exceeding caution among many in its "apprenticeship"
ranks. Indeed, those of us doing interpretive-qualitative research are often asked
by doctoral students at conferences or on the occasion of guest lectures how to
get such work approved by dissertation committees, how to get a job, how to get
Perestroika has provided such scholars with an intellectual
community that cuts across disciplinary subfields (as well as the conservative-liberal
political spectrum). Perestroika has held receptions at each APSA meeting since
its first in September 2001, where there were so many in attendance that they
spilled out into the hall and down the corridor, even after all the chairs had
been removed. There have also been gatherings at several regional political science
meetings, as well as substantive panels at APSA. The movement has brought back
into the profession many who had taken refuge in area studies and other programs
and journal pages. Members seem to be predominantly from the IR and Comparative
Politics communities - a factor, perhaps, of the initiator's network - but there
are also active members from Political Theory, Public Policy, and Public Administration.
But P has achieved more than "just" giving disaffected political
scientists a place to hang out at meetings and on the virtual airwaves. Individual
Perestroikans have taken it upon themselves to analyze the publication records
of the major US political science journals; and their documentation - available
in the pages of PS: Political Science & Politics - provides concrete evidence
for the claim that political theory, history, and qualitative-interpretive case
studies, both domestic and overseas, have hardly seen light of day in those outlets
over the last 20-30 years. For the flagship journal of the APSA and the journals
of the regional associations to be so one-sided does arguable harm to the study
of politics and its practitioners - not least of which is the disillusionment
of many doctoral students, drawn initially, so they say, to the study of questions
relevant to their lives, at finding that the narrowed focus of the dominant methods
distance them from such study. In one example, students at Yale University organized
and pressured the department to offer a course in philosophy of science and qualitative-interpretive
methods. I have heard personally from several, planning to transfer to other disciplines
(e.g., sociology, history), that Perestroika kept them in political science departments.
Within APSA, the "Political Methodology" Section, despite its general
name, and its journal are oriented toward quantitative methods. Last year, a conference-related
group applied to the Executive Council and received approval for a new Qualitative
Methods Section - which by the time of its premiere at APSA 2004 had surpassed
Political Methodology in membership. Moreover, APSA launched a new journal, Perspectives
on Politics, now in its second year of publication, whose pages are oriented toward
the study of politics and narrative, rather than mathematical, writing. And Lee
Sigelman, who took over a year ago as editor of the American Political Science
Review, has revamped the journal's review practices and editorial policy to be
more open to qualitative-interpretive and theoretical work, and the present editors
of Political Research Quarterly and the Journal of Politics have promised the
same. PS has also published symposia and articles authored by Perestroika affiliates
documenting curricular offerings and graduate education requirements across the
US, showing the paucity of qualitative methods offerings - students are usually
sent to other departments for these - and the privileging of 2-3 required courses
in advanced statistics.
Many affiliated with Perestroika - as a
network, rather than a formal organization, it does not take action as a single
entity, nor do those sounding opinions on the listserve in any way speak for the
movement - have also called for contested elections for officers and Council members.
APSA is the only major disciplinary association in the US that does not have contested
elections - an irony not lost on P members. Some (even within Perestroika) argue
that contested elections will lose APSA its hard-won gains in the appointment
of women and race-ethnic minorities to leadership positions; and, indeed, the
Association has seen a recent run of women Presidents, from Theda Skocpol (2002-03)
to Susanne Rudolph, an active Perestroikan (2003-04), to Margaret Levi (2004-05).
However, President Rudolph appointed a committee to study the question of elections,
and its research showed that these other associations have created various avenues
to ensure such representation. APSA bylaws enable any group of 10 members to nominate
someone for Council or an officer's position, thereby forcing a polling of the
membership. A Perestroika affiliate has for two years now organized such a nomination,
and this year one of the two P-nominees has just been elected to the Council.
Perestroikans continue, then, to press for a broadening to other than
quantitative methods in the study of politics, as reflected in changes in journal
editorial policies (with some success) and in graduate education and undergraduate
curricula (something addressed by the Committee on Graduate Education in its 2004
Report and likely to be the subject of discussion this year).
the movement will have any effect on hiring practices is yet to be seen. At the
very least, the discussion has led some departments to revisit what they teach
in their required methods courses. Changes in electoral policies will likely take
much longer to bring about, if ever. On balance, then, Perestroika appears to
have had and to be having an effect on several aspects of US political science
practice. This has not gone unnoticed: magazines and newspapers from The Economist
to The Chronicle of Higher
Education have featured Perestroika, often comparing it to the "post-autistic
economics" movement in England. And Yale University Press is publishing
an edited book that brings together the original P email and chapters reflecting
its various areas of concern (Kristen Monroe, ed., Perestroika! The Raucous Revolution
in Political Science; forthcoming 2005).
So, what, if anything, does
this have to do with the Public Administration Section and its members? P.A. scholarship
and scholars have long experienced the sort of marginalization that spawned P's
crie de coeur in the originating email, from both sides of our research identity:
political science and organizational/management studies. This is our shared, old
history, departmental (how many of us are in independent p.a. departments or struggling
either within a political science department or a business school?), institutional
(how many of us belong to two or more associations - ASPA, APSA, the Academy of
Management, APPAM, ARNOVA - and attend two or more conferences annually?), and
scholarly (I wonder how many of my political science and organizational studies
colleagues read p.a. journals, whereas many of us make the effort to read those
plus journals in the other areas). Parallel methodological arguments have been
made in public administration over the years - that its history of case studies
(think Kaufman, Blau, Crozier, etc.) and their methods have been lost to recent
generations of students and continue to be "drowned" by advanced statistics
and/or econometric course requirements, although some journals - notably Administration
& Society - have continued to publish field-based research of various
sorts. I am not in the best institutional location to get a clear sense of how
these matters play out today in US institutions - Cal State Hayward's department
is independent, gives only a Master's level education, and is heavily theoretical
- but my sense is that ASPA's Section on Public Administration Research, the Journal
of Public Administration Research and Theory, the Public Administration Theory
Network and its Administrative
Theory & Praxis, to name but a few, have brought more visibility to both
theory and qualitative-interpretive research than they had in the late 1970s-early
However, what I have learned from hanging out for four years
among Perestroikans and other political scientists at APSA and pursuing the research
of those engaged in interpretive methodologies is that there is a broad ignorance
of the wealth of scholarship known to those of us who wear p.a. hats. And vice
versa, I think: we are largely unaware of developments in IR and Comparative Politics
that parallel our work and interests in bureaucracy theories, bureaucratic forms
of organization, policy implementation, and the like. This is why P.A. Section
members should be more interested in Perestroika (and I have already started arguing
in that forum for the vice versa), aside from questions of associational governance.
I have discovered Comparative Politics scholars writing about Weber for whom the
vast research done in p.a. on his theories is not on their maps. IR has "discovered"
policy implementation (among ourselves, I would say "at last!"), but
they are theorizing in ignorance of the 30 years' worth of work in public policy
and administration published by members of this section and others.
Perestroika promises is a reorientation of the political science discipline in
the US toward the study of politics; and that reorientation, coupled with a refocusing
on qualitative-interpretive methods in the context of the philosophy of social
science, can create bridges across the artificial divides that have institutionalized
public administration within "American" in many curricular maps of the
discipline. In this revamped political studies, research on Egypt and research
on Chicago - whether focused on labor studies, on social movements, or on voluntary,
non-governmental organizational forms - speak to each other, and this synergy
promises to revitalize the discipline, its ideas, its students, and its analyses.
That is why Perestroika should matter to members of the P.A. Section
*Acknowledgement: My thanks to Peri Schwartz-Shea for comments
on the draft of this essay.