MONDAY, JULY 9, 2012:
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
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
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.