World Congress - Seoul 1997

The 17th IPSA World Congress of Political Science was held in Seoul, South Korea from 17 to 21 August 1997. It was the first Congress in Asia in the history of IPSA.IPS World Congress Logo

The event attracted 1,470 participants from 72 countries, not including staff and exhibitors. The event’s main theme was “Conflict and Order".

The Congress offered a program with 963 papers presented in 238 sessions.

Congress Theme

Conflict and Order

Conflict and order constitute the poles of politics and their study is the essence of political science. Conflict and order appear in many forms: conflict and cooperation, anarchy and order, violence and conflict management, war and peace, liberty and security, anomie and constitution, collapse and integration, and so on. Conflict and order are eternal as the subject of
political science, but they are particularly topical at the end of the second millennium. Conflict was the essence of the old international order and when that order changed, conflict now appears where we do not expect it. Order has broken down in the world system and in the sovereign order of states, raising problems for current human interaction and calling for new study and definition. Truly, conflict and order are both signs of the times and eternal values.

Conflict is the basis of politics and politics is managed conflict. Conflict is a fundamental and essential element in human interaction. Institutionalised conflict is the nature of elections, and the source of the legislative and judicial order, but other forms of governmental change also involve conflict less orderly. Conflict between positions is the basis of democratic debate and the open society holds that the truth appears only after conflicting positions are fully confronted publicly. When this debate is not permitted, stronger forms of conflict appear within states, but directed against the government, which in turn harnesses conflict to repress its citizenry.

Today conflict occurs as groups of people pursue the political forms for their identities, and seek self-determination against an established order. Conflict has been effectively managed on a global scale in international relations, only to break out within the confines of states, hitherto assumed to be the epitome of order. The sources of conflict, then, require new evaluation. The types of conflict whjch we felt were fully under control now become the major grist for political mills.

Order, too, is under question at the present time. The nature of the state is undergoing enom1ous changes as it becomes more permeable to transnational forces. But at the same time, the state as a sovereign order is expected to regulate more aspects of human interaction than ever before in the history of humanity. Order is imposed on human action, often eliminating choice and free will (and therefore the attempts to establish order become the subject of intense conflict). The order established within states seeks new forms that promote good governance. Extreme forms of state order, seen in apartheid systems in the Third World and totalitarian systems in the Second World, give way to instjtutionalised participation that is often unable to preserve order. Even established forms of state order, as seen in areas as diverse as Russia, Yugoslavia, Zaire, Somalia, Liberia, Peru and Algeria, end up with such a high degree of concentrated power that they implode, consuming the collapsed state and its fragments.

Similarity in the international field, a series of systems of world order have broken down: the colonial order and then the bipolar order both of which repressed and limited conflict as a local manifestation while containing it at a higher level among the principal states of the system. Now the old order has changed, yielding place to uncertainty: there is no new world order as yet, and many forces vie to impose their mark on interstate and transnational relations.

On the international level, order has been characterised by the rise of two different forms that still escape comprehensive conceptualisation: the international security and financial organisations (UN family, and IFls) and new international regimes. Both instances have engendered conflict within the institutional framework, but the two directions still call for more successful theoretical treatment. On the other hand, two major ingredients in order in the past, coalition and alliance systems, appear to have dropped in importance, and even international relations theories based on them, such as the balance of power, are singularly unhelpful in the current era. Yet, there is no replacement in our attempt to combine conflict and order.

Beyond the main theme, two "spirits" should characterise the last IPSA congress of the millenium. One is the spirit of universality. It is particularly appropriate for the 17th IPSA congress in Korea to examine some of these major conceptual challenges to political science. Korea, located on the border between East and West, combining economic modernisation and cultural traditions, poses problems of frontier and universality in the concepts of political science. It is the appropriate site to explore the degree of universalism in our discipline at a time of conflict over so-called Western concepts, Western values, Western political systems, and Western powers. It is appropriate to seek better understanding of the intellectual order of our knowledge and to arrive at a just appreciation of the role of other roots and Enlightenments in the creation of common concepts.

The other is the spirit of practicality. The work of political science is to conceive of effective orders that will enable goals to be achieved and productive activities to be performed within the constitutional structures of states, and the institutionalised interaction among states. There are fields of activity to be invented as state and world citizens expect more from the national and international orders. Just as social contract notions came to the fore to meet a need for the conceptualisation of national insurgence over monarchies, and political development notions responded to the call for conceptualising the anticolonial takeover of "the real country" over "the legal country", so today new ideas are required to deal with such issues as collapsed states, cooperation
under anarchy, alternative dispute resolution, urban violence, and many other contradictions at the crossroads of conflict and order.

Thus, the focus of the XVII th World Congress of the International Political Science Association should be as much innovative and creative as it is reflective and analytical, looking to grappling with
current problems as much as it analyses past and recent events. There is a challenge of relevance as well as a challenge of analysis that faces our discipline. It should be the goal of participants in this meeting to combine the two to facilitate the transition of the world into its new millennium.

The Discipline

The terms of this thematic challenge are reflected in the special focuses of political science at the end of the millennium. Comparative politics seeks to restore a more comprehensive synthesis between state and civil society in a generation of political and economic energies. International politics wrestles with the etiology of cooperation and conflict. Public administrations seek appropriate methods of evaluation and of responsibility; the political philosophy returns to a search for the meaning of justice and responsibility, and for the foundations of moral order. The purpose of a large segment of the 17th IPSA programme is to take stock of these debates and research, and to provide a setting for reformulation, new advances in concepts, and knowledge.

In looking at the four classical components of political science, it is particularly important to pay attention to the cross-fertilisation of one to the other, and particularly to the permeability of boundaries between them. The domestic nature of international politics, the international nature of domestic politics, the impact of philosophical questions on both of them, and the role of responsibility in the bureaucratic control of domestic orders, are all areas that call for attention at this congress. Also particularly important is the overflow of the discipline into other disciplines giving rise to hybrid areas of study, such as political economy, political psychology, political geography, as well as the longstanding hybrid of political philosophy. And 1997 is a particularly appropriate time to examine the discipline in the light of its permeable boundaries, both within itself and with its neighbours.

Willim M. Lafferty
Program Chair


Please visit our Flickr page to view or download photos of the 17th IPSA World Congress.

Photo credit: International Political Science Association.