POL 2104 C - Intro to Comparative Politics - Emily Regan Wills - 03 Jan. 13
Critiques of Positivism: Critical & Interpretive Methods
- KKV, coming from the mainstream of quantitative PS, argued that all social science (SS)
research can be scientific if it meets some specific guidelines: inference based on empirical data,
publicness of methods, and estimates of certainty, among others.
- This is an attempt to unify the field of political science & make it subject to to “1 logic,” which
helps make PS a more internally consistent field.
Mary Hawkesworth Does Not Agree
- Published in Interpretation and Method, 2006: the methodology bible for people who identify
themselves as interpretivists
- Interpretivism: beyond the quant/qual division (& frequently beyond PS as well)
- Focuses on the role of meaning in the study of politics & social life: what do human beings
mean by certain political actions & practices?
- She is not interested the method used (qualitative/quantitative).
- As a result, it’s quite difficult to describe meaning in numbers quantitatively.
- How do these meanings vary? What is the role of these meanings in the working of politics?
- She lays out 3 categories of philosophical thought, and identifies with the last one while
critiquing the first 2.
- Verification of criterion of meaning: “a contingent proposition is meaningful if & if it can be
empirically verified” (30).
- Science means discovering regularities in the empirical world to confirm facts and make laws.
- Firm division between the empirical & the normative.
- Between what is and what should be
- Unity of science.
- In other words, KKV.
- Ex: If people like democracy, according to positivist theory, we should be able to come up with
laws that if we follow, we should have the perfect democracy.
- Her criticism: It assumes we can know too much when the world is too big, too complex. Critical Rationalism
- Karl Popper as leading thinker; frequently assumed to be identical to positivism, & most
positivists are in fact Popperian critical rationalists
- Main idea: You can never confirm. You can only disconfirm. Key point: falsification.
- Second key point: testability. (Remember KKV’s “observable implications.”)
- To Popper, a negative result, meaning some claim to knowledge was falsified, is a result. If you
get a positive r