The 18th IPSA World Congress of Political Science was held in Quebec, Canada from 1 to 5 August 2000. It was the second Congress in the province of Quebec in the history of IPSA.
The event attracted 1,849 participants from 73 countries, not including staff and exhibitors. The 376 students made up 20.3% of participants. Women represented 28.8% of all participants, corresponding to the trend towards increasing female participation. The event’s main theme was “World Capitalism, Governance and Community: toward a corporate millennium?”.
The Congress offered a program that included 285 panels with 450 papers presented. The highlight events included 110 special sessions, 41 thematic sessions, and 7 regional sessions that focused on Canadian themes.
World Capitalism, Governance and Community: toward a corporate millennium?
As fate would have it, the turning of the millennium has double significance for the International Political Science Association. In 1999 the organization registers its fiftieth year of service to the discipline, and in the year 2000 itself the triennial World Congress will be jointly hosted by the Canadian and Quebec associations in Quebec City. While calendars are at best necessary conventions — and, at worst, extraneous culture-bound constraints — they are nonetheless necessary for celebrations. Fifty years is a respectable age for a modern organization, and 2000 years (by any calendar) is surely a worthy juncture for taking the measure of an even more ancient field of thought and action.
In choosing the theme “World capitalism, governance and community:Toward a corporate millennium?”, President Ted Lowi and the Executive Committee of IPSA have decided to focus on a complex of interrelated issues which are currently having an enormous impact on the boundaries and institutions of global, regional, national and local politics. Though the post-Cold War period is but a decade old, it has been a decade of exceptional change and impact for this century. The decline of aggressive missionary communism throughout the world has left a power vacuum which the new economic constellations of North America, Europe and the Far East are competing to fill; and the ideology of free-market economics has gained world-wide recognition.
The changes in question have increasingly been treated under the rubric of “globalization”; a catch-all phrase which emphasizes the emergence of a truly global economy along with the spread of Western values and institutions. By shifting the emphasis from “globalization” to “world capitalism”, and by specifically focusing on the corporate aspect of change, the main theme of the Quebec Congress highlights the organizational and goal-oriented dimension of the process. “Corporate” refers, in this sense, not only to the institutional driving force of an increasingly globalized capitalism (multi- and cross-national corporations), but also to what appears to be a more general tendency toward supranational economic and political organization at the expense of state power and identity. The European Union, NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, while all ostensibly free-trade organizations, also contain a vital aspect of corporate thinking: the merging of disparate collective actors and interests into a new hierarchically structured and legally regulated body.
By posing the rhetorical question as to whether we are moving toward a new era of both vastly more powerful and essentially different corporate forms and processes, the main theme lays down a challenge for political scientists of all sub-disciplines to bring their findings, perspectives and opinions to the debate in Quebec. What are the effects of “the corporate turn” on existing forms of governance and community? How will the transition from a primarily nation-based system of economic production and competition to an increasingly integrated system of world capitalism and regional corporate-political coordination of trade and markets, affect traditional models of democratic governance and citizen identity? What new power constellations and alliances are emerging, and how can we assess the balance between positive and negative effects?
Panels and special sessions related to the main theme will be grouped under five major sub-themes:
- Globalization, sovereignty and legitimacy
- Citizenship, values and identity
- Institutions, interests and policies
- World politics, environment and development
- Theory, knowledge and technology
The members of the Program Committee will serve as session convenors for the main theme, actively seeking a limited number of panel chairs to highlight the theme across a broad spectrum of
regions and sub-disciplines. The sub-themes can also serve a rough guidelines for those wishing to propose individual papers, panels, special sessions, round-table discussions, or sessions of other types, and IPSA’s Research Committees and Study Groups will be encouraged to consider the sub-themes when they propose their own sessions of panels. The Program Chair will make every effort to coordinate sessions so that it will be possible for those with sub-disciplinary interests to attend as many sessions within a given area as possible.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that a main theme is just that — a main theme. When successful, it serves to focus an important issue, inspire debate, and — hopefully — attract participants who might otherwise not attend the Congress. The main theme can be viewed in this respect as a large tone-setting symposium within the Congress itself. As everyone who has ever attended an IPSA World Congress knows, however, the scope and heterogeneity of sessions and activities is enormous; and we hardly expect the millennium Congress to be any different in this respect. On the contrary, we believe that the program for the Quebec 2000 Congress will be the largest and most exciting in the organization’s 50-year history. The debate in Canada itself on issues of federalism, sovereignty and identity; the crucial issues relating to the further consolidation of the European Union; the growing importance of global issues of environment and development; issues of democratization, human rights, and the clash of civilizations — all these and much, much more will complement, supplement and enliven the program in Quebec.
Willim M. Lafferty
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Photo credit: International Political Science Association.