A survey of political theory books reviewed in the flagship Political Science journals, American Political Science Review and Perspectives on Politics, from 1980-March 2014 reveals that reviews of books by women comprise a much smaller proportion of political theory book reviews than reviews of books written by men. (Book Reviews were moved out of APSR after 2002 and moved into the new journal, Perspectives on Politics, as of 2003.) While the proportion of reviews of books by women has steadily increased since 1980, the highest percentage of reviewed books by women (in the period of 2006-2009) was still only 28.25%, compared to reviews of books by men, which comprised 73.3% of all political theory books reviewed in the same period.
Most alarmingly, the proportion of reviews of books by women in Perspectives on Politics has actually decreased over the past five years: from 28.25% in 2006-2009 to 22.33% from 2010-March 2014.
A more fine grained analysis, and comparison with reviews in other publications, would have to be done to explain this decrease. Is it due to the fact that books published by women simply comprise less of the field than they used to (and what would that say about the field)? Is it because of a switch in editor (a new editor took over Perspectives on Politics in 2010)? Is it because the kind of work that women tend to do (feminist theory, more issue/practice/world-oriented political theory) is receiving less attention (or is less valued) in our current moment than the highly abstract and/or extremely historical/contextual work that men tend to do more of?
Or perhaps it is simply a fluke. Regardless, the fact that the proportion of reviewed books by women reached its peak at 28.25% in a five year period (from 2006-2009) suggests that political theorists should start asking questions about why books by women are receiving less attention in the discipline’s flagship journals than books by men.
*Notes on methodology. We came up with these numbers by simply counting reviews of political theory books by men, women, or a mix of both in the American Political Science Review and Perspectives on Politics from 1980-March 2014. Book Reviews were moved out of APSR after 2002 and moved into the new journal, Perspectives on Politics, as of 2003.
We counted a book as a political theory book when it was published under the headings “Political Theory and Methodology” (from 1980 [74:1]-1982 [76:1]), “Normative Theory” (from 1982[76:2]-1985[79:4], and “Political Theory” (1986[80:1]-March 2014). When there was a special review essay or section in the American Political Science Review that focused on theory books, we included them in the tally – for example, in issue 84:1 (1990), there was a special review section on “Science, Rights, and Control of the Body” that included reviews of books by Carol Pateman and Zillah Eisenstein (we included all books in that review section in the tally). I also want to note that not all books reviewed in the sections listed above are written by political theorists (and there are likely a few books written by theorists than end up in other subfield sections). We focused on the books in the sections listed above – “Normative Theory,” “Political Theory,” etc. - because they are the books that the editor believes will be of interest to political theorists, and thus offer one snapshot of what kinds of books gain institutional support and notice.