If you’re going to San Francisco this week, you’re sure to find some gentle people there. And lots and lots of political scientists.There’s a lot negative and ironic that could be said about the meeting of the American Political Science Association and, in fact, about all such academic conferences, where people read boring papers to an audience filled (well, usually almost empty) with people reading something else.
One reform that would really work is to require the presenters to speak without any written text, including, of course PowerPoint. Another would be not to let them know the topic of their presentations until they actually enter the meeting room.
Here’s something really positive: The APSA meeting is one the very most diverse academic conferences around, with all opinions and methods abundantly represented. There’s enough of critical mass in each niche that you can spend several days hanging out with people pretty much just like you, and pretty much ignore the other 7,000 or so conventioneers around with different backgrounds, training, and views. That’s even true if you’re a Voegelinian!
Here’s something more positive still: There’s going to be a panel on the life and work of James V. Schall. Father Schall, as most of you know, was a legendary professor of political philosophy at Georgetown. He’s now retired from teaching, which means he’s upped his schedule of publication from about two to five articles per week, as well as to at least one book a year.
The panelists include Hadley Arkes (our deepest and maybe funniest constitutional scholar), Marc Dante Guerra (America’s greatest theologian), me, and Father Schall himself. The panel will be at 730 a.m. on Friday in the Empire Room of the Union Square Hilton. Why that early? Well, there’s no good excuse, but they say they’re trying to keep the convention on God’s own time — EDT.
I’m going to share with you a rough and maybe somewhat incoherent excerpt from my projected remarks sometime tomorrow, if time permits.
I will also be on a very official and authentically diverse panel on politics and literature, where I will, to scandalize the mainstream, talk up Southern Stoicism today. That’s at 9:30 a.m. on Friday in a different hotel. I don’t know how that’s going to work.