A Petition to Create an Organized Section on “Class and Inequality” in the American Political Science Association

A Petition to Create an Organized Section on “Class and Inequality” in the American Political Science Association

In the last few decades, economic inequality has reached record levels in much of the world. Political scientists have taken note: thanks in large part to organized efforts like the APSA Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy, research on economic and social class inequality is now at the forefront of our discipline. In every corner of our field, there are scholars who study class and inequality.

Too often, however, political scientists who study inequality are divided by the subfields they belong to, the methodologies they use, and the political phenomena they study. These divisions make it harder for scholars who study class and inequality to share ideas, data, and findings. They impair our discipline’s ability to respond to what many observers regard as a paramount social problem.

Our field’s flagship professional association can help. An organized APSA section would help political scientists who study class and inequality communicate more effectively with one another, with the broader discipline, and with the outside world. We write to petition the American Political Science Association to create a new section titled “Class and Inequality.”

Purpose

The section would have three broad aims. First, the section would encourage scholars of politics to study the political causes and consequences of economic inequality, social class stratification, and mobility and opportunity. Second, the section would facilitate intellectual exchanges across subfields; it would help scholars in different areas of the discipline who study these topics share findings, data, methods, theories, and normative approaches. Third, it would encourage political scientists to play a more active role in public discussions about inequality and class.

This section's mission statement would be: "The APSA Section on Class and Inequality aims to promote scholarship on economic inequality, social class stratification, and mobility and opportunity; to connect scholars in different subfields who study these topics; and to encourage political scientists to play a more active role in public discussions about inequality and class."

Procedures for Governance

The section would engage in five activities: 1) sponsoring panels at the APSA annual meeting, 2) giving an award for the best paper on economic or social class inequality presented at the APSA meeting, 3) distributing an annual newsletter summarizing new research on inequality, 4) maintaining a website to catalogue research on inequality and politics, and 5) exploring the feasibility of launching a topical journal on the politics of economic and social class inequality.

The section would collect $10 in annual dues from faculty members (and $5 in dues from undergraduate and graduate students).

The section’s activities would be coordinated by:
- a Chair, who would be responsible for organizing panels at the APSA’s annual meeting;
- a Secretary, who would be responsible for maintaining the section’s website and producing the section’s annual newsletter;
- a Treasurer, who would be responsible for supervising the organization’s funds;
- a three-person Award Committee, who would be responsible for awarding the Best Paper prize;
- and a three-person Exploratory Committee, who would be responsible for investigating the possibility of launching a topical journal on the politics of class and inequality and exploring other new activities the section might undertake (e.g., awarding a best dissertation prize, funding a graduate student travel grant, etc.).

The section’s Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer would be elected every two years by an electronic vote of dues-paying members. These positions would only be open to tenure-track faculty.

The Award Committee would be appointed by the Chair. The Exploratory Committee would be appointed by the Secretary. Again, these positions would only be open to tenure-track faculty.

How would “Class and Inequality” differ from other sections?

As a topical section, “Class and Inequality” would bring together scholars from virtually all of the traditional subfields (e.g., Comparative Politics, Legislative Studies, etc.). As such, it would not duplicate any of the traditional subfield sections. Nor would it overlap substantially with any of the existing topical sections. APSA has organized sections on race, gender, religion, sexuality, and many other important topics, but not economic or social class inequality. A section on “Class and Inequality” would complement—not supplant—the important topical sections APSA already has.

Effects on the Intellectual Community

“Class and Inequality” would help bridge the substantive and methodological boundaries among the political scientists who study economic and social class inequality. It would help scholars learn from theories, data, and findings they might not encounter in their own areas of the discipline. In short, “Class and Inequality” would discourage fragmentation within the discipline by helping connect scholars in different subfields who study the same topic.

The section would also encourage political scientists to study an important and timely issue. Economic and social class inequalities are soaring in the U.S. and other advanced industrial countries. In much of the developing world, they have remained persistently high. An organized section on “Class and Inequality” would help elevate these topics within the field, would improve the quality of research on these issues, and would ultimately increase our discipline’s ability to contribute to public deliberations about the causes and consequences of inequality.

We therefore petition APSA to create an organized section on “Class and Inequality.”

***In order to be counted, please provide your name, email address, and APSA membership number below. Per APSA bylawas, we will share the complete list of signers and their membership numbers only with APSA. Your email address and membership number will not be shared with anyone else, and you may also choose not to display your name on the online list of signers.***

Sponsor

Nicholas Carnes, Duke University Meredith Sadin, Princeton University Chris Faricy, Syracuse University

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Petition highlights

  • We have collected 223 signatures and achieved the goal of the petition. Thank you for your participation!
  • November 22nd, 2013 -- Thank you for your support! With well over 200 signatures in just three weeks, we formally submitted this petition to the APSA today. If you haven't signed yet, you can still join the petition and show your support for creating an organized section on "Class and Inequality" in the APSA!