Seattle for APSA

By Steve Clemons
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I'm off to Seattle today to take part in the annual conference of the American Political Science Association. 

The highlight every year is a private dinner that G. John Ikenberry of Princeton organizes with some of the leading lights in international relations theory -- including Charles Kupchan of Georgetown, Michael Cox of the London School of Economics (though he is AWOL this year), Peter Trubowitz at the University of Texas/Austin, William Wohlforth of Darthmouth, and Daniel Deudney of Johns Hopkins University.  Others jump in as well.

This year, we'll no doubt be picking apart Ikenberry's latest contribution to the field, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order, one of the must read new books for anyone who wants to knowledgeably debate the current and future state of American-crafted global institutions.  I happen to think that Ikenberry has too much confidence in the resilience of America's place in the future global order -- but he's an extremely interesting and serious thinker on these issues, well worth the time reading and debating.

That said, APSA -- as usual -- seems to be easily distracted by the trivial.  The roster of big meetings doesn't look hopeful.  On the roster for 2011 plenaries are "The Fate of the Affordable Care Act and the Right to Health Insurance Coverage"; "Democracy, Economic Security and Social Justice in a Volatile World"; and "Women's Rights Around the Globe."

Ugh.  [While these topics are important -- and of course I support women's rights, expanded health care coverage, and international economic development, APSA meetings in my experience tend to draw together some of the world's best minds and produce very little of consequence at these sessions.  There are some exceptions -- but few.]

If you are in Seattle and have any zinger ideas you want to share, drop me a line.


UPDATE:  I have amended my post above with the comment in brackets as it captures what I meant to say but somehow didn't as I rushed to catch the plane to Seattle.  Thanks for all the comments, even the snarky ones.  I stand by my basic point that APSA could be so much more than it is in sorting through these important topics if it tried a bit more.  Robert Jervis of Columbia University was an outstanding President of APSA and while there his forums tended to have more of a constructive edge and yielded what I thought were profound insights, even about some of these broad global justice topics.  That hasn't happened in my experience since.  All best, Steve Clemons

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2011/09/seattle-for-apsa/244417/