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POL208Y1 Lecture Notes - Counterfactual Conditional, Thought Experiment

Political Science
Course Code
La Haine

of 2
Levels of Analysis of International Events.
-J David Singer (1960) Domestic/International: Micro/Macro
-Russett, Starr & KinsellaL individual, decision makers, government structure, society,
international relations, world system.
-How can we judge which level matters most?
-Thought experiment (counterfactuals - what if things were not this way, what if
Harper was not PM, would we still be in Afghanistan?)
-Why did USA bomb Hiroshima? Retaliation? - International relations or Financial? -
The world system is the most difficult to understand because it is the most abstract.
What is a world system? A system is a set of interacting elements. We try to understand
system through: structure (usually measured by the distribution of power); technology;
systemic level of conflict; distribution of wealth; norms. Example: multi-polarity vs.
bipolarity vs. unipolarity… is one better then another? Counterfactual: under different
systemic constraints the outcome would have been different.
Levels of Analysis - Summary
-The choice of level of analysis depends on: the question we ask; the case; our
theoretical assumptions and preferences.
-Levels of analysis are not mutually exclusive - they capture different parts of the story.
-We need to be able to justify our choice - why did we choose to use this specific level?
-Levels of analysis are not a theory but the choice often involves theoretical
What is a theory?
-A description
-An explanation: Deduction, not simply induction.
-A tool for generating predictions/prescriptions
-Logic-causal explanation
-Predictions, hypotheses
-A philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within
which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of
them are formulated.
-In IR: realism, liberalism, Marxism
-One piece of data to lead us to the next.
-Problem: What are the relevant data to collect?
-What evidence to collect to explain war and peace?
-Alignment of the planets; number of people praying; rainfall; number of people who
have read a particular book (which book?);
-“The transition from data to theory requires creative imagination. Scientific hypotheses
and theories are not derived from observed facts, but are invented to account for