Memories of SUNY Press author John G. Gunnell

Memories of SUNY Press author John G. Gunnell

By SUNY Press Date: April 10, 2024 Tags: SUNY Press Team, SUNY Press Authors

By Michael Rinella, Senior Acquisitions Editor, SUNY Press

When I began my graduate studies in 1987 at the State University of New York at Albany’s Rockefeller College, one of my first courses was with political theorist John G. Gunnell. Known as Jack to his friends, he believed it was important that students know the history of the discipline they intended to join. As part of his class, we read a history of the discipline, Disenchanted Realists by Raymond Seidelman, also a friend of Jack’s, published by SUNY Press (1984, second edition 2015).

Jack was deeply concerned about the relationship between political theory, political science, and politics and spoke passionately about how the former had become overly distant and disconnected from the latter. I identified with this view and went on to major in political theory, in no small part because of Jack.  After graduating with my PhD, I joined the staff of SUNY Press and was fortunate to work with Jack in multiple capacities. Over the years, he was a series editor, an author, and an editorial board member. I was always impressed by his modesty and generosity. 

Most recently Jack and I collaborated on a second edition of his 2004 book Imagining the American Polity: Political Science and the Discourse of Democracy. Considering these precarious times, Jack felt it more important than ever that we understand the history of the concept of democracy in the United States and how the discipline of Political Science contributed to the ongoing public dialogue about democracy. 

Sadly, Jack passed away this past January with Imagining the American Polity still in the final stages of production. Now, in April 2024, I’m pleased to share his book is being released. We can hear Jack’s voice and sense his fervent beliefs in the preface to the new edition when he writes, “the history of the concept of democracy is more relevant than ever” and “the question we should be asking is how democratic is our particular version of representative government.”