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Regular version of the site

HSE Scholars Take Part in Global Political Science Congress

In July, instructors and students from the HSE’s Faculty of Social Sciences took part in the 23rd World Congress of Political Science, which was held in Montreal by the International Political Science Association. Two collective projects by the HSE were presented on special panels.

One panel included a presentation of a research project carried out under the Basic Research Programme for 2013 called ‘Good Enough Governance’ in Conditions of Regime Transformation: Quality of Borrowed Institutions in Country’s with Catching-up Development’.

In discussing the report, scholars considered, among other things, the ‘king of the hill’ model proposed by Andrei Melville, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Its essence is that the ability to control society declines in the transition from authoritarian regimes to hybrid regimes. With the development of democracy, effectiveness of governance increases again (the so-called J-curve model). The ‘king of the hill’ is an alternative model developed on the basis of post-communist transformation data. According to this model, an authoritarian ruler, using political and economic rent, is actually not interested in creating effective institutions. For this ruler, the ‘bad’ institutions are preferred as ‘good.’ As a result, institutional development is hindered.

Other variants of social development were presented on the panel. One such variant is when an authoritarian ruler becomes interested in institutional development, while at the same time remaining in the system of authoritarianism. Panel participants brought up Sultan Qaboos in Oman and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore as examples. They also discussed the possibilities of patrimonialism associated with these examples.

The results of another project – research by the ‘Cognitive Analysis of Scientific Discourse of National and Global Political Science’ work and study group – were presented on the panel ‘Governance and Accountability: Comparative Cognitive Analysis of English and Russian Political Terms’. The ​​Russian scholars’ notion that cognitive research can be used to study both the subject of political science and its terminological apparatus was supported by Kenneth Janda, a towering figure of political science in America. German professor Sabine Kropp made ​​a number of recommendations on further use of techniques and developments by the HSE research and study group in teaching and research.

An agreement to expand international research and educational cooperation was also reached at the congress. In particular, it was decided to begin preparations to open International Political Science Association summer schools at the HSE Moscow. In 2010-2013, such schools took place in São Paulo (Brazil), Stellenbosch (South Africa), Singapore, and Ankara (Turkey). HSE political science students took part in these schools. In the near future, the faculty also plans to begin a postgraduate exchange programme with Italy’s Scuola Normale Superiore. A possible joint Master's programme with the Dresden University of Technology was also discussed.

Mikhail Ilyin, Professor in the Department of Comparative Politics, Faculty of Politics

Many speeches by Russian and foreign participants of the congress noted the growing kaleidoscopic diversity of methodological approaches and concrete research methods. Representatives of the HSE interpreted this phenomenon differently. Several colleagues are inclined to view methodological diversity as a sign of the ‘blossoming complexity’ of political science today. On the contrary, others believe that diversity is the result of fragmentation of the field and attempts to hastily create small, semi-ready ‘theories’ and ‘methodologies’ using narrow and concrete research problems. This dispute deserves a more serious and thorough discussion with our foreign colleagues.

A special discussion about the call to MOOCs (massive open online courses) in modern political science was very useful for participants of the congress and for the HSE. Options were discussed to use this educational tool, not only in English but also in other languages, to complete non-standard tasks, such as profiling the latest research developments. Participants discussed the prospects for the International Association of Political Science creating a special project to use MOOCs for commercial purposes, but on the basis of self-sufficiency.

In terms of content among the individual panels, there was a noteworthy discussion on integrating qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and case studies within the framework of research designs focused on mixed methodology.

Speeches on the still fashionable formal analysis and game theory sounded rather flat. One left with the impression that there is a need to develop new approaches in this area.

HSE news service

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