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Lecture 13

Political Science 1020E Lecture Notes - Lecture 13: Sovereign State, Arab Spring, Scientific Method

Political Science
Course Code
Political Science 1020E
Peter Fragiskatos

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February 5, 2015: Lecture #15
Navigating the Explanatory/Constitutive Divide:
- The limits of seeing “international relations as current events”
- What is theory? What is IR theory?
- Explanatory theory
- Constitutive theory
- Language and ontology
- Most people who think they know it all get their information from TV or media;
how is a news story usually written? 2 or 3 sides are usually given and the listener
can determine what the truth is; details are usually lacking because the stories are
usually only 2-3 minutes; 50% of Canadians get their information from TV
- Newspapers are better than TV; can complex issues be captured in 1200 words,
such as nuclear weapons?
- Stories are getting much shorter in magazines, such as Time Magazine
- Make stories shorter because of printing costs; increase font size to make it more
reader friendly; people have shorter attention spans (Marshall McLuhan)
- Even if stories were longer and people had longer attention spans, there are many
explanations for complex issues; no journalist can cover the complexity of an
issue; can’t capture everything because there are so many layers
- Keeping up with the news does not necessarily mean you are informed; if you
want to know what’s going on internationally, go to the source (i.e. ask leaders
involved because they are making the decisions); obvious and subtle problems:
leaders often lie and leaders may not even be capable of explaining their actions;
the average person won’t be able to tell you where their values come from
because each of us are shaped by forces that we aren’t aware of
- Since leaders aren’t reliable, you should rely on theory
What do we mean by “theory”?
- An explanation of an event (e.g. why was the EU created?) or a pattern of related
events (e.g. why are most wars today civil wars?)
- These explanations are held together by a set of common assumptions,
definitions, and concepts
- To be considered true, must be verifiable and continually tested
- As more testing takes place, and as new ides and evidence emerges, the theory is
subject to modification, perhaps extinction
International Relations:
- The activities (military, diplomatic, economic, etc.) and interactions that take
place across borders between states
- Should’ve used interstate rather than international
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