01.11.2011: International Political Science Association Announces Recent Publication of “Political Science in Central and Eastern Europe”

The book comprises 19 detailed chapters, comparable in structure, following the itinerary of political science in Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. Each country report includes statistics on the political science faculties in the respective country, the number of enrolled students, as well as the concentration areas they offer. In terms of analyzed themes, it covers the institutionalization of the subject (it identifies exogenous influences, as well as support and interventions from Western countries, but also analyzes the Communist heritage); the accomplishments, deficiencies, dominant approaches and funding methods for the subject; curricula and organization systems for studies in the field; the presence or absence of international cooperation (co-authored journal publications and books, collaborations between associations in the field, etc.); the discipline’s public impact.

The introductory essay by editors Rainer Eisfeld and Leslie A. Pal accounts both for the convergence, as well as for the divergence factors in each of the countries analyzed by the study. The main conclusion they reach is that, despite the external factors which pushed the development of political science toward convergence in Eastern and Central European countries, Post-Iron Curtain collapse, (e.g.: European Union education policies, training and funding programs ran by West European and North American foundations, particularly by the Foundations for an Open Society), institutionalizing the discipline reached an impasse in countries in which ‘hybrid’, semi-autocratic political systems immediately followed Communism. Most of the countries analyzed saw Communist political elites compete for privileges and power even after Communist regimes were abolished, leaving behind so-called ‘continuity institutions’, namely political science schools modeled after a nationalist, even Marxist ethos. Some countries, such as the Czech Republic and Lithuania, prevented this phenomenon by laying down clever ground rules: the work contracts of political science professors were conditioned by the number of works they would publish, which, in turn, led to the elimination from academia of characters schooled in the spirit of ‘scientific Communism’ .One convergence point in matters of subject content noted by editors is the lack of empiric research throughout the region, counterbalanced by the exclusive presence of functionalist and institution-oriented approaches to solving topical political issues. To boot, many of the analyzed countries saw the academic subject of political science, after its debut in the post-Communist era, take a long-standing and exclusive interest in explaining how newly-founded political systems worked. The editors also warn against the risk posed by the perpetuation of hybrid political regimes, which my come to inhibit the development of independent, institutionalized and convergent political science in Central and Eastern Europe.

In the chapter on Romania, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi highlights a series of particularities that set the country apart from others, where the institutionalization of this discipline has reached more advanced stages, such as the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland. The author offers a historic tour of the way in which politology was taught at the Communist Party Academy, as well as of the precious few dissident academic voices of the era  (Pavel Campeanu, Mihai Botez, Silviu Brucan), while also offering historic explanations to the persistence of Communist elites within specialized academic structures founded after 1990. Owing to these unfortunate premises, Mungiu-Pippidi explains, the Romanian political scientist community is small and there is a major divide between Romania-based researchers (most of them active within the National School for Political and Administrative Sciences – SNSPA, the Bucharest University – UB, the Babes Bolyai University – the UBB in Cluj) and those who took specialized courses abroad and also decided to teach there, mainly in North America. The subject is segmented between political theorists (e.g.: Catalin Avramescu, Toader Paleologu, Cristian Preda, Andrei Taranu, Dan Pavel, etc.), Communism historians (Vladimir Tismaneanu, Stelian Tanase) and very few empiric researchers, with the UBB’s Gabriel Badescu the only name mentioned. In what follows, the country report discusses the quality of teaching this subject in specialized faculties, with a highlight on the less fortunate aspects, such as the large number of students in comparison to the capacity of the faculties and the lack of sub-topics such as statistics, methodology and political economy. The generally poor quality of programs is also decried, save for the notable exception of Romanian lecturers who specialized abroad, in Western educational systems, and return to their Romanian teaching positions for limited periods of time, in spite of the absence of a transparent and competitive staff recruitment framework. Other deficiencies discussed are the enormous discrepancy between the wages of first time teaching staff and senior staff, the severely low number of local articles or journals indexed by the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), the generalized corruption of academia and the fact that professor plagiarism is tolerated. All in all, the article concludes that, in spite of the fact that a certain number of individual researchers do exist, the presence of factions and the absence of professionalism, Romania still has no academic community formed around the concept of ‘political science’.

Access further details on the book here.

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