Sept 10 , 2012 Levels of Analysis
Office hours: Tues& Thursday 2-4pm Leacock 538…. Program advising
Open to bribery
He will post an outline of the notes—download and organizing your lecture
notes versus what you’ve written and what he thinks is important.
Clarification of last lecture:
Differences between independent and dependent variables…immediate
Causes of war:
Dependent variable is war
Independent variable: international system, structure, basically the
distribution of power, economic relations, in the textbook it talks about in the
17 and 18 centuries mercantilism—accumulation of wealth to fund the
military. Kings hired mercenaries …paper currency was rarely found.
Accumulation gold +silver. Zero Sums. If I have control of the mines, you don’t.
Colonialism+ fuel—imperial period.
Mercantilism vs capitalism
Economic relations during certain periods can be an independent variable.
Theories that we’re looking at…. often what counts for one perspective might be an
intervening variable or a dependent variable=depends on theory we’re putting to
play. What’s important as a foundational assumption?
What the basic assumptions are? –These will determine the variables.
What might be a dependent variable for one thing may be an independent variable
for something else.
Ideology—think about the cold war US vs Soviet Union…clash of economic systems
and ideas. Liberalism vs. Marxism
Previous history, long standing grievances can still be independent variable.
Intervening variables: geography—luxury of abstaining from war (because of geo)
shapes outbreak of war, territorial disputes, political leaders—counterfactual that
arises had Hitler not been the chancellor, and Churchill wasn’t the prime minister…
but Stalin wasn’t the leader of the USSR?, Regime type—democracies don’t fight war
against each other, monarchies might be the same way. Regime type can often be
taken as an independent variable as well.
From the case of WW2 why would Hitler not be an independent variable?
Studies show that as a result of the peace that arose from WW1, longstanding
grievances and hostilities, rivalries and economic depression—these things had
more causal influences than Hitler. This has been debated… Can leaders be sorted as independent variables rather than intervening?
The role of the office trumps the individual predilections and based on the role
within the American system—controversy in this case, the independent variable
is the office of President. Shapes the person’s President—doesn’t determine it.
Conditions that can shape variables:
Things get tricky because its not always clear
From the permissive perspective to immediate.. gurwen kopler?
Permissive condition= Iran
Clear and present danger to international peace and security
Immediate condition= Three of them:
1. Indicates Iran’s complicity in Syria’s atrocities.
2. Iran’s complicity on assaults on diplomats in other parts of the world.
3. Intimidation of Canadian-Iranian citizens living in Canada. (Harassed and
arrested when they go home to visit)
Why did Canada kick out the diplomats in Toronto? Reasons why:
How does it compare and contrast with what he just said. Different types of
theories. They highlight different aspects and explainable power… things that we
might be interested in or bad analogy: car wreck = someone who’s standing on a
street corner watching a car wreck. In terms of understand of what they see… in
many ways these conditions provide different perspectives.
Dependent variable: severance of diplomatic ties between these nations
Dispute between Iran & Canada
Editorial that showed up in the newspaper and applies to the permissive and
immediate conditions—to make it clear and apply this and how to think about it.
Another complimentary way of explaining international relations is levels
Three basic levels:
Level of the individual
Level of the State (unit level/domestic of analysis)
Level of Structural analysis What’s compelling of one level is explained in the structure of the level. The
temptation is to relate all three levels…Sometimes people can pull it off but most
The different levels of analysis are incompatible. One level – other… you have to
be able to articulate the link between them carefully.
Allows us to simplify our studies and better prepare arguments.
Level of the individual
Highlighting attributes characteristics of individuals
There are many different ways of unpacking and explaining individual behavior.
1. Unpack some conception of human nature
2. Essentialist approach…defines us as human beings
3. Traditionally … sinners medieval tradition, fallen and sinful
4. As time goes on, re-cast
5. Self-interested—more concerned with personal pursuits than others.
Whether we’re sinful or self-interested…we pursue power. We want what we
want. When you read Hans Morgenthau—classical realism. It will make
arguments on human nature. Self-interested and pursue power as a result.
Another argument along these lines is in the Tickner reading—not just one
human nature, there might be a couple. The argument is international politics is
defined by men and only reflect interest of Men. Pursuit of power and authority
of domination reflects male traits… Defining international relations that reflect
quality of women. Gives example of this in international women’s conference in
Halifax. Rather than competition for power –peace defined as absence of conflict,
Questions of social justice—farrance.
The differences between these things and different theorists. Articulation of the
Tickner’s argument is a constructivists approach.
Issue of misperception: individual and perceptions of things determines how
they behave. Idea Is that individuals, humanity, similar cognitive
processes…Determine how we perceive the world. Perceptions that are correct
vs. incorrect perceptions are explained when war breaks out or there is peace.
Rationalist behavior… individuals have preferences and pursuit of power.
Cooperation to get what we want.
Final way of explaining individual behavior: RISK.
Concept of risk, risk-acceptant.
We like to do risky things or we don’t.
These assumptions can determine the behavior that they engage in.
Strengths of this model: Very easy to articulate the conception of politics in individuals. Look through
newspaper and what do they talk about? Statesmen, politics
Problems of the individual level of analysis:
Individuals all share the same characteristics…. We’re defined this way. Problem is
this does not have explanatory power. Problems articulating causal….
Taken to be constant. They can’t explain change. If we all have the same cognitive
processes…risk acceptant or sinful or self-absorbed, this can explain one type of
behavior---maybe war but not peace. Static, holds all conditions. Causal evidence is
less. We want to point it to other things. Why are they risk-acceptant now? X, Y, Z
These are easy arguments to make… these are seen frequently.
State/unit level analysis:
The state from perspective of political science is described or defined as a unit that
has a monopoly of coercive force over a specific territory. Only legitimate for the
government to use violence. Along these lines are several different explanations…
Classic typology: democratic vs. authoritarian states
Unit Level of analysis
Bureaucratic politics referring to nature of actors within the institutions of the state
(president as executive-commander in chief) determines responsibilities.
Department of foreign affairs-tasked with a certain function… determines how they
behave… same for military
Basically this refers to competition for office
How different parties define themselves and foreign agenda…taking shape of foreign
There is a big difference between the democrats and the republicans.
Economic differences—septoral (industry vs. agriculture) and factorial (of
What goes into producing something? Distinguishing between
producers…industrial, commercial or agricultural
Diversity of actors…what are they actually producing? Hog farmers in North
Carolina are not going to have the same interest as Corn farmers…
Discrimination between factors of production
Revolutionary states vs. status quo regime
Do they want to change the status quo or do they want to maintain it??
EX. WW2—Nazi Germany was revolutionary
France—status quo didn’t want anything to change Strengths of domestic/states: can explain variation and foreign policy at the
international level by looking at the actors at the domestic level.
What interest they represent??
That said…one problem with this level of analysis
Despite fact it can explain variation… it struggles with consistency of behavior. Why
things stay the same.
Why does it seem like democracies act same way as monarchies of the 19 th
Historically…. States act the same way regardless of actors at domestic level
Iran and US aren’t acting that different. They’re both pursuing same thing… real-
We have to go to the system level:
SOME RANDOM GIRLS NOTES:
LEVEL OF ANALYSIS
1) Individuals or Domestic level
Subnational actors with different interests – politicians, bureaucrats, business
and labour groups, voters – interact within domestic institutions to determine
the country’s foreign policy choice.
Highlights attributes and characteristics on individuals: much different ways of
unpacking these characteristics, different approach:
Articulate or unpack some
conceptions of human nature; some distinctive traits to define us as a specie, as
human beings. Traditionally, we are spiritual, self-interested - lust for power as a
result. Tickner (p. 89) said that there is several human natures.
made by man => illustrate the various ways of human’s interests. All the political
system is based on war, competition and self-interested.
individual/domestic level of analysis: Individuals all share the same
characteristics => doesn’t have causal effect => it can’t explain change. It sure
can explain one type of behaviour, maybe war, but not peace; it is static.
2) State or Unit level
The state is described as the unit who has a monopoly on corrosive forces on a
Democratic VS authoritarian states:
In term of bureaucratic politics, the nature of actors within the institutions of
state is an explanation to international behaviour.
Problem: it can’t explain variations. Constancy of behaviour.
3) International and Transnational level Groups whose members span borders – such as multinational corporations,
transnational advocacy networks, terrorist organizations- pursue interests by
trying to influence both domestic and international politics.
The representatives of states with different interests interact with one another,
sometimes in the context of international institutions such as the UN or the WTO
(World Trade Organization).
Theory: a logically consistent set of statements that explains a phenomenon of
Institutions: a set of rules, known and shared by the community, that structure
political interactions in particular ways.
The three levels of analysis:
The variety of actors and institutions that play a role in the world politics means
that we will see important interactions at three levels:
At the international level, the representatives of states with different interests
interact with one another, sometimes in the context of international institutions
such as the UN or WTO.
At the domestic level, subnational actors with different interests—politicians,
bureaucrats, business and labor groups, voters—interact within domestic
institutions to determine the country’s foreign policy choices.
At the transnational level, groups whose members span borders—such as
multinational corporations, transnational advocacy networks, terrorist
organizations—pursue interests by trying to influence both domestic and
These levels are interconnected
Sept 12, 2012 Rules of Analysis
Several different ways of speaking at the individual level.. Human nature. Man is
sinful. man is selfish.
Cognitive processes= perception
Rationality? Preferences that actors hold? Risky or risk-acceptant
Domestic level of analysis
Domestic politics Regarding third system level: pinpoint and specify
Structures are hard to render concrete
Social interaction between units. What the units can vary. There are a variety of
System is defined as a set of interacting units. In terms of economics = it’s a
Firms, consumers, bureaucratic actors.
Within social systems, (social interactions between units)
Examples: high school is a social system as can university.
Couple different actors to point to..
HS you have students might be the unit of interaction, the teachers might be
some type of unit of analysis
Think about how those actors differ at the university level.
Students—at university getting rid of Parents. (The absence of authority—which
means our behavior and interests WILL be different. The behavior we exhibit
after school in HS is different to now)
Teachers also behave differently. No professional pressures like the university
professors face. Publish vs press
Systems are often defined by the type of unit and how they interact.
If we’re looking at politics, actors will be much different….can be taken as agent
at the system level.
Parties, economic interests, regime types, all these things can in some sense be
looked at in terms of their structural relations. Once you’ve defined the unit, then
you can start to unpack the interest of the unit. What are the units goals? What
is its purpose? What is it after? Consequences? How do they shape one
Understood in terms of constraints—things the actors can/can’t do.
Example #1: International politics, the system… one of the units would be the
State. The international level—state behavior. Goals that they pursue. Are they
always able to get what they want? States always have interests that they want
to pursue….WHY NOT? Because they face international constraints (that come
from the action of other actors.
#2 US goes into Iraq to establish democracy…. They were OFF but a lot.
Why not? The UN didn’t approve it. Consists of other state governments. They
In terms of military planning—they didn’t plan properly for other domestic
actors. They got a plan, put it into action, Al-Queada they aren’t on board with it
and they send in foreign fighters… groups of actors trying to oppose and
intervene with the US. The insurgencies (domestic level actors within Iraq) (Internal considerations as well… there is opposition within the US about Iraq)
This isn’t systemic level consequences. Domestic-level actors can have an
impact… not the system level though.
Is a state a system? It can be.
High school is a closed system. It’s not international or domestic.
Strengths of explanation:
Explains patterns of behavior that occurs over time.
States always fight. Sparta vs. Athens, Germany vs. France…etc., All of these have a
systemic characteristic to them. Re-occuring pattern
o Parsimonious and provide streamline explanations of things.
That said, if they have weakness, systemic level explanations are very weak at
explaining change. Might be able to explain why there was a cold war competition,
and why Athens vs Sparta (might be able to use a system level of analysis to figure it
out but can barely permit us to know who’s going to pull it off… who’s going to win
the cold war? ..etc.,
Weaknesses in class: many structural accounts will begin with unit of analysis is the
nation-state, the state itself. Blackbox what goes on within a state. Socialist or
catalyst? This isn’t a mistake, obviously. States are important, and what goes on in
them is equally important. Doesn’t matter if Obama or Bush is in office—but it does.
International institutions that are obviously important but they are not states in the
way we think of Canada, Russia, etc.
System level of analysis can distract away from something that may have great
System level of analysis is international…. And the state can be a system. They are
defined by the interaction of the units. Important component. We’re interested in
the states collectively—this is what generates the international system.
Unit is state.
Are the systems constraints defined by the interest of the unit? System is reflection
of actions of the states, yes it does play into the constraints.
Interest of shaping of the constraints.
Canada’s role in the world in terms of levels of analysis:
Individual level: prime minister Harper
Why does it matter and HOW does it matter who the prime minister is?
What kind of power does it provide for Canada’s state behavior? What might be the
importance of Canada’s parliamentary system in the world? What is the significance