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Economics professor Gary S. Becker from theUniversity of Chicago received the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economics from Sweden'sKing Carl XVI Gustaf in Stockholm. Political scientists might be suffering froma bit of Nobel envy. (EPA/Jan Collisoo)

来自芝加哥大学的经济学家Gary S. Becker教授于1992年的斯德哥尔摩从瑞典国王卡尔十六世·古斯塔夫手中接过诺贝尔经济学奖。政治科学家或许遭受着一些对诺贝尔的嫉妒。

Why political science can't— and shouldn't — be too much like economics


The strategy of political science mimickingeconomics is understandable. It's also flawed.


ByDaniel W. Drezner September 3
In Tuesday's post, I argued that it wasquite possible for political scientists to be both rigorous and relevant. But Iclosed by observing that economists generally don't worry about the whole rigorvs. relevance debate. Their scholarly papers are impermeable black masses tolay readers, and yet policymakers and politicians defer to their expertise on aregular basis. Political scientists — particularly international relationsscholars — look at that and think, "Why can't we get us some of that?"


Nor have economists shined during thepost-2008 era. Forecasters of all stripes have failed badly. The Federal Reserve has persistentlyoverestimated projected economic growth since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.Since the start of the Great Recession, the International Monetary Fund'seconomic forecasters have had to continually revise downward their short-termprojections for global economic growth. The failure rate has been so bad thatthe IMF has started to devote research to why so many revisions have beennecessary.


The second is sheer arrogance byeconomists. Having been in doctoral programs in both economics and politicalscience, I can confirm that the former are far more arrogant than latter.Economists have treated other branches of the social sciences withcondescension bordering on contempt. In a world in which economic literacy islow and innumeracy is high, this kind of confidence is in and of itself a formof intellectual power. The self-confidence of economists becomesself-reinforcing; since they are earning the most and given the most respect,it stands to reason that it is earned.


The final reason is that when economiststry to engage the public, they often act like evangelists — and the messagethey preach has a very receptive audience among the affluent and theauthorities. Economists share a strongconsensus about the virtues of free markets, free trade, capital mobility andentrepreneurialism. They are therefore able to preach a set of economic ideasthat are music to the ears of those plumping for the modern Ideas Industry.Conservatives suspicious of state intervention into the economy embrace thislaissez-faire message. Even liberals more suspicious of free markets will bewary of crossing the general consensus of economists on myriad issues.Plutocrats who believe in the power of economic dynamism and technologicalinnovation will embrace the ideas put forth by neoclassical economics.


Political science isn't received as warmlyby the public and the policy community because it doesn't offer nearly ascheery a message to influencers. As Ezra Klein noted last fall:
Politicalscientists traffic in structural explanations for American politics. They can'ttell you what an individual senator thinks, or what message the president'scampaign will try out next. But they can tell you, in general, how polarizedthe Senate is by party, and whether independent voters are just partisans indisguise, and how predictable elections generally are.

政治科学并没有受到公众以及政策团体同样热情的接受,因为它没有向其影响者们提供相似的正面信息。正如Ezra Klein在去年秋指出的那样:

International relations scholars are alsovery big on structural factors determining outcomes. Very little internationalrelations scholarship focuses on individual-level variables, such asleadership. Even less focuses on individual leaders. The major internationalrelations paradigms in recent decades have been structural in nature, arguingthat the international system imposes powerful constraints on state behavior.


Structural explanations of politics nevergo over well among policymakers because the essence of structuralist advice isthat little can be done. As Stephen Walt noted a decade ago, "policymakers areoften less interested in explaining a general tendency than in figuring out howto overcome it." International relationsscholarship focuses on aggregate data; both entrepreneurs and policymakers are notoriousfor overemphasizing the particular pieces of first-hand information theypossess. Indeed, the problem is moreexistential than that; most international relations scholarship does not thinkthat any particular policy principal is terribly important. This is a worldviewthat no policymaker wants to hear.

对政治问题的结构主义解释从来没有受到过决策者们的欢迎,因为结构主义建议的本质是:我们无能为力。就像Stephen Walt十年前说过的那样,"决策者们的兴趣常常不在于解释普遍趋势,而在于如何克服问题"。国际关系研究关注总体数据;而企业家与决策者们臭名昭著地喜欢过分强调他们所拥有的某一部份一手信息。事实上,问题比以上更加根本:大多数国际关系研究并不认为任何决策者会有多么地重要。这是一种没有任何决策者想听到的世界观。

Plutocrats like hearing it even less.Successful entrepreneurs believe that they got to their current station due toeffort, creativity and risk-taking. In other words, plutocrats very much believein their own agency. They have little patience for much poorer academics whowould suggest anything different. Also, plutocrats are interested in spendingtheir money to influence the marketplace of ideas. Political scientists mighttell them that the influence of their super PACS or their activist foundationswill be vastly overstated. When political science does this, however, it isessentially telling the One Percent that they do not matter.

So the problem is that political sciencehas tried to mimic the forms of economics but usually preaches a message thataudiences find to be far more hostile. And so those audiences tune it out.


Because political scientists are preachingdifficult messages, we have to maximize our ability to have these messagesreceived. And here is where political scientists might be making a mistake inacting like economists. The shift in academic political science to a morescientific cast has exacerbated the problem — not because more science iswrong, but because it affects how many political scientists think aboutengaging the rest of the public. As Lynn Vavreck recently said in an interview,"it is not any scientist's job to make the results of their scientific workaccessible to a layperson." There's sometruth to that — but it requires that the layperson thinks of the scientist asan actual scientist. And there's an abundance of evidence that this is not howthe public or policymakers think about political scientists. Furthermore, arecent spate of news stories suggests that this perception of the noneconomicsocial sciences will take a looooong time to correct.

因为政治科学家们在传播很难让人接受的信息,我们必须最大化使其令人接受的能力。这里很可能正是政治科学家们犯了模仿经济学家的错误之处。政治科学学科向科学阵营的转变加剧了问题:并非因为更多的科学是错误的,而是因为这种转变影响了许多政治科学家思考与其余大众接触的方式。正如Lynn Vavreck最近在一个采访中谈到的一样,"使其科学研究成果为普通人所理解完全不是任何科学家的工作。"该观点在一定程度上是正确的,但是它的前提是那些普通人认为这些科学家是真的科学家。然而有大量的证据表明,这不是公众或决策者对政治科学家的看法。更进一步地说,近期一系列新闻故事说明了这种对除经济学外的社会科学的看法需要非常非常非常(译:原文如此强调)长的时间去改正。

In the meantime, trying to talk aboutpolitics to a general audience using only the language of science hasconsequences. The use of scientific argot to discuss political phenomena makessense when political scientists talk to each other, but not to the widerpublic. When political scientists use the neutral language of science todiscuss genocide or police brutality, however, the public views them as talkingabout terrible things matter-of-factly. More generally, when public debatesabout policy hinge on methodological disputes, the public will tune it out. Aslong as policymakers and the public do not treat us like a science, we have toadapt to that fact and learn to communicate more as public intellectuals.


So here's my warning to APSA and itsmembers: If political science keeps going as it does, the discipline willpossess all of the insularity, inaccessibility and insufferability of economics— and none of the public cachet. We need to think differently about this.


Daniel W. Drezner is a professor ofinternational politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at TuftsUniversity and a regular contributor to Post Everything.

Daniel W. Drezner是塔夫茨大学弗莱彻法律与外交学院的国际政治学教授,以及"Post everything"的定期撰稿人。