History - Building the Association

Executive Committee meeting no. 38 - Rio de Janeiro (1978)

The purely organizational development of the IPSA proceeded along two tracks. The internal track involved drawing up a blueprint for the organization and setting up structures that would allow it to operate in a well-regulated, effective fashion. The external track entailed obtaining recognition from other organizations in order to ensure the Association’s legitimacy.

2.1. Setting up the structures

I consider that, currently, the most important
task of the secretariat is to facilitate the formation
of national associations. The IPSA will only truly
become a robust, living reality insofar as it is
truly a federation of vigorous national
Jean Meynaud
Executive Secretary of the IPSA,
16 March 1950.

The first articles of the constitution passed by the 1949 conference set out the responsibilities of the IPSA’s basic organs, the Council and the Executive Committee. They are the classic structures most such associations adopt: the Council is the general assembly of the IPSA, and the Executive Committee is the board of directors, elected by the Council for a term of three years. Under the constitution, the Executive Committee appoints the Treasurer and Executive Secretary, while the Council names the President. Sixty years of practice have brought about changes in these arrangements. Election of the President has thus regularly taken the form of the validation of a proposal by the Executive Committee, and, over the past few years, the name put forward has often been that of the outgoing first vice president. Incidentally, the office of vice president is the only real institutional curiosity of the IPSA, notably because of the vagueness that surrounds it. The number of vice presidents has varied, the procedures for appointing them have changed, and the responsibilities of the office are poorly defined. It has thus been the subject of discussions and constitutional amendments. It has even, at times, led to controversy and tension. For example, James Pollock, President of the IPSA from 1955 to 1958, argued that vice presidents had no greater prerogatives than any other Executive Committee member.

Debate about the office of vice president has been particularly problematic and recurrent, but arguments have also arisen over the remit, election procedures, and composition of other IPSA organs. The issue of the structure of Association membership has always lain, more or less explicitly, at the root of these disputes. Although consensus was reached in 1949 on the admission of three categories of members—collective, individual and associate— the methods of admission and the respective weight of the groupings in the decision-making processes of the IPSA were by no means selfevident. The associate members, comprising all those groups “pursuing objectives compatible with those of the Association in related fields of activity,” did not really pose much of a problem. Since they were not represented on the Council and therefore not involved in any power issues, questions respecting them were easily settled. Matters regarding the collective and individual members, though, were more complex.

It was clear from the beginning that the purpose of the IPSA was to constitute a federation of national associations and that the collective members were consequently to have predominant power. However, this position of principle was at odds with the actual state of political science in 1949. There were only four national associations among the founding members, making it inevitable that individual members would be admitted and that they would furthermore be given some weight in decision making.

The first question was how much weight to give them. How many Council seats ought to be allotted to individual members, particularly as compared to the number allocated to the collective members? The participants of the 1949 conference responded with two compromises: First, they authorized significant representation of the individual members on the Council, on condition that it not be greater than the representation accorded the collective members.12 Secondly, they deferred formation of the Association Council until a later date when the membership would be deemed sufficient.

The participants in the 1949 Conference had not only to resolve the issue of decision-making power but also to define the criteria for membership. Given the permeability of the discipline, which we discussed earlier, how was one to determine which individual or collective candidates were actually in the field of political science? Furthermore, each category of members presented special problems: What if two associations from the same country applied for membership? What if an individual who had been rejected by a national association wanted to join the IPSA? Here too the participants evidenced flexibility and compromise. Some of them were leery of trying to define the characteristics of a bona fide political scientist. Such an undertaking would inevitably have led them to venture out onto the uncertain ground of defining political science, and, as we have seen, they had hitherto been extremely cautious in this regard. Others betrayed a fear that the lack of any criteria would lead to the politicization of the Association. For example, Quincy Wright, who would serve as the first president of the IPSA, maintained that “it was important at any cost not to exclude a bona fide candidate on the ground that he belonged to some ideological group.” When the discussion ended, the authority to examine candidacies was delegated, albeit with little conviction, to the Executive Committee. The only proviso was that the Committee do everything in its power not to admit more than one collective member per country in order to avoid overrepresentation of any region on the Council. Articles 7 and 8 of the constitution thus encouraged the grouping together of associations from a single country but did not make it mandatory:

Collective Members shall consist of national (and regional) associations recognized by the Executive Committee as being representative of political science in their respective countries (or regions).

There shall normally be only one collective Member from a country, but if, in any country, two or more eligible groups are candidates for collective membership, the Executive Committee, at its discretion,… may seek the establishment of a joint committee to which the collective membership may be granted, or it may admit one or more of the groups as collective Members.

These initial precautions made later adjustments necessary, and the arrangements regarding the admission and representation of members were the subject of a number of discussions and even amendments. Debates on the boundaries of political science, the vagueness of the notion of the bona fide political scientist, and the IPSA’s relationship with real world politics would recur. For example, the Executive Committee had to deal on occasion with thorny candidacy issues, such as those, most notably, of the German and Soviet associations, to which we shall return below. The question of the composition of the Council also arose on a regular basis. The first time was in 1952 when the Council was finally constituted, and it was decided that the collective members be represented by from one to three political scientists per country; only the British, French, and American associations were allotted the maximum number of representatives. Later, in the 1970s, the increasing weight of the Research Committees in setting the scientific agenda for the IPSA was to justify their representation on the Council. The issue of the appropriate number of Executive Committee members was also the subject of recurrent debate, and a compromise had to be made between the goal of geographic representation and the realities of the cost of Committee meetings. On the one hand:

The interest of Political Science [lies] in its [intensive] regional expansion where the Executive Committee has an active role.. It is natural then for the Council to watch and see members of socialists [sic] countries, Africa, Latin America, Asia sitting next to members from Occidental countries.13

On the other hand, the cost of meetings would rise as the membership spread geographically.

Apart for such piecemeal adjustments, the IPSA’s decision-making structure has been remarkably stable over the sixty years of its existence. In contrast to the barely noticeable changes in political structure, though, there have been much more marked changes in the administration of the Association. From François Goguel (1949-1950) to Guy Lachapelle (2000 to present), the IPSA has evolved from a system of one-man management to a team-based organization with incomparably greater operational and financial resources at its disposal. This major shift merits further examination.

The first executive secretaries faced no easy task. Until the end of the 1960s, the operations of the IPSA rested largely on the shoulders of one person François Goguel (Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (FNSP), Paris, 1949–1950), Jean Meynaud (FNSP, Paris, 1950–1955), John Goormaghtigh (Carnegie Endowment, Geneva, 1955–1960), and Serge Hurtig (FNSP, Paris, 1960–1967) each served concurrently as both Secretary General and Treasurer. They often made comments, sometimes leavened with humour, about how demanding the job was. Jean Meynaud thus wrote: “The IPSA Secretariat (a slightly pretentious term for one person who has to carry out all the everyday office work, including the mailing and filing) is currently working all out for the Congress at The Hague.” 14 Sometimes the comments betrayed more bitterness, as when John Goormaghtigh wrote: “Last year I wrote over 1400 letters for IPSA, not mentioning circular letters and mimeographed documents. This alone would be nothing if one could count on people replying to correspondence.” 15 The complaints are understandable considering that these men were only part-time employees of the IPSA. They were also political scientists and were engaged in teaching or running institutions such as the Carnegie Endowment (Goormaghtigh) or the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques (Meynaud).

The result of concentrating the administration in the hands of a single person was to tie the operational facilities of the IPSA to the position of its Executive Secretary in his base institution. Jean Meynaud thus used his secretary at the Fondation for Association work and even used the FNSP’s stationery for his IPSA correspondence.

The fact that the secretariat was essentially one person had a symbolic as well as an operational impact. It added to the burden that successive Executive Secretaries bore by turning them into the incarnation and institutional memory of the IPSA. This development was partly due to the fact that they held the job for such a long time. Except for François Goguel, who was a special case, they stayed in their post for at least five (Jean Meynaud, John Goormaghtigh) and as many as twelve years (John Trent)—far longer than the three-year term of the President of the Association. Furthermore, their involvement in the IPSA was not restricted to their term as Secretary. Jean Meynaud was a member of the Executive Committee from 1955 to 1958. John Goormaghtigh was involved from the very beginning as one of the founding members. John Trent was chairman of Research Serge Hurtig, IPSA Secretary General 1960-1967, during Paris Congress – 1961Committee 33 and devoted time and effort to organizing the Quebec World Congress in the year 2000. Serge Hurtig’s record is the most impressive. He was already taking part in IPSA activities in the mid-1950s and in addition to serving seven years as Secretary General, he was vice president of the Executive Committee for six years (1979–1985), organized the IPSA’s two Paris World Congresses (1961 and 1985), and edited the Association’s iconic publication, International Political Science Abstracts, for forty-five years (1963–2009).

The secretariat’s symbolic importance also stemmed from its crucial historic role in the growth of the Association. As the excerpt from the letter from Jean Meynaud that introduces this chapter illustrates, the Executive Secretary played a proactive role in the development of international political science by sending vast numbers of letters to every corner of the world in search of “National Associations or simply groups representing specialists in political science.” 16 The sea or ocean that lay between the President and Secretariat of the IPSA for the first nine years of its existence furthermore led the Executive Secretary to consult the President only on particularly sensitive or political issues and to de facto extend his own prerogatives.

Not until the late 1960s did the Executive Secretary begin to acquire more resources to carry out his mission. AndréEvolution of the IPSA Bulletin Philippart (Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1967–1976), John Trent (University of Ottawa, 1976–1988), Francesco Kjellberg (University of Oslo, 1988–1994), John Coakley (University College, Dublin, 1994–2000), and Guy Lachapelle (Concordia University, Montreal, 2000 to present) now had the title of Secretary General. From 1962 on, they were assisted by a full-time administrator. This position has been held successively by Michèle David (1962–1967), Michèle Scohy (1967–1976), Liette Boucher (1976–1988), Lise Fog (1988–1994), Louise Delaney (1994–1998), Margaret Brindley (1998–2000), Christian Gohel (2001–2003), Stéphane Paquin (2003–2004), Aubert Descôteaux (2004–2007), and Andrea Cestaro (2007–2009). In 2000, when Guy Lachapelle assumed the post, a real team took over management of the Association. Two people could no longer handle the IPSA’s increased membership and extensive activities, which included organizing Congresses, Symposiums and Round Tables; managing the Web site; and publishing Participation (the IPSA bulletin). This critical development was notably made possible by the support of Montréal International, an organization based on a public-private partnership, one of whose goals is to attract international organizations to Montreal in order to enhance its international standing. 17


Only recently has the secretariat thus acquired the human and logistic resources it needs to fulfill the many prerogatives it has had since the Association was founded. Together with the effective, routinized operations of the Council and the Executive Committee and easier contact between the President and the Secretary due to the development of transport and telecommunications, these additional resources now provide the IPSA with all the internal components of a scientific organization in full working order. Furthermore, as we shall see, progress in its external relations has resulted in the transformation of its missions.



2.2. Obtaining external recognition


The new budget of [UNESCO’s] social science
department seems to be much more directly geared
to technical assistance to states.… What is more,
it must be admitted that the subjects selected by
the social science department have more to do
with the socio-psychological disciplines than with
traditional studies in political science, law or
economics. Once again, we can bear out the
serious consequences of the fact that no political
scientist, no economist worthy of the name, is on
the staff of the department, which is dominated
entirely by individuals with a sociological bent…
not to mention by out and out
Jean Meynaud
Executive Secretary of the IPSA,
20 July 1954.


While the IPSA cooperated with a number of organizations, UNESCO, naturally enough had a special place in its external relations. As the Association’s mother institution, UNESCO has been both a resource and a source of tension. In the former role, it has, first and foremost, been a funding agency. UNESCO was thus not only the prime mover behind the meetings of 1948 and 1949 but was also responsible for bringing political scientists from a number of countries to them. During the IPSA’s early years, the bulk of its funding came from UNESCO through the International Social Science Council, a body to which we shall return later. These financial contributions were doubtless welcomed by the Association’s Executive Committee. However, they also stoked fears for the independence of researchers who were being largely funded by a political organization. Raymond Aron gave voice to these fears very early on when he “indicated, and was very insistent on the point, [that the IPSA] should not be a dependent organization of UNESCO but an autonomous Association that simply enjoyed its patronage.”18 UNESCO showed itself sensitive to these concerns when its Director-General, Jaime Torres Bodet, declared that the “creation of associations like those you are contemplating seems to Unesco to be the best way of helping scientists to work together without unduly limiting their freedom of action.” 19

Jean Meynaud, IPSA Executive Secretary 1950-1955, during second World CongressRelations between the IPSA and UNESCO would long be marked by an underlying tension between financial need and fear of domination. This tension was reflected in the comments made by an irritated Jean Meynaud to Marcel Bridel on 4 February 1952:

I understand perfectly your feelings regarding Unesco’s working methods. I personally share them, probably even more strongly. The most awful thing about the place is the uncertainty of the final outcome… All that is obviously disappointing and, all things considered, rather annoying. The time wasted on legwork and phone calls would be so much better spent on more substantive work. [Translation]

Financial independence was therefore a priority of Executive Committees and Secretaries of the Association from the start: “I do not want an association which should remain really international from every standpoint to rely solely on a single source of funding. That’s why I’m trying to expand our financial base as much as possible.” 20 Achieving this goal was no easy task, though, for unlike other academic organizations such as the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), the IPSA membership on its own did not have the financial capacity to support the Association’s development. Apart from the American Political Science Association, the funding available to the national associations (the collective members) was so limited by their all-toosmall memberships that in 1976 an equalization fund was established to help the poorer ones.

Attempts to obtain alternative financing from major American and other foundations bore only occasional fruit (from Ford, Volkswagen, and Rockefeller) but no long-term grants. The IPSA thus long had to cope with structural budgetary problems that sometimes impinged directly on its activities. Thus, in the 1950s, meetings of all the members of the Executive Committee were rarely possible because the travel expenses for non-Europeans were simply too onerous. In late 1952, money was so tight that Jean Meynaud had to suspend taking his salary. In 1963, faced with the high costs of organizing the 1964 Congress, Serge Hurtig suggested saving money by not paying the travel expenses of the members of the Executive Committee; this problem was eventually settled by raising the registration fees. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the bold endeavors of the Moscow and Rio de Janeiro Congresses left the IPSA in deficit for an extended period.

It was only from the early 1990s, when a Committee on Financial Structure was established within the Executive Committee, that the Association ceased operating on the basis of an ongoing deficit that would be periodically covered. This long-sought stability was due to the increasing financial viability of the Association’s activities. The International Political Science Abstracts and the International Political Science Review (IPSR) ran surpluses; major sponsorships helped fund some of the World Congresses in the 1990s and 2000s; and the secretariat benefited from the partnership with Montréal International. It was, indeed, high time the Association attained financial stability, considering the change of philosophy at UNESCO regarding international associations; from 1995 on, the system of permanent annual grants gave way to project-based funding.

This financial viability, acquired after a long struggle, combined with a more stable political and administrative structure to create the image of an Association with solid organizational foundations. Today, the IPSA thus has the institutional resources it needs to fulfill its various missions. Although this critical development has been dealt with in isolation here, it was clearly integrally related to developments on the scientific and geographic fronts, and it is to these that we shall now turn our attention.



  1. Under Article 11 of Constitution the Council is made up of representatives of the collective members and of “individual Members of the Association designated by the Executive Committee from countries or regions where there is no collective Member, provided that such individual Members shall not exceed the total number of representatives of collective Members on the Council.” (ibid.)
  2. IPSA, Council Meeting–Montreal, August 19th, 23rd, 24th, 1973.
  3. Letter from Jean Meynaud to William A. Robson, 11 February 1952. Translation.
  4. Letter from John Goormaghtigh to James Pollock, 8 January 1958.
  5. Letters from Jean Meynaud to various addressees, March–May 1950.
  6. The mission of Montréal International (MI) is to contribute to the economic development of Metropolitan Montreal and increase the region's international status. The realization of this general objective involves action on five mandates: increasing direct foreign investment, facilitating the relocation of strategic foreign workers, supporting the development of innovation, accelerating the development of strategic clusters, and increasing the presence of international organizations. It was this last mandate that led MI to support the IPSA’s move to Montreal. The Association is not alone, however, in benefitting from MI’s support, and it is now advancing in company with some sixty international organizations, such as the eminent Institut de Coopération pour l’Education des Adultes (ICEA), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
  7. Association Française de Science Politique, Réunion d’information relative à la constitution d’une association française de science politique, Paris, 6 November 1948.
  8. UNESCO, International Political Science Association Conference. Summary Record of the first meeting held at Unesco House, 19 Aavenue Kléber, Paris 16e, on 12 September 1949 at 11 a.m. Paris, UNESCO, 25 October 1949.
  9. Letter from John Goormaghtigh to Kazimierz Szczerba-Likiernik, 23 December 1955. Translation.