Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Diversity of What, Emmanuel?

. Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I see Emmanuel has posted about what he calls “White Political Economy”: “I'm sorry to say that mainstream IPE--like much social science, to be fair--suffers from the phenomenon of Lots of Monolingual White Guys at American and British Universities Talking to Each Other and Calling It "International." Emmanuel continues, “To be truly worthy of the term "international," I believe you must have certain things like a diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities, experiences, genders, outlooks and perspectives.”

I am of two minds here. I agree that contemporary political economy is dominated by guys at American universities (and maybe British too) talking to and writing for each other. I also agree (and indeed argue on record) that the mainstream conversation is conducted within excessively and dangerously narrow theoretical and empirical channels. And I agree that those who do not embrace this perspective—who don’t (as Emmanuel puts it), “suck up to” the big names—tend to be outsiders. Finally, I agree with Emmanuel’s implicit statement that a more diverse political economy would be a better political economy.

However, I don’t agree that the solution lies in a diversification of the ethno-linguistic and gender characteristics of the practitioners. Sure, I value the diversification of the profession along ethnic and gender lines. No, I disagree with Emmanuel because the solution he proposes is based on the very analytic structure he deplores--individualism. The recruitment of a more diverse population into graduate school will not solve the problem because systemic forces dominate individual attributes. As Emmanuel points out, one doesn’t succeed in academics by being different; one succeeds by being only a tiny bit different from everyone else. And so we recruit students into graduate school and proceed to make them think like the typical political economist. We call this socialization; and we are quite self conscious about it. And because the field as it is currently structured is dominated by a single point of view, we train students in a single point of view, the perspective that Emmanuel criticizes as "economistic mid-level theory".

If we want a more diverse IPE, as Emmanuel and I do, then we must offer a compelling alternative to this economistic mid-level theory. If we are not to train our students to think in terms of “economistic mid-level theory,” then how should we train them to think? If we are not to train our students to employ the generalized linear model, then what empirical techniques should we teach them to use? In short, the lack of diversity in contemporary IPE stems not from the failure to recruit an ethnically diverse and gender balanced population of graduate students. No, the absence of diversity stems from the failure of those who disagree with the contemporary mainstream to offer another path.


Emmanuel said...

Hear, hear--not many complaints from me actually:

I. What I speak of is "perspectival diversity" that goes far beyond broadening recruitment at graduate programmes at distinguished institutions alike UNC. It's seeking contributions from those whose backgrounds are not from the aforementioned American and British universities.

Have you seen the (your?) new ISA journal International Political Scoiology? Their aims try to address many of the criticisms I've made. For instance:

(1) The editorial offices are not at an Anglophone university;
(2) The editorial board ought to be truly "international" by having more scholars not based at Anglophone universities;
(3) The bulk of contributions are not from the aforementioned institutions.

OK, so they have to work on (2) and (3), but they are making many novel arrangements you don't find elsewhere alike encouraging non-English submissions. It looks like a good start to me, and IPS is already ISA's flagship publication already if you go by impact factor.

II. "Economistic mid-level theory" is not my term but Benjamin Cohen's :-) OEP is certainly an example of this, and it immediately stumbles if you want to study the world's second largest economy which certainly isn't "open" by Western standards.

Accordingly, why can't we have more Chinese scholars explain their perspectives in IPE and IR fora? Would Western editors commit "Type I error" despite the potential to make a contribution to our understanding of non-Western forms of IPE and IR? (Certainly they do exist?) I honestly think they wouldn't give Chinese scholars half a chance as they wouldn't go about their task by citing IO articles but Chinese language ones. You cannot build truly "international" IPE or IR theory if the starting point of what is considered as such by the Western academic hegemony is their own.

III. Perhaps as a reflection of all these things, IPE is not very well-known in the general public. I tend to believe that part of the problem is IPE calling itself "international" without really understanding what the term means.

Again, there is much work to do if increasing public awareness is a goal--especially beyond Anglophone confines.

Diversity of What, Emmanuel?




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