It is customary for a new editor to say a little about himself and how he plans to tackle the goals of the journal. But in the spirit of co-creation, I’d like to start this issue by extending special gratitude to the longest-running member of the editorial staff: Habib Gharib. Gharib has worked on the journal since 2001, and his attention to both grammar and content is impeccable. He has at various times been listed on our masthead as “Assistant Editor” and “Assistant Managing Editor,” but whatever the title he has edited patiently and with great skill. We are grateful for his services.
Steve Elkin has often said something like what he wrote in his last book: that political science needs to be either reinvented or reworked so that “efforts at explanation and evaluation are tied to the question of good political regimes and how they may be secured and maintained.”1 This reworking has been the business of The Good Society since Elkin founded the Committee on the Political Economy of the Good Society with Soltan and Gar Alperovitiz and started printing a newsletter in 1991.
Since that time, the journal has had a certain thematic unity: the articles we have published have focused on matters of institutional design, democratic deliberation, the history of political theory, and, perhaps obviously, political economy. But the real unity of the journal has been methodological, an intensive focus on this holistic and normative approach to political science. In his first “PEGS and Wholes” editorial in 1995, Elkin challenged the new faddish attention to deliberation, asking: “if deliberation is such a good thing what does it take to get it?” That is a theme we take up again [End Page 121] in this issue and to which we plan to return in the future. Always The Good Society has had the dual aim to analyze specific institutions and understand them in relation to regimes: to understand that the structure of the economy, the organization of the state, and the role of the citizen are not independent but interlinked questions. Elkin titled his editorials “PEGS and Wholes” to refer to this linkage, framing analysis of the institutions within the good (or good enough) regime.
I intend to preserve that stereoscopic focus, with some expansions. The discipline of political science still seems to have its attention focused elsewhere, or what’s worse, research questions are divided up in such a way that the question of the good political regime is rarely asked in its totality. Yet it is not hard to find fellow-travelers: many scholars find themselves straddling disciplinary lines in the way Elkin imagined, and we will continue to be a home for their work. In our coverage of the good regime, economy and government authority have predominated, and citizenship has often played a minor role. Yet there is good reason to believe that insofar as a regimes’ institutions fall short of those required for a good enough regime, only the regimes’ citizens, acting together, can restore it.
The Good Society has assembled plenty of evidence about which institutions citizens should seek to reform, and even some theories as to how they should go about achieving those reforms. But more than before I hope to find good work to publish in The Good Society on the education, organization, deliberation, and effective action of citizens (defined both as legal members and as informal co-creators of the institutions and regimes they inhabit.)
I believe that one of the primary obstacles to effective citizen action is the size of the problems and the mechanisms available to address them: neither small-scale deliberative and participatory activism nor mass-scale mobilization and protest are any longer effective to address the kinds of problems that plague us. We therefore welcome new work on challenges to citizen efficacy, especially challenges and opportunities presented by the administrative state, whether it be in environmental governance, financial sector rule-making, or urban land use.
We will also spend a bit more time focusing on bad regimes and the badness in our own. This issue features a book review on a new biography of Adolph Eichmann that purports to challenge...