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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 244
Mahesh Shankar

MONDAY, JULY 9, 2012: “The ingredients”  Theories: realism, liberalism, constructivism, cognitivism  Issues and questions:  Why War? Is cooperation possible?  Nuclear Proliferation, the rise of China, what can we do about terrorism, environmental degradation, etc.? What is political science?  It is “science” in that it has broad, generalizable understandings, interpretations, predictions, causal relationships (theories)  It seeks to make implicit ideas explicit by testing their validity Theories:  A theory is a statement of a causal relationship between two phenomena  There are variables- X and Y. The independent variable is the cause (x) and the dependent variable is the effect you are trying to explain (y).  Dependent variables can be things like the breakout of a war, exchange rates, immigration, and the independent variable is what explains them- ex. Religion, land disputes, ethnic conflict.  Not all variables are equally powerful (useful) at predicting outcomes. For example: necessary and sufficient. Necessary conditions are when an independent variable must be present for the dependent variable to be present- ex. Cold weather (x) is necessary for snow (y). Sufficient conditions are where x by itself in sufficient to cause y without any other contributing factors. Something can be both a necessary and a sufficient condition, which proves a strong causal relationship. Generally in social sciences, we rarely encounter such definitive theories that find both necessary and sufficient conditions.  Probabilistic theories are more common (we don’t talk as much about x causing y, we talk about x making y more likely).  Permissive vs. efficient conditions: a permissive condition is a circumstance that allows something to happen (ex. Cold weather allows snow). An efficient condition does not just give a possibility/allow it; it moves something in a certain direction and makes something happen. What do we want a theory to tell us?  Under what conditions? We want to know precisely what conditions are going on for it to be true- it could be true under all conditions across time and space or only true for males who are over 40 years old and over 6 feet tall. You want it to be specific and clear.  Testable/Falsifiable hypotheses: the statement that, if true, proves the strength of the argument. This is difficult in political science, but there must be an identifiable condition under which your hypothesis would not be true. Ex. If the hypothesis is “as trade increases, war decreases,” the condition that would make it untrue could be if you find that if trade increases, war actually increases. (Another option is possible- what evidence you need to find for it to be impossible).  Co-variance: correlation is not causation. We could think that because two things happen at the same time than there is a causal relationship, which is not necessarily correct. For example, if war decreases as trade increases, there could be something else causing war to decrease separate from trade. A good theory will tell you the “causal mechanism”: how they are related and whether or not there is a causal link.  Timing: if X happens after Y, then obviously it cannot be causing Y, so timing must be identified to identify the dependent and independent variables. Theory:
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