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Political Science
Christopher Cochrane

Week 3 Outline I. Theories of Global Politics A. Liberalism B. Realism C. Radicalism D. Alternative Theories II. Social Scientific Study of Global Politics A. Comparisons B. Generalizations III. Theory and Evidence A. Hypotheses and Assumptions B. Specifying and Testing Hypotheses IV. The Study and Practice of Global Politics A. The Question of Policy Relevance B. The Question of Values 1. Empirical Theory 2. Normative Theory Summary I. Theories about Global Politics. By the end of World War II, three general perspectives on Global Politics had emerged: liberalism, realism, and radicalism. The perspectives lead their proponents to ask different questions, and they stress different levels of analysis in their explanations. Nevertheless, they often lead to contrasting explanations or predictions that can be tested and found to be more or less correct. The book aims to contrast explanations or predictions derived from the three perspectives. A. Liberalism. Liberals highlight representative forms of government and respect for individual rights and hope that the spread of democracy would lead to peaceful relations among states. Liberalism emphasizes the benefits of collective security and rule of international law which limits countries’ actions. Liberalism maintains faith in human progress and social harmony – society of states. Liberalism argues that ideas, norms, and rules, as well as power and interests, determine international outcomes. B. Realism. Realists are more skeptical and believe that people are self-interested, often selfish, and seek to dominate others. They consider nation-states the most important actors in Global Politics in a self-help system where there is no higher world authority to guarantee national security. Realism is an approach to the study and practice of international politics. It emphasizes the role of the nation-state and makes a broad assumption that all nation- states are motivated by national interests, or, at best, national interests disguised as moral concerns. Realism is school of thought that explains International Relations in terms of power. This school has a long history of development and widespread geographical proponents, including Sun Tzu from China, Thucydides from Greece, and Machiavelli from Italy. The underlying assumptions of realism are that human nature is essentially selfish, that states are the most important actors, that states act like rational individuals in pursuing national interests, and that states act in an anarchic international system (with no central government). 1 C. Radicalism. The radical viewpoint stems from Marxist thought. Along with realists, radicals believe that people are motivated by self-interest and are ready to dominate others, but they concentrate primarily on economic relations. Radicals consider states to be important actors, but they also emphasize the conflicting interests of social classes. D. Alternative Theories. The three views (liberalism, realism, radicalism) form Global Politics' dominant paradigms, but they have been challenged in various ways by new perspectives like critical theory, feminism and social constructivism. These new perspectives do more than challenge the typical explanations of Global Politics offered by realism, liberalism, and radicalism to describe what states and other international actors do, and why they do it. They often reject the modes of theorizing and research that have become so commonly accepted in universities, research institutes, and policy circles—that is, the field’s dominant epistemologies. Critical, postmodern, and some feminist theories explore the implications of asking some questions and not others, of gathering some types of evidence and not others, and of evaluating that evidence in some ways and not others. In examining such previously unexamined issues, they hope to shed new light on the incompleteness—or worse, the bias of our current understanding of Global Politics. 1. Social Constructivism. Constructivists recognize many of the same patterns and practices in Global Politics as do realists, liberals, and radicals, but they are wary of the tendency of mainstream perspectives to objectify these patterns and practices. Constructivists suggest that we need to recognize that established diplomatic practice, international law and organization, even what would appear to be obvious national interests like political independence and secure borders, all are socially constructed. This does not make them nonreal, but it does lead constructivists to ask and try to answer questions that are usually neglected by traditional approaches. Why do states define their interests— or indeed their identities as states—the way they do? The power of ideas is, not surprisingly, central to the constructivist approach to Global Politics. Constructivists remind us of the intersubjective quality of our images of the world. Awareness of how our understandings of the world are socially constructed, and of how prevailing ideas mold our beliefs about what is immutable and what can be reformed, allow us to see theories of Global Politics in a new, critical light. II. Social Scientific Study of Global Politics. Just as there are different views on Global Politics, there are different opinions about how Global Politics should be studied. Post-World War II thought turned to the social scientific approach, which investigates patterns of social behavior. State and non-state behavior can be compared from place to place or from one time period to another. The social-scientific approach to Global Politics assumes that patterns of behavior will become apparent, transcending the specific times, places, and people involved. Given the crucial world problems that appeared after 1945, many scholars and analysts felt that only a more systematic understanding would lead to solutions. One post–World War II intellectual reaction to the earlier approaches was to study international relations in a scientific manner, using procedures and methods borrowed from the physical sciences. Other disciplines of study, such as economics and psychology, had borrowed from the physical sciences, and the tactic seemed to be paying off in the accumulation of knowledge. The idea was to stress comparability rather than uniqueness—to look for recurring patterns and to understand particular events a emerging from these larger patterns or processes. A. Comparisons. The new “social scientific” approach, then, assumed that knowledge could be acquired by investigating patterns of social behavior—which is why the social sciences are 2 sometimes called the behavioral sciences— and that includes international behavior. These patterns may be investigated cross-nationally (that is, by comparisons of several states at a particular time) or longitudinally (by comparisons of conditions in one or more states at several points in time). B. Generalizations. Denying the existence of regularities would leave us to study only specific cases or to produce detailed descriptions, with no accumulation of knowledge for the scholar or policymaker. If every historical event is truly unique, and thus incomparable, the gulf between the social scientist and the critic is indeed unbridgeable. Everyone has compared two events at some time. By comparing things, we admit the possibility of certain similarities across events. Using a single event to illustrate some more general phenomenon reveals the same agreement with the principle of comparison and the possibility of patterns (generalizations). The most basic rationale for the study of social relations—that the past can be used as some sort of guide to the future—must also rest on the similarities of events and the existence of regularities: in short, on the possibility of comparison. While scientists believe that things are comparable and that we should search for explanations that cover many cases, it is not true that science (even the physical, or “hard,” sciences) promises general laws that will explain everything and predict exactly what will happen. All science is based on models, propositions, or laws that are contingent – those that will hold only under certain conditions. To understand Global Politics we need to have a high tolerance for uncertainty, the imperfect state of human knowledge, and the whys of human society and politics. The phenomena are extraordinarily complex, and we know far less than we would like. III. Theory and Evidence. Research involves theories, intellectual tools that provide a way to organize the complexity of the world and show how phenomena are interrelated. We are also interested in causality. A simple definition of a cause is a condition or set of conditions that must exist if the behavior or event in question is to occur. A. Hypotheses and Assumptions. Hypotheses are theoretical statements that relate to possible observations, and testing hypotheses is a central activity of science. All theories include assumptions. Assumptions simplify the task of theory building. In contrast to hypotheses, we do not systematically test assumptions against actual data. This is either because our assumptions are fairly straightforward statements about the world, with which most people agree, or because examining the accuracy of these statements must be deferred until later, at which time they can be treated as hypotheses to be tested. By following the precepts of scientific inquiry, careful analysts will always be alert to the nature of their assumptions, to ways in which they may differ from reality, and to the conditions under which the difference may be significant. Careful analysts will want to know what has been simplified and have some sense of how that simplification may compromise their predictions. B. Specifying and Testing Hypotheses. The testing of hypotheses—checking their predictions against the observed data—is a central activity of science. Social scientists often proceed in the following way: 1. Start with some behavior that needs to be explained. 2. Offer some tentative hypotheses, perhaps derived from some theory purporting to explain that behavior. 3. Evaluate the hypotheses in light of available evidence. 4. If the evidence supports the hypotheses, consider the implications—the additional statements (or predictions) that can be deduced from these confirmed hypotheses. 3 5. Treat these new statements as hypotheses and evaluate them in light of available evidence. Laws are hypotheses that are confirmed in virtually all the classes of phenomena to which they are applied, but these are rare in the study of Global Politics. The phenomena of social science are so complex, with so many different influences or causes, and our knowledge of these complex phenomena is still so imperfect that few laws have been established. IV. The Study and Practice of Global Politics. We can analyze a decision or event from different theoretical approaches to Global Politics and at various levels of analysis. A. The Question of Policy Relevance. Social scientists often work at levels of analysis different from those that policymakers find most relevant when facing immediate decisions. If pure knowledge is what interests us, then, in principle, there should be no reason for preferring an explanation that highlights one set of independent variables over another. Since most scientific endeavors are driven partly by practical concerns, the social scientist will care about finding ways to make a difference (say, in promoting peace or justice). But the social scientist is not necessarily looking to put acquired knowledge to immediate use. The policymaker, by contrast, is centrally concerned with putting information to use, especially with an eye toward changing outcomes from what they might otherwise be. To change outcomes, the policymaker must identify not just important but also variables that can be manipulated. Explanations that identify causes that are controllable are more useful to policymakers than those that identify broad historical forces on which policymakers can have little impact. They are likely to be much more interested in explanations about how a crisis can be resolved short of war than in knowing about the sociological developments that brought about the crisis. While “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” drives social science research, the fruits of that research are not always useful to foreign policymakers. B. The Question of Values. As social scientists we must always keep in mind that we are part of the world we observe, and have an effect on the world. The methods of social science can establish the impact of different sets of values on actual behavior, but they cannot determine the moral superiority of one set of values over another. 1. Empirical Theory. Empirical theory involves constructing models of what international actors do, how they do it, and why. These models are then evaluated against actual data-qualitative, quantitative, or both. 2. Normative Theory. Normative theory concerns the moral or ethical evaluation of behavior and outcomes in Global Politics. Facts change, values change, problems change, and theories change. This book, therefore, aims to teach you how to think about Global Politics. This will aid your understanding of particular contemporary problems. But it will also give you a set of analytical tools to apply to new problems many years from now. International Actors: States and Other Players on the World Stage Outline I. Humans in Groups A. Nation B. Nationalism C. State 4 D. Imagined Community II. The State as International Actor A. Modern State System B. Sovereignty and the Nature of the State C. Evolving Anarchy: The State System Since Westphalia III. All States Are Equal (but Some States Are More Equal Than Others?) Power, Superpower A. Juridical Statehood B. Empirical Statehood IV. Non-state Actors in the Contemporary System A. Intergovernmental Organizations 1. Universal 2. Restricted 3. General 4. Limited B. Nongovernmental Organizations C. Multinational Corporations D. Nation-State versus Non-state Loyalty Summary I. Human in Groups. Since Global Politics begins with the idea of relations—activities between social entities—the study of the field must begin with the notion of humans forming groups. Along with the idea of the group goes identification. The group identity gives people a sense of belonging and self-esteem. The group is held together and defined by nets of social communications. Different groups of people are created by barriers to social communication— distance, language, religion, ideology, or different historical experiences. Perhaps one of the things that make us human is our need to affiliate into groups. Aristotle observed that people are social animals, a view supported by such disciplines as anthropology and sociology (and also ethology, the study of animal behavior). Because our evolutionary heritage provides us with the genetic material most open to the forces and influences of the environment, we also require a social environment for the brain to develop and for potential skills like speech and written communication to be realized. Human beings as animals, as physical and physiological creatures, appear to require society and throughout their existence have formed groups. A. Nation. People who feel they are part of a large identity group constitute a nation. B. Nationalism. Nationalism refers to the psychological, cultural, and social forces that drive the formation of a nation. Nationalism has been discussed primarily in terms of we-feeling— a condition of the mind, a feeling of identification or loyalty to some group of people. What produces the we-feeling? A number of factors have been identified. A common language is an extremely important aspect of nationalism. Another is sharing a common territory. People living and interacting in the same area, facing similar problems and challenges, often dev
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