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Cmad1an Review of American Studies/ Revue canadtenne d'etudes ameHcarnes Volume 27, Number 3, 1997, pp. 161-173 Post-NAFTA Political Science in North America: Political Culture, Seymour Martin Lipset, and 'Continental Divides' Paul Rich and Guillermo De Los Reyes 161 A question which is heard frequently, if rhetorically, is why the three countries in North America have been so lax in studying each other. 1 Possibly the differing theoretical approaches of some Canadian, U.S., and Mexican scholars provide one answer. There certainly could be other reasons, but the theoretical divergence discussed here has the virtue of not being the conventional excuse about disparate resources. Rather, it has to do with the influence of entrenched academic positions, especially in Mexico and in the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), regardless of its economic benefits, has pushed scholars to consider comparisons of the three partners, although so far not much attention has been given to comparing differences in ac,1demic style. The comparison of countries and of their institutions-of their rnltures-is an ever productive source of insights, and 1t has been given a tremendous impetus by NAFTA. The usefulness of such compansons also applies in the theoretical approaches popular at the tertiary level. 162 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienned'etudes amer1cai11es Theory also plays the role of the proverbial nail by which the kingdom was lost. There could be no better illustration of how important theoretical approaches can be than to consider the history of approaches to political science in Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Characterizations and generalizations are ever dangerous, but an argument can be made that until recently Mexican and lJ.S. political science were more bound and restncted by ,lcademic conformity than Canadian political science has been during the same period. That is somewhat of a kudo to Canadian scholarship, but not entirely. After all, there are far fewer universities and many less professors in Canada than in the other two countries, and Canadian professors-if they are conscientious-cannot afford the luxury of specialization based on ideological bias indulged in by some U.5. colleagues. Departments are too small to permit doctrinaire compartmentalization without serious problems, as 1t leaves whole areas of study untouched. The doctor in a small hospital has less of the luxury of being a specialist. (Nor is it dear that being a specialist always produces the most helpful diagnosis.) Departments with a large number of chairs can indulge professorial pixilations. 2 In contrast with Canada, given the army of professors in the United States and the large number in Mexico (albeit in the Mexican case often grossly underpaid and often simultaneously employed by several institutions), there has been a degree of specialization that sometimes crosses the line and becomes ideological partisanship. A case in point is the passion of some U.S. academics for rational choice theory and of some Mexican academics for dependency theory. Rational choice theory entered political science from economics and its most enthusiastic proponents attempt to explain all political phenomena on the basis of voters, politician, diplomats, and military leaders being shortrun -interest maximizers (Diamond 1994, xix.) It has exerted influence in other disciplines as well, an excellent example being the vigorous publications and conferences of the Rational Choice Section of the American Sociological Association. The explanatory power relies on assuming self-interested short-run rationality (Almond and Verba 1963; Diamond 1994). Rational choice theory claims to reintegrate politics and economics, but in the opi111on of critics to the exclusion of other concerns (Green and Shapiro 1994, 1). Dependency theory, on the other hand, emphasized the hegemony of the Paul Rich and Guillermo De Los Reves I 163 United States in its relations with less developed countries, and postulates an almost conspiratorial policy of economic subjugation (Berger 1993, 1 ff.). The costly influence of dependency advocates on Mexican universities, who often lacked civility towards their dissenting colleagues or students, is effectively described by Robert Packenham, professor of political science at Stanford and one-time Hoover Fellow, in The Dependency Movement (1992). Packenham exhaustively documents the now faltering assault on "liberal theoretical perspectives," history, and political science by the dependency enthusiasts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 161-173
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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