So, I teach at a policy school, and though our core pedagogical enterprise is the MA program, we have a small PhD program that is a mix of political science, economics, and maybe a dash of public administration. Though I have not worked closely with that many PhD students, the ones I have worked have been superb. Still, the job market being as it is, it is always tough for graduates of our program, like any other, to land an academic job. The thing I wonder is: Is it harder for PhD graduates of policy schools to get a job compared to those who graduate from disciplinary programs?
Our students have the advantage of being able and indeed interested in jobs in the policy arena. Some have gone on to quite distinguished jobs at think tanks like the Brookings Institution. We also have a fair number of foreign students who go back home to teach at higher education institutions of their home countries. My worry is that those students seeking an academic job are neither fish nor fowl: they aren't political scientists, economist, historians, etc. For would-be employers looking at their varied mix of courses, it might be harder for them to understand what our students are and thus putting them at a disadvantage vis a vis more traditionally trained disciplinary programs.It's not as if public policy is its own academic discipline, really. (Or, is it? I tend to think not, but how do we know when a new discipline has made it and has enough pedigree and coherent intellectual content to be recognized by others as a distinct area of study?)
My colleague and friend James Ron has a new article up at Open Democracy (with Shannon Golden and David Crow) on asymmetric access of global populations to human rights machinery. The article is one in a new Open Democracy series "Open Global Rights," which aims to " relocate the [human rights] conversation away from the west and to the Global South."
Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident who found refuge last year in the United States with a fellowship at NYU is now claiming that he is being pushed out of NYU because his human rights advocacy and criticisms of the Chinese government is upsetting NYU's relationship with China. From the NYTimes:
In a statement released Sunday, Mr. Chen said university officials were worried that his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government might threaten academic cooperation. N.Y.U. recently opened a campus in Shanghai, and a number of professors are involved in programs and research projects here that could be harmed if they were denied Chinese visas.
“The work of the Chinese Communists within academic circles in the United States is far greater than what people imagine, and some scholars have no option but to hold themselves back,” Mr. Chen said. “Academic independence and academic freedom in the United States are being greatly threatened by a totalitarian regime."
According to the story, NYU "strenuously denies" the accusations. But, it does seem clear to me that neither this story, nor stories like it, are likely to go away anytime soon.
I keep seeing this article pop around websites this morning: "Rule No. 1 for Female Academics: Don’t Have a Baby."
In our newish MA program in Global Policy Studies, it turns out "International Development" is the most popular concentration. Now, many of our students who are interested in this "specialization" have what I call a distinct project-based approach to development. They think of international development as projects foreigners go out and do. Since most of our students are from the United States, they envision themselves doing development the same way I did as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador where I served from 1997-1999 (the photo above is of a quinoa export project I worked on with some great people; it's a little dark but I'm the guy in the front left with the ball cap). This vision of development is you the foreigner go out to some rural area and you help the locals.
It's been much derided in contemporary international development circles, most notably in Bill Easterly's work White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. Easterly's work is a specific indictment of foreign aid rather than micro project-based development, but the two are related. Easterly clearly is of the macro school of getting the foundations of the economy and governance right, but there has been a whole revolution in economics over the past half-decade with a fascination for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that has made micro-level project-based international development even sexier to our incoming students, some of whom have gone on to work for these outfits like J-PAL (Poverty Action Lab) and Innovations for Poverty Action. I find all this micro stuff fascinating and hopeful, but I worry about what I call the "islands of goodness problem." Let me explain.
I'll admit that this is a rather anodyne title, but the alternatives involved language not suited for above-the-fold content.
The tenure process involves power asymmetries that make life very unpleasant for assistant professors. They have to worry about alienating their colleagues and their administration. They interact daily with people -- who are too often petty, fickle, or, at least, mysterious -- who hold tremendous power over their careers. Then there's the whole publish-or-perish thing. Now, many of these indignities don't even rise to the level of first-world problems. Compared to the lot of the vast majority of the human race, untenured professors deserve a violin too small to be detected absent an electron microscope.
But there is one very minor compensation. If you are denied tenure, and unhappy about it, you can mount a campaign and say pretty much whatever you want. But because the contents of your file and the specifics of the deliberations are confidential, your tenured colleagues and your administration are hamstrung in their ability to respond.
Good higher-education reporters know this. They also know that failed tenure cases sometimes leave behind bitterness, frustration, and recriminations. So they adjust their coverage accordingly. Judged by this standard, Colleen Flaherty doesn't pass muster. Her June 14th story on Samer Shehata's ongoing war against Georgetown for denying him tenure is, to put it mildly, problematic.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) finds themselves in yet another sex scandal this week. The force has barely recovered from last year's 'skype scandal,' which involved members of a defense force academy videotaping sex without permission and streaming it to other members of the academy. This time it is alleged that officers have videotaped sex with other colleagues and civilian women and distributed the videos via the defence email system. It is a disappointing revelation considering the promises to rid the force of sexism following the scandal last year. If the allegations prove true, it seems that things are getting worse, not better, for women in the ADF. Yet there is a glimmer of hope. The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General David Morison has come out with a public video statement that shows true courage and has already been hailed as a feminist manifesto.
I thought Charli's return meant I was off this beat, but what the hey.
What if Shakespeare wrote Star Wars? Check it out here.
Why, yes that is the Indian Foreign Minister, Salman Khurshid, and Norway's Foreign Affairs Minister and Political Scientist, Espen Barthe Eide, in Svalbard.
Are they trying to tell Duck fans something? [Discuss]
For those of you who don't monitor the front page of the APSA website on a daily basis, you may have missed the online petition for the recognition of a new African Politics section of APSA. I urge all of you -- including those who don't work in Africa -- to take a look at the petition and consider signing.
At first glance, this may seem a strange throw-back: area studies has been passé in political science for some time, and it has become typical for Africa-focused job candidates to stress that they are "general comparativists who just happen to work in Africa" (ditto on book marketing). * But there are two good reasons you all should consider signing this petition.
Note: this post was co-written with PTJ. Apologies for the comparative lack of structure and the fact that it is a bit repetitive. Note also that it contains a link to a temporarily un-gated copy of Jackson and Nexon (1999). Thanks, SAGE!
In yesterday morning's post, Phil writes:
One manifestation of this misunderstanding is that “rational choice” or “choice-theoretic” work is often said to favor the agency side of the structure-versus-agency debate. See, for example, this recent post by Dan Nexon, or the paper it’s based on. I don’t mean to single my Duck colleagues out, though — the notion that rational choice theorists aren’t particularly interested in structure is quite common.
But I never wrote that "rational choice [sic] theorists aren't particularly interested in structure." Rather, we wrote that "choice-theoretic approaches tend to treat actors as autonomous from their environments at the moment of interaction, not so experience-near and social-relational alternatives [emphasis added]." This is a very different claim.
General David Petraeus advises Americans and their allies to be coldly realistic about what force can achieve. Oddly, he also advises them to prepare for a future where small wars are pretty much inevitable, where America must intervene early to prevent worse things happening later on, and where ‘stabilisation’ is a core part of war itself. Because, ultimately we sometimes have no choice.
Looking back on the ‘lessons’ that have been ‘written in blood’ in America’s wars since 9/11, Petraeus thinks he can see the greatest lesson, but repeats a common fallacy:
Our enemies will typically attack us asymmetrically, avoiding the conventional strengths that we bring to bear. Clearly, the continuation of so-called “small wars” cannot be discounted. And we should never forget that we don’t always get to choose the wars we fight.
To the contrary, countries like the United States almost always do get to choose. Not only the wars they fight, but how they fight them. That’s the thing about being an offshore superpower with a nuclear arsenal, friendly neighbours, overwhelming naval and air power shields and a strong army and marine corps to boot. If ever a state existed that usually, emphatically, does not have to accept war being imposed by others, it is this one. ‘Vital’ interests should mean just that – interests that are necessary for life.
The commentary on Edward Snowden over the past several days and the various discussions on dissent, resignations, and whistleblowing have given me a lot to think about. I'll leave discussion of the merits of Snowden's actions to Dan's thread below. Here I want to think about the process and pitfalls of whistleblowing and dissent. Twenty years ago this summer I had my own moment in the spotlight for resigning from my position at the State Department in protest over American policy in Bosnia. My situation and experiences were quite different -- I was a policy dissenter not really a whistleblower. My resignation -- along with those of a few colleagues -- generated widespread attention, but none of us disclosed government crimes per se and I was never under threat of legal action. Nonetheless, there are a few general observations on dissent and whistleblowing that may be worth some discussion: dissent and whistleblowing are inevitable, they are unpredictable, and they are also relatively rare (for a much wider range of reasons than some have suggested). I also am very uncomfortable labeling dissenters or whistleblowers as heroes, but, for reasons that are different from some of the other commentary out there.
As you've probably noticed, I'm working through two competing concerns: (1) the legal and ethical obligations that come with holding a security clearance and (2) the ethical and moral obligation to bring deeply problematic government action to light. In comments elsewhere, I've put forth two examples of what I think are relatively straightforward kinds of cases:
- Publicizing war crimes that the state is covering up; and
- Indiscriminately dumping government diplomatic cables.
The first provides a justification for disclosing classified information, the second is completely without justification. Without in any way denying that the US government's treatment of Bradley Manning has been horrific and outrageous, I think it is clear that Manning crossed the line when he downloaded every government cable he could get his hands on and turned them over to Julian Assange.
I probably shouldn't have used Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker piece as an excuse to initiate discussion, because, well, it was a piece by Jeffrey Toobin. But, thankfully, Josh Marshall and Josh Barron have both written thoughtful pieces on these issues.