Justice! War! Tyranny!
That's the kind of shoptalk they were batting around in the Jefferson Room of the Washington Hilton as the American Political Science Association got underway Thursday morning. The convention's first panel was on the political philosophy of Plato. First things first.
Three thousand political scientists, the eminent and established, as well as the fledgling and the frustrated, under one roof for four days of theory juggling. They came to see and be seen, to make contacts and to look for jobs. And to listen to many scholarly papers, many.
Some, who teach in faraway places, like kansas, came seeking intellectual stimulation and the reassurance that the body politic is as unhealthly as ever. s
They weren't disappointed.
Old professional joke: What's the difference between two political scientists?
Answer: Just about everything.
In the Lincoln Room yesteday, Barry Bosworth, an economist once with the Carter administration and now at Brookings, is arguing with a panel of political scientists and economists. The subject is "Congress and the Politics of Inflation." The political scientists are blaming inflation on the economists. The economists aren't buying it.
The problem, says Bosworth, is the "shrinking pie," and falling productivity. "Try taking from Peter to give to Paul when Peter's real income is no longer rising. What you have is a prescription for social, possibly violent, conflict."
A few on the panel chime their POLITICS, From B1> affirmations. Gar Alperovitz, from the National Center for Economic Alternatives, disagrees. "It is not clear that the vast majority have to suffer great deprivation in the '80s, and it is a sign of the bankruptcy of both of our professions that predictions of violent conflict are the best we can do."
A long pause. No one argues.
"We must infiltrate the power structure!" the woman is saying."We must formulate strategy! We are political scientists.They are political scientists. We have to fight them politically . . . Some of you may be tempted to drop out, to leave the struggle. We cannot afford to do that."
This is the Women's Caucus for Political Science. Those in attendance, feminists and political scientists, fill the Grant Room of the Washington Hilton. The Grant Room, however, is very small. From its plain window, the Hilton pool is visible. Bathers lounge on chaises in the sun, and from time to time a portly old gentleman in navy shorts jogs by.
This room is one of several reserved for groups and caucuses unaffiliated with APSA. It is nowhere near the size and baroque splendor of the meeting rooms downstairs, where the business of the convention is being conducted.
Some of these women will be reading papers of their own down there as the weekend progresses. But for now, their concern is the status of women within the profession.
"There is no reason, if we organize, why we couldn't take over this association," exhorts a women at the podium.
"Yes," says a wise soul, "and then they'll form a new one."
It is day two of the convention, only 8:30. A man and a child sit in the coffee shop. The child is dawdling over half-eaten French toast. To look at his father's face, it seems that he has been dawdling since daybreak.
The two get up and begin walking. They are going to the day-care center, something that APSA has provided its members for four years. The father holds the child with one hand and a blue-and-white-striped sack with the other. They enter. The toys are spilled from the sack. The father circles the room, wider and wider, saying reassuringing things to his son, and inching toward the door. "I'll be back for you soon," he says, exiting. It is a full two minutes before the child bursts into tears.
Across the room, two children sit mesmerized in front of the television, and don't look up. They are watching "Leave It to Beaver." The Beave is in the kitchen, eating pancakes with his mother and father.
"Did you hear my paper this morning?" one professor asks another in the hallway near the snack bar during a coffee break. "I saw you leave early . . . "
"Oh no, no, uh, no. I had, ah, a meeting with someone from the Colorado Springs Seminar, and . . . uh, you know."
"Yeah, well I saw you looking a little glassy-eyed and I wondered . . ."
"No, no, not like that at all."
Downstairs, on the concourse, there is a large room. Like many others in the hotel, it is filled with political scientists. But this room is different Conventioneers, looking hot and uncomfortable, are filling out cards for job interviews. Almost no one is talking.
These are the souls whose unfortunate lot it is to be PH.D.s at a time when teaching jobs in political science are few, a tenured slot is but a dream and universities, particularly state institutions, are cutting back on everything except tuition.
"You bring your c.v. [curriculum vitae] and your articles, if you've got any. You fill out your white card, leave it in the appropriate hole, and if they're interested in you, they leave a message," says Jospeh Martin, a Ph.D. candidate. "That way they don't have to pay your way out to the university. Saves them a lot of money.
"But I'll tell you, I'm not taking anything for less than $17,000. Well, I might take 16. Or maybe 15, but only if I get research assistance . . . If I don't get it, I'll go to law school."
Two convention veterans outside the Military Room:
"What's the next paper?"
"Something called, 'Has Post Materialism Reached a Watershed? The Values of Japanese College Students in 1972 and 1976.'"
"Let's go get some coffee."
There are ideological splits in every organization, and APSA is no different. Back in the '60s, when the world of poli sci was aquake, the Caucus for a New Political Science was formed. Its members were scholars and students, Marxists and socialists, whose aim was to change the way political science was being taught, to politicize the universities, to make APSA a forum for political action.
Of course, the APSA constitution prohibits the consideration of political matters. It is, after all, a professional organization. The caucus, nonetheless, in its brief history, has drafted many resolutions, including one calling for an end to the war in Vietnam.
The caucus's members are fewer these days, and this year they conducted their business a few blocks away, at the Institute for Policy Studies. They decided against participating at the hotel for several reasons. Not the least of which, said Vincent Brevetti, is that "it's very hard to present our socialist material in the Military Room of the Hilton Hotel."