Helmut K. Anheier is Professor of Sociology at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and the Max Weber Institute at Heidelberg University, Germany. He also has academic appointments at the London School of Economics (LSE IDEAS) and the Luskin School of Public Policy, UCLA. His research centers on culture, indicator systems, governance and organizational studies, and civil society and philanthropy. He now serves as Editor-in-Chief of Global Perspectives, a journal from University of California Press, which is slated to publish its first articles in early 2020.
UC Press: Congratulations on the recent launch of Global Perspectives!
Helmut Anheier: Thank you! It is an exciting time to launch a social science journal of the caliber and ambition of Global Perspectives. Many colleagues, and younger scholars in particular, feel that the social sciences need an interdisciplinary, international journal to match the impact of the conventional disciplinary flagships. With Global Perspectives we want to establish a journal that is accepted and respected as a major academic publication in economics, political science and sociology—and across national borders. What is more, the technical publishing opportunities that are opening up make it possible to create a new kind of journal: versatile, interactive, involving readers, enabling debate. As a leading university press, UC Press is the natural partner for this innovative venture.
UC Press: A primary objective of the journal is to “help overcome national and disciplinary fragmentation and isolation.” How do you and the editorial team aim to accomplish this?
Helmut Anheier: We start from the premise that the world that gave rise to the social sciences in their present form is no more. The national and disciplinary approaches that developed over the last century are increasingly insufficient to capture the complexities of the global realities of a world that has changed significantly in a relatively short period of time. The national and disciplinary fragmentation of the social sciences stands increasingly in the way of intellectual progress. New concepts, approaches and forms of academic discourse may be called for.
In response, we must overcome those silos if we want to enhance awareness of developments in other disciplines and countries—and move the social science agenda forward in more effective and efficient ways. We aim to achieve this in a number of ways: We organize the journal not by disciplines but by fields that broadly describe their thematic focus and speak to the interest of economics, sociology, political science and even history, legal studies or geography. The sections “Global change and sustainability transformations: technology-society interface” and “Global epistemologies: concepts, methodologies, and data systems” are good examples of this thematic rather than disciplinary focus. All social science disciplines can contribute to these themes and cross-fertilize each other.
We also have a large and broad-based editorial board. The nearly 100 board members come from many disciplines and reflect all world regions. All are leading scholars in their fields. Together they amount to a major intellectual force capable of propelling Global Perspectives into a top journal.
UC Press: Global Perspectives, then, will need to cover a broad range of subject matter across a number of social-scientific and related fields. Can you tell us a little about how the journal is organized, and what are some of the subject matters we can expect to see addressed beginning next summer?
Helmut Anheier: sections or thematic fields rather than disciplines organizes the journal. We spent quite a bit of time on what these fields are, and arrived at the following list that might well evolve in future:
- Communication and media
- Culture, values, and identities
- Economic systems and political economy
- Global change and sustainability transformations: technology-society interface
- Global epistemologies: concepts, methodologies, and data systems
- Politics, governance, and the law
- Security and cooperation, international institutions and relations
- Social institutions, organizations, and relations
We see these sections are permeable and will encourage section editors to collaborate on crosscutting issues. For example, we will have themed tracks to act as curated virtual or special issues. We will group published articles and invited authors to expand and complement by adding new articles and commentaries. An example of a themed track would be migration or education, i.e., topics or issues that cut across the sections above.
UC Press: You’ve assembled an impressive roster of section editors. What was your vision for bringing together this editorial team?
Helmut Anheier: The vision was to assemble a group of leading scholars that together can create a significant momentum to overcome the inertia that is inherent in the rigid disciplinary and national silos. So, I looked for scholars known for, and committed to, research that transcends conventional boundaries. The team starts from the premise that after several decades of globalization, many phenomena that were previously more or less contained in nation states or regions now increasingly cross established borders and show significant degrees of betweenness. They understand that the theoretical and empirical base needed for a profound analysis of global finance, the impact of technological advances, climate change or migration flows goes well beyond the capacity of one discipline alone. In short, the vision was to assemble a team of intellectual innovators eager to move the social science forward.
UC Press: One rather unique aspect of the journal is this idea of invited “annotations.” What are annotations, and how will they present themselves in the journal?
Helmut Anheier: Annotations are an important way to involve readers more directly by offering them an active role. Annotations are invited contributions by known experts whose perspective on a published article adds value, encourages debate or brings to light important aspects from other subject areas or regions. For example, an article on the diffusion pattern of a particular technological innovation could feature annotations highlighting the patterns characteristic of a different era or other cases.