Centre de Recherche et D’Information Socio-Politiques

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Centre de Recherche et D’Information Socio-Politiques

The Centre de recherche et d’information socio-politiques – CRISP (Center for socio-political research and information) is a Belgian research center devoted to the study of decision-making in Belgium and in Europe. Since its creation in 1958, CRISP has remained pluralistic and independent. Research objectives are to shed light upon the real stakes of decision-making, to explain its mechanisms, and to analyze the role of all the actors involved, whether they are political, economical, social or originating from civil society. Studied subjects comprise politics, economy and society in their global dimension. CRISP devotes its attention not only to political parties,representative organizations of employers or employees, interest groups, but as well to corporations, as they are the most important structures of economical power. In this context, CRISP maintains a database concerning the shareholding of companies located in Wallonia. This database is freely accessible in English on the net. Results from research carried out by CRISP or by associated collaborators are published in French.
It is hard for political scientists of 2009 to imagine the condition and status of their discipline in the world under reconstruction of 1949. In place of the familiar, well-structured web of national associations we know today, there were associations only in the United States (founded in 1903), Canada (1913), Finland (1935), India (1938), China (1932), and Japan (1948). Communication between them was virtually nonexistent, although they were aware that they were not alone in the world. What little (minimal) international cooperation in political science there was occurred through the Academy of Political Science and Constitutional History, an organization Jean Meynaud would later decry as an “instrument of personal politics” conducting “extremely limited” activities1. The very definition of “political science” was uncertain, and the relevance of any distinction between philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities was the subject of debate.
The desire of the new United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to stimulate development of the social sciences therefore necessarily gave rise to an enterprise that had both intellectual and institutional aspects. The intellectual outlines of the project were drawn at UNESCO’s first general conference in December 1946 by the Social Sciences, Philosophy and Humanistic Studies Sub-Commission, a very heterogeneous body comprising a Philippine historian as chairperson, a Polish novelist and a Chinese linguist as vice chairs, and an American sociologist and a Danish philosopher as rapporteurs. After debating the issues, the Sub-Commission took note of the distinction between “social science” on the one hand and “philosophy and the humanities” on the other.
Drawing on the theme enunciated by US President Franklin Roosevelt that “if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relations,” it assigned the social sciences the task of furthering friendship between peoples by promoting mutual understanding and fostering the removal of such obstacles as “nationalism, antagonisms of a technological character, insufficiency of government action, problems relating to movements of population or relations of dependency between two peoples. Looking to the future, we can offer only the barest outline of the challenges that the IPSA must yet take up in cooperation with other national and international political science associations.
Despite its successes, some of the issues that were identified sixty years ago are still pertinent today, such as the questions about methods and teaching that were deemed priorities in the late 1940s. The exponential growth of methodological and theoretical approaches and the renewal in terms of traditional pedagogical methods make it perhaps more vital than ever to maintain the dialogue between the different schools that comprise contemporary political science. Nor has the constitutional mission to promote the discipline on all five continents been accomplished. Too many countries, including even such large ones as China, are still outside the IPSA fold. To bring them in, the Association will no doubt have to make use of what has become its trademark: its ability to combine traditions and strong institutional foundations with bold political action.