2012 Award for Concept Analysis in Political Science

Winner: Roman David

The IV Award for Concept Analysis in Political Science, granted by the IPSA Committee on Concepts and Methods (C&M) and sponsored by the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City, was awarded to Roman David, Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University, for his book Lustration and Transitional Justice. Personnel Systems in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

The 2012 C&M CIDE award, set at 1.000 USD, was formally given at the IPSA World Congress in Madrid. The book by Dr. David was chosen from an exceptionally strong set of top-quality submissions. The Committee on Concepts and Methods thanks all authors and publishers who submitted their work to the award.

Award Citation

Transitional democracies are faced with the problem of dealing with government officials who have been “tainted” by collaboration with an oppressive regime. New democracies depend on the expertise of such officials, but their continued employment would raise distrust in the population and loyalty concerns. Recently democratized countries have dealt in different ways with this challenge.

Using an ingeniously elaborated research design that profits from the nearly simultaneous transition in Central and Eastern European countries, allowing him to hold constant a variety of contextual factors, he carefully dissects the different choices with regard to the treatment of former government officials in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, which stand as almost prototypical instances of the three principles, respectively.

David carefully conceptualizes a classification of personnel systems based on different strategies of transitional justice dealing with perpetrators in a past regime, amnesia, retribution, revelation, and reconciliation. While amnesia implies silent continuation and will not result in a general sense of justice among the parties involved, in particular the victims, the three other actively deal with past misbehavior in processes of transition. Motivating the classification, the three principles of transitional justice are operationalized as dismissal, exposure, and confession, respectively, and the resulting personnel systems are described as exclusive, inclusive, and reconciliatory.

Based on this well-articulated analytical scheme, David’s three case studies can be considered almost textbook-like applications of the systematic process tracing approach, although the author does not explicitly refer to this methodological discussion. While implemented in a persuasive way, the book would not have reached its exemplary status were these case studies not supplemented by an analysis of the regularities of public opinion dynamics underlying the different trajectories of the three countries. Noting that ordinary surveys cannot provide the necessary clarity for detecting causal relationships, he embeds an experimental design in surveys covering the three countries in order to trace the different responses of Czech, Hungarian, and Polish citizens to the three principles of lustration.

Putting all the material together, David concludes that the origin of the specific gestalt of personnel systems depends on perceptions about the “tainted” and by the “tainted”, which are strongly affected by the scope of oppression in the overthrown political regime.

In summary, Lustration and Transitional Justice is a tight, coherent and well-structured study. It focuses on an issue with remarkable conceptual clarity and innovation, and attendant methodological backup. It is based on a convincing comparative setting and a persuasive case by case analysis. Conceptual analysis is executed on parallel levels of abstraction and sophistication. Its attraction is that it departs from the conventional technical arguments that the area of concept analysis often attracts, by following through the nuances of a concept with empirical and historical evidence of those nuances. 

The Jury

  • Bernhard Kittel, University of Vienna (chair)
  • Michael Freeden, University of Oxford
  • Amy Poteete, Concordia University

In memoriam Peter Mair (1951-2011)

It was with deep sadness that we learned of the untimely death of Professor Peter Mair in mid-August 2011. He was to serve as a member of the award jury. The 2012 C&M Award is dedicated to his memory. 

Obituary, by Cas Mudde

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