PS100 4/9/2013 10:20:00 AM
“a set of techniques, concepts, and approaches whos objective is to increase
the clarity and accuracy of our understandings of political phenomena”
Explainating, prediction and analysis- figuring out why things happened in
order to help predict what will happen IE 2012 election and WWII (maybe
we can control if we know why things happen)
Accumulation of knowledge- knowing the rules and concepts to build on the
past in order to be successful in the future
Generation of new and interesting questions- brings up topics with a broader
view of arguments and give more angles and solutions to problems
The discipline: Traditionally divided into four fields 1. Political theory 2.
American Politics 3. Comparative politics 4. International Relations
Normative: Ideal, should
Positive: describe how things are
Empirical: related to data- most what were going to study because it gives
you facts about how the world works
Normative basis of the entire discipline. How societies should be organized
Divided into three different eras: 1. Ancients- plato, aristotile, greeks, ties to
classist theory. Wrote a lot about how society should be structures
(democracy that is different than how we define democracy) 2. Modernists-
Hobbes, Carl Marx, John Locke- generally concerned with democracy in the
modern sense. Concerned with human nature being good or evil. Hobbes
says that the state of nature is without govt life would be nasty brutal and
short. People are not generally nice to each other, so we need to give all
political power to a king who will take the power and protect us from
everyone else. Government is a form of protection. 3. Contemporaries-
some study past texts and ideas, some are more focused on creating new
ideas and angles. American political thought
Largely run by Americans for Americans.
Study political behavior- how do people participate in politics. How does the
masses affect politics? Who votes and who doesn’t vote? Why do people vote? What influences these factors? What drives public opinion? (social
movement and protests) studies different groups and what influences them
(race, gender…) study surveys.
Study political institutions: why is it organized the way it is? Why do we
have filibusters? How does the speaker of the house affect the outturn of a
bill? Study procedure of congress.
Studying a country’s govt that is not America. Study of the organizations
and policies of foreign countries as well as their demographics and the role
of politics in historical events. Why does Africa continue to have
development problems? Why did the west undergo industrialization and not
the east? Why are some countries democratic and some not?
Why do wars happen? What are the conditions for peace?
National political trade, why do countries invest in each other?
Topics of Interest:
Welfare spending- how do they decide what to spend and where to spend it,
how long are people on welfare and what are the factors that affect that
Foreign policy such as defense etc
Foreign policy interventions
Research Question: Think about a question such as why do some things
happen and not others, why is there a difference? What explains that
(why are some countries poor and some countries rich?, Why do wars
happen in some places and not others?) Questions about facts rather than
“should” something happen (ie should abortion be illegal vs what would
happen if taxes were higher)
Positive vs normative questions Explanation vs Understanding
Importance of the project: is it addressing a big or major issue?
Theory: organizing facts into a casual story
Three steps (1) identify the dependent variable. (2) find the independent
variable and (3) casual mechanism.
Ex: US intervention in foreign affairs: (1) successful vs non-successful (2)
stable govt in the foreign country, nature of the conflict is violent or
peaceful, domestic and international support… (3) take each independent
variable and explain why it would effect the dependent variable.
A good theory will include
Covariation: variable lining up with each other in a logical way
Temporal order: Causes precede effects
Internally Consistent: claims and assumptions should fit together
Why are some theories better than others?
How well it explains evidence
1. What is politics?
Distribution- who gets what when and how?
Economics: efficiency of the distribution of resources
Power- the ability of a person to convince someone else to do something
that they wouldn’t have done.
Individuals sharing a common interest that can be furthered by cooperating
with one another may rationally decide not to cooperate, leading to a sub-
optimal collective outcome
Examples: Cleaning the bathro