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Poli Sci 2J03 - January 13, 2013.docx

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McMaster University
Political Science
Robert O' Brien

Lecture at: 01/13/2014 C LASS N OTES FOR : 2J03 McMaster University, Fall 2013 Monday, January 13, y Previous Class - Nigerian author talking about the dangers of a single story GPE T HEORIES - Think of this section as methods, talking about things such as rational choice, constructivist, etc. - These can be different ways of presenting a ‘story’ - The role of theories: - Why do we need theories or use theories? o Theories are used by different people for different purposes* o Ordering facts  When we look at the world and trying to understand what is happening  We are faced with a complex picture with millions of acts  Need to decide where we will start  Which are those that are important and those that are not?  Theories alert you to what relationships are particularly important and where you should start your investigation • Example of climate change: • There are so many facts behind climate change; it is useful to have a theory to start off. • Perhaps science of climate change? • Other theory political conspiracy (certain groups are out there to further their own interest and to take advantage of you) o Prediction  Many theories are created to help us predict what is going to happen next.  Economics - posits a world that operates according to certain principles • These principles are studied and then applied to help us predict what is going to happen • If you raise interest rates it will money more expensive and costly to borrow; • It will slow down economic activity because people can’t borrow so much • Theory that if you lower interest rates, money becomes cheaper and people spend more and as such the economy will grow. o Understanding  Prediction and understanding are alternatives way of looking at the world  This is about trying to figure out why things have happened and why things will happen  The reason why its different from prediction, because most people that claim that their main goal is to understand, BELIEVE that you CANNOT predict  Social reality is so complex that you cannot get all of the variables correct. Cannot do everything in a vacuum - there is always something that is changing. Angie © McMaster University 1 Fall 2013 Lecture at: 01/13/2014  Approach is trying to understand how things are working, and being reluctant that if we do this, this is going to happen. o Action  Theories are important for action, need to have some sort of theories about what the CAUSAL mechanisms are!  To secure something - need to understand what creates power, wealth and so on.  How do we get this and how do we deploy it?  Need to have theoretical framework in order to understand how to get something done! - Why so many theories? o (1) ROBERT COX - “Theory is always for someone and for some purpose”  Theory is not neutral or natural  That there is always some group looking for a theory and looking to use to do particular things • Russia in 1900s - Different theories about how the Russian state works and what it does. • CZAR - Particular theory about how the state should be operated. Modernization, to secure the power of the Czar and imperial Russia. • CONTEMPORARY OF LENIN - Oppressive institution, serving the class interests of the aristocracy, ideas about what should be done. Seize the state, overthrow the aristocracy and implement a different development program. • Two different sets of social interests and goals  Alot of different theories about how the world works and what should be done o (2) HARD TO DISPROVE -  If in the natural sciences; can run experiments to test tenants of the theory  Even if argued from cases, the adherence of a theory falls back that it wasn’t a “suitable” case.  E.G Communism in Soviet Union - Communism fai
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