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date: 17 February 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

Every book has a history. This one’s begins with the XVIth World Congress of the International Political Science Association in Berlin, way back in 1994. I was scheduled to be its Program Chair; that was going to be a lot of work; I decided I’d be damned if the program booklet itself was all I’d have to show for my efforts. So Hans-Dieter Klingemann and I carved out a stream of “State of the Discipline” panels designed (with a few nips and tucks here and there) to feed into A New Handbook of Political Science, eventually published by Oxford University Press in 1996. That book did well for OUP. Indecently well, apparently. OUP editors ever since have been under orders to commission several such handbooks each year—doubtless cursing us as they do, for launching the handbook industry.

Publication of the New Handbook was overseen by Tim Barton, then OUP Politics Editor, and his then assistant, Dominic Byatt, whom I first met at the party for IPSA “State of the Discipline” panelists thrown by Hans-Dieter in the courtyard of James Stirling’s wonderful Wissenschaftszentrum-Berlin. Passing through Oxford five years after the New Handbook’s publication, I joined Tim (by then Academic Director of OUP) and Dominic (risen to Politics Editor) for a drink in the Eagle and Child to celebrate its success. Tim was full of praise for the New Handbook, recounting how it had spawned a whole clutch of Oxford Handbooks across all academic disciplines. “Perhaps I ought get half a percent royalties on each of them, then,” I replied. “I have an idea about that!” Tim shot back. And over the next pint or two, the scheme for the multi-volume series of “Oxford Handbooks of Political Science” was hatched.

There are of course all too many of handbooks of this and that, these days. (Apologies for whatever part our initial New Handbook might have played in that.) The ten-volume series of “Oxford Handbooks of Political Science” was supposed to be something different. It was not to be just another clutch of handbooks on random topics. Instead, the animating idea was to map political science systematically, sub-discipline by sub-discipline. The aim was nothing less than mapping of the genome of the discipline.

This was clearly going to be a massive undertaking: ten volumes, fifty chapters each. And while it would overload the production team to try to publish them all at the same time, OUP were rightly anxious that all ten volumes should be published within a very few years of one another (in the end, we managed to get all ten out in just three years). Clearly, I needed help. So I inveigled two dozen of the best political scientists in the world to edit the component volumes. My greatest debt is to them, whose names appear opposite the title page, for their gargantuan efforts in pulling this all off: conceptualizing their volume, talking demigods of the profession into writing for (p. vi) them (and chivvying them to deliver), working with authors to make strong chapters even stronger, and doing it all within a very tight timeframe. I co-edited the first two of the ten volumes myself and know just how much work was involved. So I thank them again, publicly and profusely, for their grace, their commitment, and above all for the excellent products of all their labors.

The present volume has been constructed by “mining” their ten volumes. When Tim, Dominic, and I conceived this plan over drinks seven years ago, it sounded like this step would be the easy one: a good way to produce, in effect, a replacement for the ageing (but still useful) New Handbook. That turned out to be an illusion. Editors of each of the ten sub-disciplinary handbooks had fifty chapters to play with; in the one-volume consolidation text, I had to represent all those fifty chapters with merely five per sub-discipline. Editors of the sub-disciplinary handbooks could orchestrate synergies among their chapters that I could not with so few chapters per sub-discipline. In the sub-disciplinary handbooks, many of the most outstanding chapters are detailed discussions of special topics, wonderful but ill-suited for the more general overview purposes of this consolidation text. So I apologize, firstly, to the many authors of truly excellent chapters that, for one reason or another, did not find their way into this volume. The tables of contents of all ten sub-disciplinary handbooks are printed at the back of the present book: I strongly encourage readers to check there to see what they are missing.

I apologize, secondly, to the editors of the ten other handbooks for giving them no hand in making the editorial selection for this volume. I suspect many of them might be relieved not to have had to make invidious comparisons among all the excellent chapters in their own volumes. But the real reason I did not ask them was that all they could tell me was what they thought the “best” chapters in their own handbooks were. This consolidation text is supposed to be more than the sum of its parts, however. While I hope to have chosen chapters that my fellow editors would agree are among the best in their own handbooks, even more than that I hope to have put together a set of chapters that makes organic sense as a collection in its own right, from the point of view of a general political science readership with only a passing acquaintance with many of the sub-disciplines represented. In doing that I have occasionally chosen chapters from handbooks other than that of the sub-discipline concerned: but let there be no implication that there were not plenty of great chapters in that sub-disciplinary handbook to choose from; it was just that some chapter from another of the handbooks better fitted the particular hole I needed to fill in this book.

In my opening chapter—which also is very much a personal statement from which many of my fellow handbook editors might well dissent in many places—I report the results of a rudimentary citation analysis operating on the ten-volume series as a whole, paralleling the one Hans-Dieter and I performed on the contents of the New Handbook. Take that with as many grains of salt as you deem appropriate: Bibliometrics are always wonky at the margins. Just know, however, that no one was told ahead of time that I was going to analyze other handbooks’ indices in this way. Even if from the New Handbook precedent someone guessed that I might, there were (p. vii) so many different people writing chapters for the ten volumes overall that no one could, by strategic citation choices, do much to alter the overall outcome.

There are two overarching debts that remain for me to record. One is to my home institution: the Research School of Social Sciences at Australian National University. It is a truly remarkable hotbed of intellectual activity, across the whole range of social sciences. Looking at the map it may not seem so, but Canberra truly is the crossroads of the academic universe. Anyone who’s anyone eventually visits, and when they come this far they come for a goodly period of time, so it is a genuinely useful interaction. I am proud to have had the chance to get to know so many talented people so well, thanks to the RSSS; and the fruits of all that networking have fed powerfully into the “Oxford Handbooks of Political Science” series and, through that, into this book. In addition to being a magnet for academic talent, I am also especially grateful to RSSS for relieving me from the need to teach students twenty-at-a-time, thus affording me the space to put together volumes like this that teach thousands-at-a-time.

My second overarching debt is to Oxford University Press and many fine people there. This volume is the culmination of a project of conceptualizing, commissioning, and cajoling that has been going on for some seven years; many people at Oxford University Press have helped at various points in the process, for which I’m grateful. But there are three people who have been there throughout, and who deserve far greater tribute than any I can possibly pay them here. Tim Barton as Academic Director for almost the entire period and Des King as the ever-present Politics Delegate were super-supportive from start to finish, always ready to wade in from on high when needed, always smoothing the way. But on a day-to-day (often many-times-a-day) basis it has been Dominic Byatt who has kept this show on the road. I have known many good editors, but I’ve never known a better one than Dominic: sensible, efficient, firm, unflappable, smart, judicious, funny. He has gone way beyond the call of duty to rescue us from more looming disasters, large and small, than either of us would care to count. He has been the source of as much good substantive advice as virtually any of my academic colleagues. Working with him has been a treat. So thanks, thanks, and thanks again, Dominic, for everything.

When proposing this consolidation volume as the de facto replacement for the New Handbook of Political Science, I jokingly suggested we entitle it A Newer Handbook of Political Science, so as to preserve my option of doing one more—to be entitled, of course, The Newest Handbook of Political Science. Now, at the end of this eleven-volume slog, I’m not sure … but give it five or ten years and another drink or two with the good people from OUP at the Eagle and Child, and who knows?

What I can say with some confidence is that the ten-volume mapping of the genome of the discipline truly feels to me like a once-in-a-generation undertaking, unlikely to be replicated anytime soon. I thank Oxford University Press for entrusting it to my General Editorship, and I thank my fellow editors and all the contributors to those volumes for pulling it off so magnificently.


September 2008 (p. viii)