Late in 2004 I received a telephone call from Hélène Potter, director of new product development for Macmillan Reference USA—an imprint of Gale. I did not realize immediately that it was the telephone call that would shape a large share of my intellectual activity for the next three years. In fact, I recall hearing about a new edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (IESS), but I was wholly unclear about what was being asked of me. I asked Hélène, “So what exactly is it you want me to do? Prepare an article or two for the new edition?” Her response was, “No, no. We would like you to serve as editor of the new encyclopedia.” While vaguely glimpsing the labor that would be required to pull this off properly, but also realizing the importance of the project, I agreed.
I was aware of both the 1930–1935 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, edited by E. R. A. Seligman and Alvin Johnson, and Macmillan’s 1968 International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, edited by David L. Sills, not only as key reference works of continuing value but also as vital expressions of the state of the social sciences (and the sociology of the social science community) at their respective historical moments. It would be an honor and a unique opportunity to play a key role in the development of the new encyclopedia that would assess the scope of the social sciences at the start of the twenty-first century.
From the outset, the decision was made to commission an entirely new set of articles for the second edition of IESS; no articles on overlapping topics from the previous edition would be reproduced in part or in whole. Instead, we would seek new voices and fresh perspectives for all of the entries. In fact, a few contributors even chose to make observations about entries from the previous edition in their articles.