rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 77
Sources: The Encyclopedia of Political Science
Shannon Pritting

Shannon Pritting, Special Instruction and Programming Librarian, State University of New York College at Oswego, Oswego, New York

The Encyclopedia of Political Science is the first encyclopedia to comprehensively cover this interdisciplinary field. There are many other encyclopedias on subtopics within political science (for example, the Encyclopedia of the U.S. Government and the Environment published by ABC-Clio, 2010), but none with the breadth of this five-volume set. Editor in Chief George Thomas Kurian is a well established editor of reference works, having edited many other titles related to both United States and international politics. The five associate editors represent diverse academic backgrounds within political science including political theory, political economics, international studies, and race and gender studies. The encyclopedia features over 1,500 articles from a globally diverse group of scholars from a variety of well-known institutions. Entries range from short definitions and biographies to longer essays on key concepts and events. All entries except for short definitions have current bibliographies including scholarly articles, court cases, and books.

One of the many strengths of this encyclopedia is the writing and editing. As most issues related to political science have multiple views or perceptions, providing an objective yet concise entry on a topic is difficult; however, the writing in the reviewed entries all provide a view into the complexity of the issues in clear, objective, and understandable terms. Most entries provide a brief history and overview of the topic or person, and then lay out opposing views with a conclusion that offers areas for the reader to consider.

The scope is comprehensive and covers the intersections with other disciplines well. For example, the intersection with literature is covered through entries such as “the Political Novel,” and treated in more depth in longer entries such as “Politics, Literature, and Film.” Entries such as “Slavery” and “Social Security” that could easily focus too much on American perspectives are international in scope, providing more in-depth discussion of the topic’s role within the United States when necessary. The discipline of political science is the backbone of this encyclopedia, informing nearly all entries, which is best illustrated by Manfred Henningsen’s entry for “Holocaust,” which identifies a “scholarly deficit of the political science profession” in the few political scientists who have studied the Holocaust (732). Readers of this reference work will be introduced to events and issues through the critical lens of political science.

The breadth of the encyclopedia can be seen partially in the range of biographies. It is problematic that virtually all living figures are excluded from the encyclopedia, which is understandable for people such as Barack Obama who have actively evolving biographies. However, the exclusion of some figures such as Nelson Mandela or Jimmy Carter, who have well established legacies that will continue, but are already significant enough to warrant a biographical essay represent one area that could have been expanded. The overall coverage of key thinkers, political figures, and political scientists is extensive. For example, not only can well-known individuals such as W.E.B. Dubois be found, but important academics such as Nelson Polsby and Judith Shklar are also featured.

The Encyclopedia of Political Science will strengthen all reference collections in Political Science. If a library owns many of the narrowly focused reference works within Political Science, The Encyclopedia of Political Science will offer a broader perspective. If a library owns few or no reference works on subtopics in political science, this work will instantly provide a comprehensive overview of topics related to Political Science. Highly recommended for all college libraries.

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