The Level of Analysis Notes.pdf

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Political Science
Lilach Gilady

The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations Notes▯ J. David Singer▯ Wednesday September 18th, 2013▯ ▯ - “whether in the physical or social sciences, the observer may choose to focus upon the parts or upon the whole, upon the components or on the system”▯ - it is the job of the scholar to pick the appropriate level of analysis from the various options available to him▯ ▯ - some scholars think that the issue of levels of analysis has been resolved within the field of international relations however this author thinks it is still a relevant issue▯ - “it is the purpose of this paper to raise the issue, articulate the alternatives, and examine the theoretical implications and consequences of two of the more widely employed levels of analysis: the international system and the national sub-systems”▯ ▯ Requirements of an Analytical Model:▯ - first and foremost is an accurate description of the phenomena▯ - this description must present an undistorted picture of what is happening and have some sort of empirical proof (as much as possible)▯ - the second component of a model is the capacity to explain the relationship between the model and the phenomena▯ - the concern is not so much accuracy but validity▯ - “it should be asserted here that the primary purpose of theory is to explain, and when descriptive and explanatory requirements are in conflict, the latter ought to be given priority, even at the cost of some representational inaccuracy”▯ - next, an analytical model must offer some reliable prediction▯ - coming up with a prediction can be the easiest element of a theory (ie. we can predict that a country will respond to a threat with a military attack but describing and understanding the process is considerably harder)▯ ▯ The International System as a Level of Analysis:▯ - the international system is the most comprehensive of all levels of analysis since it encompasses the interactions between actors ▯ - only this systemic evaluation allows us to look at international relations as a whole▯ - unfortunately lots of detail is lost because of this wide scope▯ - another difficulty of this level is that it exaggerates the impact of the system on national actors and discounts the impact of the actors on the system▯ - another issue is that looking at IR this way implies that there is some uniformity or agreement in the foreign policy of national actors (ie. assuming all states act in the interest of power is narrow and excludes other behaviours)▯ - nations may differ widely in what they consider to be the national interest so we should not treat all states the same▯ ▯ The National State as a Level of Analysis:▯ - this is the traditional focus amongst Western students▯ - the most obvious ad
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