This Guest Editorial is from Gregory Gunderson, Ph.D.
While I usually let my colleagues worry about administrative decisions, such as selecting a new university president, in this circumstance, I feel I must speak up.One candidate, Gregg Lassen, caught my eye because his dissertation on nation-state power is in my area of interest. I was curious to read what he said about measuring state power, but my curiosity quickly turned to concern. I feel the dissertation is disturbingly weak and limited in scope. I will point out four areas of special concern. First, for a dissertation completed in December, 2010, it is quite outdated. The literature review is based almost entirely on sources that are several decades old – many of them from the 1940s. While in some dissertations this may be valid, there has been much done in the field of measuring state power more recently. Mr. Lassen’s analysis should have included fresher material.Second, as a scholar of international relations theory, I was disappointed to see Mr. Lassen’s introduction focus only on realism and disregard a myriad of recent and important theories with the line “the realist perspective… reflects the world as it is rather than the world as we wish it to be.” While Mr. Lassen is free to have his opinion on the importance of realism, I find it intellectually disingenuous to ignore idealism, structuralism, constructivism, feminism and other standard tools of analysis in the field without a better, fuller, more satisfactory explanation. Addressing such theories would have improved and deepened his analysis of nation-state power.Third, while I understand Mr. Lassen’s focus on more tangible and, presumably easier to quantify, measures of nation-state power, his analysis simplistically ignores important variables such as national will and, perhaps most important, cost tolerance. If Mr. Lassen intends for his “balanced scorecard” approach to help us understand nation-state power in a comparative manner in world politics, he is simply mistaken to leave out these important concepts.Finally, I was disturbed by the sloppy scholarship in Mr. Lassen’s manuscript. At one point, he paraphrases the work of George W. F. Hegel and provides a citation from 1942. Imagine my surprise to see that Herr Hegel was still publishing 111 years after his death! Of course, this is being nit-picky and focusing on a simple error. Surely the 1942 date is a re-print and that fact would be evident by checking the references page. A quick look at the bibliography revealed that not only did Mr. Lassen repeat the mistake, but compounded it by providing an incorrect title for Hegel’s book – it is Elements of a Philosophy of Right, not simply The Philosophy of Right as recorded by Mr. Lassen. He also repeated this mistake on numerous occasions including citing Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan as published several hundred years after the philosopher’s death.As a faculty member at Eastern, I would like to see our university become more academically rigorous. We should demand that our next president display such rigor in his own academic works.