Category Archives: UNL / Scope & Methods

PNM Theory is Critical Theory (That’s a good thing)

I’ve long enjoyed grand strategist ‘s “PNM Theory” — the Pentagon’s New Map paradigm that emphasizes connectivity, rulesets, and globalization. However, an old comment of his puzzled me. Once, when asked whether PNM Theory was descriptive (accurately describing the real) or prescriptive (wise advice for decision makers), he answered “Yes. Both.”

This week’s reading in Scopes & Methods made me realize that Dr. Barnett wasn’t being humorous, but was honestly answering the question. “Critical Theory” holds that the only way that a thing can be true is if it happens, erasing the traditional distinction between theory and practice. A “true’ Critical Theory is both a description and a prescription, because the testing of its description is prescribed political action.

Critical Theory has long been associated with Marxism, so it’s natural that Barnett’s quasi-Marxist PNM Theory is a critical theory. CT also has a model of human thought that is very similar to John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is often used in military strategy. In Critical Theory, one makes different types of decisions based on whether thought is from unconscious orientation or conscious decision, and that both conscious and unconscious thoughts feedback into observation just as much as they feed forward into action.

Below the fold you’ll find my reaction paper for this week, which is on critical theory. It’s not as good as last week’s perfect paper on interpretivism, but it ain’t bad either.

Richard Bernstein, The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory, (pp. 173-236), (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976.

Brian Fay. Social Theory and Political Practice. (pp. 92-110), London: Allen and Unwin., 1975.

I have had a hard time with this reaction paper because it is difficult to defend the obvious. The validity and naturalness of critical theory are clear to me. The trend of increasing “science with a human face” from positivism to interpretivism is continued in this shift from interpretivism to critical theory. Interpretivism is a profoundly natural theory, that’s already in use in respectable places.

Bernstein’s description of the original meaning of “politics” paints it as a moral activity. In today’s world ethics and politics seem far apart, but politics was intended to be the application of ethics to civic life.
While trying to come up with a reaction paper, the words of Saint Paul kept bouncing in my head. Four times he used faith, hope, and love as a troika, most famously as: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” To me, critical theory is similar, but would render those lines “And now these three remain: truth, and victory, and politics, but the greatest of these is politics.”

That critical theory is concerned with truth isn’t surprising. After all, any epistemology has to be concerned with truth somehow. Critical theory differs from interpretivism and politics in its emphasis on victory, but does not hide from this: “truth or falsify of these theories will be partially determined by whether they are in fact translated into action” and “a critical theory is not divorced from social practice.” These are harmonized in critical theory’s final goal, politics, whether in Bernstein’s explicit formulation or Faye’s euphemisms (“conscious-raising groups” for “agitation-propaganda.”).

As humans are moral animals, how could it be otherwise? Humans are not robots, and so a strict positivism (“these are just the things that are”) or even interpretivist (“these are just the things that are intersubjectively meaningful”) would lead to a cold science. They would also be distorting, as it would imply that true positivism or true interpretivism was used to derive them — instead of previous applications of morals, ethics, and perspective (that is, critical theory).

That said, critical theory does not reject previous approaches like interpretivism or positivism. Indeed, they make up critical theory, as bays and seas make up the ocean. Critical theory is more a guide of how to use interpretivism and positivism, rather than a replacement. Critical theory gives us the direction, and interpretivism would give us the semantic, meaningful context of whatever we are studying. Likewise positivism has its place, too. Within the direction to victory provided by critical theory, within the context provided by interpretivism, positivism has a role to play.

For instance, a critical theory in favor of increased public health would focus everything on that need. It would find context from interpretivism, finding that many residents do not agree there is adequate health care, so adequate health care’s presence isn’t “true.” With that positivism can help, giving us empirical knowledge that certain routes are difficult to drive, that statistically fewer people can travel this road or that, etc.

Last, the image critical theory has been harmed by its association with the Frankfurt School Marxists, but this unfair. Critical theory is very similar to “grand strategy,” in that it is an overriding guide for anyone to what is true and good. For instance, anti-Communism itself is a critical theory, because actions that help destroy Communist power were evaluated positively.

Quality 4, Inlets, Lakes, and Streams

Quality, a tdaxp series.

Photo Courtesy

I haven’t been that pleased with my scopes & methods reaction papers — however, I thought this was was great. It builds on some posts from both tdaxp and ZenPundit, namely

I use my extra energy for blog writing, as I learn more here, I enjoy more here, and I interact with more people here. So it’s notable that there this turned-in paper is blog-worthy.

Enjoy! It’s good! (I promise)

The readings this week say that truth only exists when two people can talk about the same thing. It is therefore unfortunate that the authors have chosen such technical language to present themselves. Our class is full of smart, well-read students, but our professor had to warn us over the difficulty of the assignments.
Fortunately, a friend and I covered this same ground last year, in more understandable language. So in this week’s paper I will summarize the readings using the easier vocabulary I previously encountered.

The world is not just made of things — there are more to life than just entities. Just as a computer’s database is based on entities and relations — things and how they relate to each other — the world is composed both of “brute data” (Taylor) and relationships that give meaning to the data. Without relations, the world would be meaningless. All that would exist would be an infinite stream of facts with no semantics (“language,” in Taylor’s analogy) to guide the observer. We would exist in a sort of “conceptual anatopianism,” to misquote Farr. Happily, we do not live in that world.

Instead of the cold isolated entities, we are warmed by the friction caused the dynamic intersubjective relationship between ourselves and everything else. The heat from his friction warms our hearts, but acts just like physical friction. It can be so hot we melt, changing our nature (A good school is like this, because students leave different than when they entered. The friction of relations changed their relationship to things, ideas, places, etc.)

However, just as in a complex database there is not “one true semantic,” there is not just one true meaning in the real world. Fay gives the example of a killer, and observes how the meaning of the actions changes depending on the scope. Again the analogy of friction is a good one, because friction is caused by resistance.

Think of a swimmer in a small inlet. His hands and feat resist the watery body, changing his position (his relation with the entities of the water). The ripples from his strokes propagate through the inlet, leading to a certain meaning in that inlet (even if to the swimmer the heady surface is full of “contradiction and confusion” of overlapping ripples). But if we expand our view from beyond the inlet to the estuary the inlet is part of, the nature of the estuary is changed in a different way. And expand beyond that to the bay, to the gulf, to the sea, and to the ocean where that water flows, and the ripples (the alterations of the semantic meanings) work in different ways. The border between the inlet and the estuary represents “boundary conditions” (Farr), just as validly as the boundary between Medievalism and Modernism, or the Qing and the Republic [pun]. And just as a swimmer’s intent is only part of the story of his ripples, a killer’s intent is just part of the story of a murder/prevented assassination/protection of a regime.

Again, keeping in the analogy, imagine a scientist attempting to understand the nature of the inlet. He observes the moss, fishes, and swimmers, and the ecosystem they form. He devises causal laws (“If more moss, then less swimmers”) and correlative observations (“inlet-bed surface light and swimmers rise and fall together”). Proud of himself, he submits his work on ecological turns in inlets to the American Inlet Science Review…

… only to be told his work is not scientific, because it does not hold for all forms of dihydrogen-monoxide! Reviewers castigate him: “These ecological turns are not true for glaciers! Or steam! Or even culverts in Sikkim!” Unaware their demands would turn Inlet Science into something completely different, the editors of AISR reject the paper, robbing the world of insight, all because the concepts in the paper existed within the “framework” (Fay) of inlets. Such a rejection would prohibit the inlet scientist from “elucidat[ing] the meanings which inform specific [inlet] practices, and thereby reveal the structures of intelligibility which accounts for the behavior of [inlet flora and fauna].”

This is similar to the Farr’s discussion on the nature of revolution. By trying to avoid specific, meaningful scopes, and looking only at an ahistorical view of “revolution, some threaten to turn political science into something none of us would recognize. Even though he later confuses himself during a discussion of “temporally related entities,” Farr warns us not to put aside the practices of real science; for example, when even there laws are not ahistorical (the laws of physics were apparently quite different immediately after the Big Bang than now). Further, the attempt to de-contextualize and de-semanticize “revolution” is like trying to take the inlets out of Inlet Science. As Fay says, “an action is an action .. only in the context of a certain set of social rules” (my emphasis).

Just as inlet science studies the nature of specific types of bodies of water, political science studies the power relationships of certain frictional seas of men. Political science is not the study of “power” generally (if it was we would measure things in watts), nor is it the study of men generally (that’s psychology) nor of society generally (that’s sociology) — it is the study of power and men in a “semantic field” (to use Taylor’s words). It is the study of power in meaningful, semantic, rational, frictional contexts.


Brian Fay. 1975. Social Theory and Political Practice. London: Allen and Unwin. Ch. 4 (pp. 70-91).

Charles Taylor. 1979. “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man.” In Paul Rabinow and William M. Sullivan, eds., Interpretive Social Science. Berkeley: University of California Press (pp. 25-71).

James Farr. 1982. “Historical Concepts in Political Science: The Case of ‘Revolution,’” American Journal of Political Science 26: 688-708,

Quality, a tdaxp series, has five parts:
The First Part, Beauty
The Second Part, Friction
The Third Part, Seas
The Fourth Part, Inlets, Lakes, and Streams
The Fifth Part, The Magic Cloud

Lecture and Reading Notes for Modern Postivist Approaches in Political Science

Discussion and reactions on Political Psychology (New Political-Psychology) and Rational Choice (New Economics-Psychology) follow… Boring for all but the bravest

Political Science Stages and Rational Choice
beginning: institutional and legal

Behavioralists/social-psycologists (“The American Voter”, 1960)
– 1950s/60s: atheoretical, very empirical, uncoordinated, piecemeal, “no interesting works or big questions”
– 1980s/1990s: reintroduction with more theory and rigour

Rational Choice Theory
– 1950s/1960s: first economic models are introduced, but mostly ignored
– 1980s: reintroduction with emphasis on systematic, rigrous, rational choice paradigm approach

Rational Choice never overtook Behavioralism, but was most dominant alternative
– rational choice had a broader domain than behavioralism, but behavioralism emphasized vote choice
– offers a high degree of precision (because of its reliance on mathematics)
– good mechanism for generationg counter-intuitive hypothesis (for example, instead of why not vote, why vote?)

Definitions and Conventions in Rational Choice Theory
Rationality – Self Interested: focus on maximizing utility with minimal outlay
Methodological Individualism – focus on the motivations of each individual
Purposeful Action – all action is goal oriented (equivilent to “Action is Oriented” in OODA loop?)
States of Nature – the settings that influence the outcomes (this is rarely known perfectly – Decision Making Under Certainty/Risk)
Preferences – things you like over outcomes
Postulated Preferences – theoretical assumptiosn about what peoples preferences are
Spatial Models – uses Euclidean n-dimensional grid to define current position, optima, indifference curves, etc

Definitions and Conventions in Political Psychology
– more heterogenous than rational choice, no universal list of assumptions here
– also more electric methods than rational choice
– socialization is important
– importance of information processing
– methodological individualism & “groupism”
– focus on motivation (cognitive? attitudinal? emotionalism? groups? genetics?)
– context
– internal states (orientations? orientation state? OODA state? stance?)

Dominance of Domains:
Behavioralism: American, Comparative
Rational Choice: Everything Else

Below follows the notes for my second reaction paper:

Ordeshook Emerging
-pol-econ syncretism
-university interia as a burden
-“time to move on”
– importance of game theory
— sucessor to behavioralism
— languished as a backwater
– conflation of psychology and sociology?
– early math approaches technical, worthless?
– need to use same tools in politics and economics
– “translat epreferences… into a social decision” 20
– “every election platform can be defeated by some other election platform”
– early failures of game theory everywhere
– “rationality itself is ill defined”

Ordeshook Game Theory
Assumptions of Formal Theory
– methodologicla individualism
– purposeful action
purposeful does not mean “carefully and consciously”
other people are exogenous/static
state of nature + action -> outcome
Action-set is exhaustive and exclusive
ditto Outcome-set
both are countable, finite
but easier to let be uncountable and in
uncountable, infinite sets can be pictured
states of nature
– conditions before voting as example
what about fuzziness in these sets?
Preference relation
o R o’
completeness: either o R o’ OR o’ R o
transitivity if o R o’ AND o’ R o” THEN o R o”
indiffiererence o I o’ IF o R o’ AND o’ R o
strict priference o P o’ IF o R o’ AND NOT o’ R o
problem: cake R bach?
solution: becomes meaningful when context is specifiied
problem: indifference to small increases, preference in large increases
solution: transitivity only works with strict preference
Ordinal Utility:
R : =>
I: =
P: >
Ordinal Utility Function: allows mathetical manipulation of proferences and outcomes
not all ordinal utility functions are equivelent ot each other, so be careful!
Directions of Research:
Proceed Directly to Interest or Work from First Principles
“more on personal taste”
good explanation of spatial models
“indifference countours are continuous” – not if they are curves in higher-dimensional space than is being visualized
game theory over quantitative, not qualitative, changes? (Boydian)
how to integrate baynesianism to this the probability discussion?

psychologicla influences?
study of power
economics too materialist?
“beyond the povery level — level of uncome is unrelated to subjectiv wellbeing or happiness”
“Peoplw who score high on [the materialist scale] are unhappier than low scorers”
mention of Piaget
people are aroused more by “fraternal deprivation”
“self-interest ordinarily does not have much effect”
“internalizes the purpose of an organization”
“the size of a state today is a result of its politicla culture yesterday”
Brehm: if C is denied, those who used to prefer B now prefer C
polipsych avoids methodological individualism?
gourmet tastes when field is small
(expertise as limiter or choice?)
criticism of rational choice
little correlation between democracy and happiness
activate the left subcortext where the pleasre center lies
lane’s argument is normative

history of polipsych
Piaget -> Information Processing
cognition v. economics in politics
“serial shift,” synthesis?
psychoanalytic perspectives
bayesian!!! – majorities think they are super-majorities

Defending Psychological and Economic Perspectives on Political Science

Peter Ordeshook. 1986. Game Theory and Political Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. Ch. 1 (pp. 1-52).

Peter Ordeshook. 1990. “The Emerging Discipline of Political Economy.” In James Alt and Kenneth Shepsle, eds., Perspectives on Positive Political Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ch. 1 (pp. 9-30).

John L. Sullivan, Wendy M. Rahn, and Thomas J. Rudolph. 2002. “The Contours of Political Psychology: Situating Research on Political Information Processing.” In James H. Kuklinski, ed., Thinking About Political Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ch. 1 (pp. 23-47).

Robert E. Lane. 2003. “Rescuing Political Science from Itself.” In David O. Sears, Leonie Huddy, and Robert Jervis, eds., Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 21 (pp. 755-793).

The second reaction paper for this semester.

From all sides political science is being invaded by alien ideas. Good. Well, mostly.

The readings for this week were on game theory by Ordershock and Lane and Sullivan et al on political psychology. But really these articles are the story of the invasion of our scholarly realm by imperialist economists and insurgent psychologists. While these are very different approaches, both are useful and should be welcomed by our fellow political scientists.

But first, let me say a quick word on my personal perspective. I am a computer scientist, and graduated with an MA in that field on December 2004. My thesis, “A Computer Model of National Behavior,” tried to computationally model the national identities of Europe . This bridges political science and psychology. Likewise, my coursework involved predicate calculus, which appears very similar to the “fundamental notation and definitions” that Ordeshook introduces on his game theory article. Therefore I root all of these approaches on.

In his two articles, Ordershock relates a mathematical approach to politics that is rooted in economics. Surprisingly for the degree of formal logic he uses, Ordershock clearly enjoys visualizations and describes a “euclidean geometry” of political preference. This gives a new perspective in many ways. For instance, he mentions that he assumes that “indifference contours are continuous” as a mathematical convenience — but one can visualize all discontinuous shapes as continuous if one ads a dimension and assumes that a given n-degree euclidean space is just a shadow of an n+1-degree

Likewise, the majority of the psychological perspectives presented by Lane and Sullivan et al are valuable. In particular, Lane’s criticisms of the materialism of traditional economics approaches are devastating. If it’s true that “beyond the poverty level — level of income is unrelated to subjective wellbeing or happiness” or that people are agitated more with “fraternal deprivation” than losing something themselves, rational self interest is in deep trouble. Admittedly, Ordershock does mention this ongoing conflict, but instead of defending a materialist view he simply moves on. Without the broader definition of self-interested generated by a psychological perspective, an economics perspective would be deeply misleading.

If Oudershock’s second article was more economics than political science, the second psychological article (by Sullivan, Rhan, and Rudolph) is more psychology than political science. Their discussion of Piaget and information processing (that is, cybernetic) approaches was delightful to the psychology-student in me. Yet they too demonstrate he necessity of a trans-disciplinary approach, eventually circling around to a bayesian statistical view of cognition, which would logically lead us back to economics-style mathematicism.

However, all of the articles assigned do have their deficiencies. Just as we political scientists can benefit from the desegregation of academic thought, so to must we cleanse the cockroaches from academic field everywhere. This is most notable in the psychological reading. Lane’s article contains far too much majority thought. Meanwhile, the Sullivan reading spends an excruciating length of time on psychoanalytics. We political scientists already have our own pseudoscience in Marxism — we do not need another one.

Perhaps the greatest contributions political scientists can make is to become a melting pot for the best ideas in all the sciences. Lane, almost as an aside, notes that politics has traditionally been the study of power, a special case of interpersonal relations. If this is the case, then there is gold for us in the hills of electromagnetic physics. Resistance, friction, potential energy, kinetics, and waste heat have been rigorously related for us by the engineers. If politics, a form of group psychology is but the study of power, political science can meld the worlds of physics and psychology together, taking the best ideas of both.

Let’s do it.

Miniature Political Science Literature Review and Research Design

After last’s semester International Politics class, I posted my literature review on geographical position and post-Communism. In a similar manner, I now post my preliminary lit review and research design for Geopolitics and IGOs.

While the text won’t be too important to anyone, I know at least one student who learned about journal articles from my last bibliography of a political science literature review, so I have included that below.

The weakest part of the research design — I realized I didn’t correctly operationalize my variables as I was handing it on. While it was graded, it was only a preliminary draft, so take it with a grain of salt.

Handed in, the paper was 10 pages, six of which were works cited.

Preliminary Literature Review and Research Design

Mackinder said, “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island.” Spykman Geopolitics is full of dicta, but such statements are unscientific unless they can be tested. This study will use intergovernmental organization (IGO) membership to determine the formal political connections between states, and test whether either of the above two geopolitical statements hold up to scientific scrutiny.

Geopolitical questions have been hampered by normative accusations. Charges of imperialism abound (Semmel 1958, Kearns 1999). Likewise its supposed use to denigrate certain nationalities (Gilbert and Parker 1969). Or more generally, “geopolitical discourse” is accused of being “political from the very outset” (Otuathail 1998). The critics of geopolitics sometimes associate it with racism and eugenics (Tyner 1999).

Yet geopolitics helped make geography a science by focusing it on the geographical dimensions of political science (Unstead 1949). Specifically, geopolitics helped explain human affairs (Dawson 1987). The geopolitician Halford Mackinder described his goal as not “to predict a great future for this or that country, but to make a geographical formula into which you could fit any political balance.” (Hall 1955). Indeed, geopolitical analysis has survived changing constellations of great powers and technologies (Hooson 1962). Stable geopolitical concepts have emerged, even as geopolitical scientists disagree as to the exact nature of their relation (Harkavy 2001). Geography is a “conditioning factor” in many parts of politics (Spkyman 1938). The internal (Williams 1927) and external (Enterline 1998) nature of states are effected by geopolitical position, including in areas as serious as war (Midlarsky 1995).

A geopolitical explanation for international governmental organization building would not discredit, but would merely extend, existing explanations. Indeed, the “appearance of objectivity, rationality, and universality” [can underpin IGO’s] power and utility” (Picciotto 1999), so a function in one dimension for an IGO can underpin its function in another. For instance, take four major theories of integration: domestic politics, neofunctionalism, intergovernmentalism, and supranationalism (Corbey 1995). Domestic political perspectives range from claims that domestic politics leave open certain choices to arguing that nearly all foreign policy actions are reflections of internal politics (Lumsdaine 1996). Neo-functionalism “stresses the individual motives of actors,” which may accidentally lead to a “new central authority” because of a series of small steps (Haas 1970). Intergovernmentalism is similar, arguing that governments pursue their best interests, except that intergovernmentalism stresses the importance of treaties themselves while neo-functionalism holds that “treaty revisions invariable spark ‘spillovers’ that empower actors and generate policy dynamics that were unintended by the governments that signed them” (Garrett and Tsebelis 1996). Supranationalism may be summarized by saying that international organizations can themselves become “pro-integration, supranational entrepreneurs that stretch their authority as far as they can to further their own agendas” (Tsebelis and Garregt 2001).

Geopolitics does not refute any of these theories, but gives them flesh by allowing them to operate in a broader world. Private sector companies can push for, and get, their states to pursue geographic and geostrategic objectives (Hunter 2001). This can be indirect and aggregate (Pollack 1997), changing the nature of choices available to actors (Ruggie 1993) and thus are domestic political. Neofunctionalism clearly draws strength from geostrategic concerns, as one summary of neofunctionalism itself might be “the best way to reach peace is by establishing effective regional institutions” (Miller 2005). Intergovernmental, that is to say between state, politics often is informed by geostrategic views in the Caribbean (Griffith 1995), Central Asia (Khidirbekughli 2003), and Europe (Walters 2004). Likewise, one of the most powerful international governmental organizations, the European Union, is a supranational entity with strong geographic elements (Wood 2004).

It is possible that the enumeration strategy of this paper is misleading. The most powerful international organizations can sometimes have short life cycles (Dickenson 1920). The existence of international organizations can be deceptive, if it is not representative of some underlying regime (Haas 1983). Likewise, the number of international organizations has at times rapidly increased (Alger 1970), making analysis more difficult. In addition, it has often been difficult to even compile accurate lists of what international organizations exist, or of their membership (Wallace and Singer 1970). In short, this study may lack validity if membership in international organization is of questionable relevance to real power structures.

The thesis for this study is that states in the European Rimland are more likely to be in IGOs with states in the Heartland than with other states in the Rimland. The independent variable is the geostrategic nature of a state. For this study, geostrategic position is a categorical variable with two possible values: a state can be heartland, Rimland. States fitting neither value are outside the scope of this paper. Heartland is defined as those states who lay predominately east of the Elbe (Hooson 1962, Treivish 2005). For each, state there will be two dependent variables, both based on IGO membership. The first dependent variable will be the number of IGO-state relations if has with Rimland countries, the other will be the number of IGO-state relations it has with heartland countries.

This will be a quantitative study that uses information from the Yearbook of International Organizations, published by the Union of International Associations. The Yearbook has been used for intergovernmental organization membership questions (Barnett and Finnemore 2004, Willets 2001) before either directly (Onea and Russett 1999) or after modification (Shanks, Jacobsen, and Kaplan 1996). The Yearbook is publicly available for a fee (UIA 2006). It contains information on both IGOs created by governments and IGOs that are created by other IGOs.


Alger, Chadwick F. Research on Research: A Decade of Quantitative and Field Research on International Organizations. International Organization, Vol. 24, No. 3. (Summer, 1970), pp. 414-450. Stable URL:

Barnett, Michael and Finnemore, Martha. Rules for the World. Page 3, 2004. Cornell University Presss. Stable URL:

Corbey, Dorette. Dialectical Functionalism: Stagnation as a Booster of European Integration. International Organization, Vol. 49, No. 2. (Spring, 1995), pp. 253-284. Stable URL:

Dawson, Marc H. The Many Minds of Sir Halford J. Mackinder: Dilemmas of Historical Editing. History in Africa, Vol. 14. (1987), pp. 27-42. Stable URL:

Dickinson, Edwin D. The Execution of Peace with Germany: An Experiment in International Organization. Michigan Law Review, Vol. 18, No. 6. (Apr., 1920), pp. 484-507. Stable URL:

Enterline, A. J. Regime Changes, Neighborhoods, and Interstate Conflict, 1816-1992. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 42, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 804-829. Stable URL:

Garrett, Geoffrey, and Tsebelis, George. An Institutional Critique of Intergovernmentalism. International Organization, Vol. 50, No. 2. (Spring, 1996), pp. 269-299. Stable URL:

Gilbert, E. W., and Parker, W.H. Mackinder’s Democratic Ideals and Reality after Fifty Years. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 135, No. 2. (Jun., 1969), pp. 228-231. Stable URL:

Griffith, Ivelaw L. Caribbean Security: Retrospect and Prospect. Latin American Research Review, Vol. 30, No. 2. (1995), pp. 3-32. Stable URL:

Haas, Earnst B. Retrospection and Evaluation: The Study of Regional Integration: Reflections on the Joy and Anguish of Pretheorizing. International Organization, Vol. 24, No. 4, Regional Integration: Theory and Research. (Autumn, 1970), pp. 607-646. Stable URL:

Haas, Ernst B. Regime Decay: Conflict Management and International Organizations, 1945-1981. International Organization, Vol. 37, No. 2. (Spring, 1983), pp. 189-256. Stable URL:

Hall, Arthur R. Mackinder and the Course of Events. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 45, No. 2. (Jun., 1955), pp. 109-126. Stable URL:

Harkavy, R. Strategic Geography and the Greater Middle East. Naval War College Review, 2001. Stable URL:

Hooson, David J.M. A New Soviet Heartland? The Geographical Journal, Vol. 128, No. 1. (Mar., 1962), pp. 19-29. Stable URL:

Hunter, Robert. E. “Global Economics and Unsteady Regional Geopolitics,” in Richard L. Kugler and Ellen L. Frost (eds.), The Global Century: Globalization and National Security. (Washington, D.C.: National Defense University, 2001), Stable URL: (accessed October 29, 2003).

Jacobson, Harold K, Reisinger, William M. and Mathers, Todd. National Entanglements in International Governmental Organizations. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 80, No. 1. (Mar., 1986), pp. 141-159. Stable URL:

Kearns, Gerry. The Imperial Subject: Geography and Travel in the Work of Mary Kingsley and Halford Mackinder. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series, Vol. 22, No. 4. (1997), pp. 450-472. Stable URL:

Khidirbekughi, Doulatbek. U.S. Geostrategy in Central Asia: A Kazakh Perspective. Comparative Strategy, Vol. 22, No. 2 / April / May / June 2003. Pages: 159 – 167. Stable URL:

Liberman, Peter. The Spoils of Conquest. International Security, Vol. 18, No. 2. (Autumn, 1993), pp. 125-153. Stable URL:

Lumsdaine, David. Polity Forum: The Intertwining of Domestic Politics and International Relations: The Intertwining of International and Domestic Politics. Polity, Vol. 29, No. 2. (Winter, 1996), pp. 299-306. Stable URL:

Midlarsky, Manu I. Environmental Influences on Democracy: Aridity, Warfare, and a Reversal of the Causal Arrow. The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 39, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 224-262. Stable URL:

Miller, Benjamin. When and How Regions Become Potential Theoretical Pathways. International Studies Review, (2005) 7, 229–267. Stable URL:

Oneal, John R., and Russett, Bruce. The Kantian Peace: The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885-1992. World Politics, Vol. 52 No.1 (1999) 1-37. Stable URL:

Otuathail, Gearoid. “The Geopolitics Reader.” Page 28, 1997. Taylor & Francis Books. Stable URL:

Owens, Mackubin Thomas. In Defense of Classical Geopolitics. Naval War College Review, , Autumn 1999. Stable URL:

Picciotto, Sol. Networks in International Economic Integration: Fragmented States and the Dilemmas of Neo-Liberalism. [revised version published in (1997) Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business. Vol. 17, no. 2/3]. Stable URL:

Pollack, Jonathan D. The United States and Asia in 1996: Under Renovation, but Open for Business. Asian Survey, Vol. 37, No. 1, (Jan., 1997), pp. 95-109. Stable URL:

Ruggie, John Gerald. Territoriality and Beyond: Problematizing Modernity in International Relations. International Organization, Vol. 47, No. 1. (Winter, 1993), pp. 139-174. Stable URL:

Semmel, Bernard. Sir Halford Mackinder: Theorist of Imperialism. The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Nov., 1958), pp. 554-561. Stable URL:

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Positivism Notes

This posts is just the lecture notes over the same readings I used for my skeptisism of science debate. There’s more interesting stuff on this blog. Read that instead.

– paleopositivism: “we can positively know the truth”
– postpositivism/neopositivism: “we can approximate the truth”

“brute facts” / “brute data” – things can be observed without interpretation
– acknowledged by paleopositivists
– denied by postpositivists

Basic Tenants of Positivism and Science
1. Explanation and Prediction
2. Induction (paleopositivism) or Hypothetico-Deducation (postpositivists)
3. Objectivity
4. Knowledge is Cumulative (no single study is definitive)
5. Approximation of Scientific Method (experimentation)

Popper on Pseudoscience (Marxism, Freudianism, Adlerism)
Pseudoscience lacks one of the following
1. Observable Facts
2. Risky Predictions
3. Refutability
4. Testability
5. No Conventionalist Twists (personal skepticism of this) — seems like a word game
6. Criterion of Demarcation – difference between right and wrong – so cannot be fuzzy???

discussion of proper popper procedure with theory, hypothesis, and data

Mertin’s (Famous Guy’s) arguments
– argues social sciences are younger, less mature than physical sciences
– supports hypothetico-deductive approach

Nagel’s Counter-Arguments
1. “social sciences face additional obstacles”
– but Nagel says, natural sciences face obstacles too
– (astronomy doesn’t experiment, quantum mechanists effect things with observations, etc)
2. “social sciences are unique; social sciences need more context”
– but Nagel says, even if there are differences, that wouldn’t itself prohibit laws
3. “knowledge of social science becomes a variable itself”
– but this doesn’t prevent laws, and research suggests this factor is slight
4. “social science needs to study internal subjective states”
– then view response as an observable indicator of an internal subjective states
5. “there’s a social influence on our selection of problems”
– topics in all fields are chosen for some reason — that’s not a an argument against subjectivity
6. “social science makes value judgements”
– characterizing value judgements can be scientific (“unstable platforms,” etc)

Fay’s Alternative Argument
1. Finds Causal Laws
2. Gives us the power necessary for control
so social science is ultimately purposed to control the social environment
“only positive social science has the ability to prevent certain events from happening”
3. only scientific arguments are scientifically acceptable (but this is tautological — tdaxp)
4. so we’d argue over means not ends (??????) – HUGE point of departure here
– we all want “good” education, economy, crime-rates — but how to get to “good” (??????)
5. so political leadership becomes meritocratic (????????)
6. efficiency is the best scientific means (???????????????)
7. but “efficiency” is a value
8. and anyway, means and ends can become blurry
9. Positivism is inherently conservative (pro-status-quo)

A Quick Overview of Behavioralism in Political Science
– positivist, but also assumes
1. believe in an individual-level analysis
2. emphasis on quantitative empirical tests
3. Accumulation of Knowledge is slow and painstaking (so research is “boring and tedious”)
4. Humans are naturally social animals, so social, “non-political,” explanations are common
5. All theory is testable and utilitarian
(most of Midwest Behavioralist)

Truth Extends Beyond the Borderlands of Science

The Structure of Science,” by Earnest Nagel, 1961.

Conjectures and Refutations,” by Karl Popper, 1963.

Social Theory and Political Practice,” by Brian Fay, 1975.

The Restructuring of Social and Political Theory,” by Richard Bernstein, 1976.

This is my first “reaction paper” for Scopes & Methods. The first third of this class has focused on how to write a research design. The rest focuses on the epistemology of political science.

The debating topic this week is ‘Just look at all of the advances made by science and you’ll know that the only way to understand human behavior is to study it scientifically. We are limited to two double-spaced pages. I have been assigned to the contrary team.

Those interested in Karl Popper, by the way, may wish to check out the Popper-themed blog, Conjectures and Refutations.

The answer: “Wrong. Just wrong.”

The question: “What are plagiarism, vandalism, and the proposition, ‘Just look at all of the advances made by science and you’ll know that the only way to understand human behavior is to study it scientifically’”?

As the readings show, that statement is wrong on five counts. First, it assumes that inductive thought is valid by itself. Second, it assumes the ability to ascertain absolutely knowledge. Third, it simplistically uses the word ‘scientifically.’ Fourth, even allowing all this, the statement does not provide for normative context. Fifth, the statement’s nonsensical gibberish.

First, as Hume said of intuition “even after the observation of the frequent or constant conjunction of objects, we have no reason to draw any inference concerning any object beyond those of which we have had experience.” There are two ways out of this mess, both of which are proscribed by the statement. The first would be to presupposed that inference — “just [looking]” — is a valid method, but then we are just looking and assuming. Or we may, as Popper does, add in trial-and-error, but then we are looking, trying, and erring!

Second, it is doubtful one can truly “know”. For example, in his defense of social sciences, Nagel qualifies the reach of all science. He acknowledges that objectivity seems to be the same as “relational objectivity” because all objective science appears to rely on perspective. One may trade perspective for another one, but perspectiveleess scientific knowledge appears to be impossible.

Third, as Popper said of science, science and truth are not the same thing. While there is considerable overlap, there is also a lot of difference. What is false can still be scientifically useful, as as Popper says “false theories often serve well enough: most formulae used in engineering or navigation are known to be false, although that may be excellent approximations and easy to handle, and they are used with confidence by people who know them to be false.” Also, recall Nagel’s remarks on the methodological limits of science. He writes that even radical exponents of behaviorism, a scientific form of psychology, “do not deny the existence of conscious mental states; and their rejection of introspection, in favor of the study of overt behavior, was controlled primarily by a methodological concern to base psychology upon publicly observable data.” The truth of conscious mental states do not make them scientifically valid, but their scientific invalidity does not make them untrue. Likewise, Bernstein writes that “few social scientists are willing to suggest that the study of [non-scientific] political and social philosophy has no value whatsoever.”

Fourth, even if all previous criticisms are ignored, the statement remains wrong because it assumes that what we see is beneficial. As Fay writes, “science deprives men of the old faith by which they lived and thus helps destroy the old social order…” and later “the emergence of a core of policy scientists would also support the rise of an active and centralized government.” The issue is not the normative value of the mental health of old people and local governments, to name just these two issues. Rather, normative context requires something outside of “just looking,” and the statement does not provide for any such thing.

Fifth, the statement itself makes no sense. It is clear that the original statement is not scientific, because there it does not make a falsifiable prediction. It is as self-serving as Freudianism or Individual Psychology. However, the statement claimed that the only way to know was scientifically. Therefore, if the statement is true, it is worthless (because of there is only the scientific avenue to knowledge, unscientific statements aren’t reliable guides). But if the statement is false, it may be true (because then non-scientific statements may be valid after all).

When it comes to positivist science-only extremism, “just say no!”

Different Types of Political Science Research Methods

To provide a break from adolescent psychology notes, as well as distracting me from deleting trackback spam (wich blogspirit seems to do nothing to stop), my weekly notes for Scope & Methods. Most of the post is concerned with the different methods used in political science.

Next Week: Big Week

Must Turn in Preliminary Research Design

Literature Review
– where does research fall in the literature?
– not authorwise, but themewise
– (“there are three different ways …, but this way is better …”)
– (don’t say “Hibbing (2006) argues…”)
– (say “Genetic approaches … (Hibbing 2006))
– not enough space for long quites in preliminary research design
State the Hypothesis
State the Methods
3-5 pages

(will be available on blackboard)

Research Methods

Is the chosen research method appropriate for the research question? Does the method let you test the question?

The method and the operationalize help determine each other

Qualitative Research
– non-numerical research
– holistic, “deeper meanings,” contextual, subjective understanding of the actors

Methods of Qualitative Research (Qualitative)
1. Intensive Interviews
– Question Protocol
– Purposive Sample
– Snowball Sample — ask people being interviewed who else to interview)
– qs: how many? whom? how selected? length? re-interviews? protocol?

2. Focus Groups (Qualitative)
– group intensive interview, with a social element
– moderator has to corel discussion
– not private expression, which is both good and bad
– qs: how many? how many in each? who? how selected? question protocol?

Qualitative & Quantitative Research

3. Administrative Records & Documents
– speeches, media, court cases
– What are the data?
– What data are available
– How were data collected?
– Why were data collected?
– How good are the data in terms of fit? Biases?
– How available/accessible are data?

3.5 Content Analysis
– sub-method of AR&D used to understand text
– Manifest Content Analysis
— get a surface understanding
for example, count appearances of the word “crusade” or “crusades”
— quantitative
– Latent Content Analysis:
— get the underlying meaning of a story
— for example, is the tone of an article anti-Israeli
— quantitative or qualitative

4. Case Studies
– what cases are selected?
– why are these cases selected?
– what approach or approaches are you using?
– what research methods will you use (then answer questions from those)
– Controlled Comparisons
— Method of Difference (Most Similar Systems Design): pick similar systems to study the difference in the study variable, but can you actually find cases that are similar enough?
— Method of Agreement (Most Difference Systems Design): pick dissimilar systems to study the similarity in the study variable, but can you actually find cases that are dissimilar enough?
– Congruence Procedures
– Congruence Procedure 1: compare your country’s variable to the “typical” value – between
– Congruence Procedure 2: compare your country’s variable to itself – within, over time, etc
– Process Tracing – go back through casual chains to discovery why a string of events happened

Quantitative Research
– where numbers are assigned to data
– more precise, less contextual
– in political science, held in higher esteem because more “scientific”
but, prof is skeptical of quantitative bias
– typically, larger “n” than in qualitative studies

5. Surveys
– losing external validity with rise of technology
– Types of Surveys
— Cross-Section Surveys: done at one time
— Panel Survey: interview same people several times
– What is the population?
– How will you select the sample?
– What is the sample size? (n should equal about 1000, almost regardless of population size)
– How will the survey be administered?
– How long will the survey be?
– Preliminary draft of survey

6. Pre-existing surveys (not discussed in class)
– What surveys are available
– How was the sample chosen?
– What is the sample size?
– What are some of the questions you’ll analyze
– How good is the fit with your research?

7. Longitudinal Studies (not discussed in class)
– What is the population?
– How will you select the sample?
– What is the sample size?
– How will the survey be administered?
– How long will the survey be?
– preliminary draft of survey
– How will you keep in contact with the respondents?
– How often will they be re-interviewed and over what period of time?

8. Experiments
– most scientific of all the methods
– yet, questionable external validity
– one of the few methods that allow easy testing of causality, not just correlations
– normal experiment design:
— Experimental Group: Pretest -> Stimulus -> Posttest
— Control Group: Pretest -> Posttest
– by randomdly assigning members, you should be randomly assigning error
– Who are the subjects and how will they be chosen?
– How many subjects will there be?
– How will the experiment work? What is the stimulus? Will there be a pretest and posttest? Will there be a control group? How will the stimulus be randomly assigned?
– Preliminary draft of pretest and posttest
– How will the pretest and posttest be administered?
– How will the stimulus be presented?

A Few Words on Mixed Methods
– more work
– “quantitative and qualitative methods can complement each other, cover the faults and accentuating the strengths”

Operationalizations & Alternative Rival Hypotheses

Last week’s scope & methods notes described a political science research design. This week first jumps back by looking at the correct way to operationalizeze variables, and then goes back even further into the literature review, discussinlternativelternative rival hypotheses.

This class is very much a “nuts and bolts” introduction to political science. The last literature review and research design I wrote, for international politics, was written without the benefit of knowing how to do it “right.” Next time, I will know what to do. This class is well worth it.

And now, the boring notes…

Operationalizing Variables

– define a variable in a way that is empirically measurable
– easiest mistake to make
– example: how do you determine democracy-ness?

Whenever you measure, your measure must be
– exhaustive: all categories should sum to 100%
– exclusive: overlap should be 0%

Levels of Measurement (from lowest to highest)
rule of thumb: measure at highest (level you can
– interval better than ordinal better than nominal
– simple categorizations
– just exhaustive and mutually exclusive
– examples: sex, religion, etc.
– categories that can be logically ranked
– examples: education level (less than hs, hs, some college, …. )
– categories with meaningful standard distances between attributes
– also includes Ratios, where there is an absolute zero
– examples: age, heights
– non-ratio example: net income

Single Indicators v. Multiple Indicators
– Single Indicator: measuring income with “income”
– Multiple Indicators: measuring voter participation with voting in federal, state, and local elections

Measurement Error
– the mismatch between the measurement of the concept and the concept
– two kinds of measurement error
— systematic errors:
— errors introduced that are consistent and constant across cases
— example: if questions are difficult to answer, then the survey will be biased toward intelligent people
— relatively easy to find
— random errors:
— “any random error introduced into the model for any other reason”
— “white noise”
— example: someone mistypes a number into a computer

Validity and Reliability
– validity
— you are measuring what you think you are measuring
— systematic measurement errors lead to invalidity
— incorrect operationalizations also cause invalidity
– reliability
— getting the same results consistently
— reproducibility

Alternate Rival Hypothesis

“A hypothesis is an alternative rival hypothesis if it is ‘mutually exclusive’ to the original hypothesis.” (Mannheim and Rich)
– may be better to say “sheds reasonable doubt”

include, or at least, acknowledge, alternative rival hypotheses in the research design

– compare your group to a control group
– make sure the comparison is between similar group (no hidden variables)
– no end to all possible ARHs
– a research design may help discover ARHs
– should control the independent variable of the ARH to prove the hypothesis

The Scope and Methods of Political Science

You know it’s a good class when you’re upset that it’s not required of all students in the first semester.

This semester I am taking a “research and methods” course which focuses on epistemology in general, and writing a research design in particular. In other words, this class is practical. I was in two classes that required research designs last semester — International Politics and the “interesting” International Law — and in both cases I was essentially flying blind. For I.P. I deconstructed one I found in a journal and came up with something, but it is extremely valuable to know what steps to go through.

I have some writing experience already, but it is very nice to be able to learn the standards and practices of the field that I am supposedly studying.

More of the rant, and my boring notes, below the fold..

While I would have had to take Research Methods (statistics) if not for my previous work (I ended up taking human cognition and instruction instead), if I was King of the Department I would require these three classes of all new graduate students in the first semester

  • Research Methods
  • Scope & Methods
  • Introduction to Political Science

The last one would be a new course, that would spend a week on the major subfields of the discipline (international politics, comparative politics, American politics, etc) and major interdisciplinary opportunities (genetics, educational psychology, geography — of which only genetics even has a prayer here).

Sadly, in the current regime students have to wait until the second semester to take the insanely useful scope & methods class.

But such is life…

Anyway, the boring notes:

Hypotheses and Operationalizations

Preliminary Research Design Due on February 17th
length: 3-5 pages, typed and double spaced
“write a mini version of your research design”

Short Introduction
– 1 paragraph
– research question “Why do people hate Congress?”

Literature Review
– place your work within the existing work
– creswald right on his example, but wrong on his method


“One major approach is the realistic approach…”

“Another approach is…”

use the lit review to anticipate of your research

Research Design
– part 1: describe hypothesis
– part 2: describe methods and operationalizations

So what?


Focus most on intro (1 paragraph), literature, research question, hypothesis, and methods.

“You can talk about the literature in terms of dependent variables and independent variables. This way you can write your topic even if it is new.”

The most important thing is to get a good hypothesis and have already started thinking about how to do this work.


A hypothesis is an assertion of an association between two or more properties
– types of associations are covariation (correlations) and causation

To “prove” causation
1. x has to precede y in time
2. x must be correlated to y (who knows!)
3. Identifies a causal linkage
4. can’t be a spurious relation (no 3rd variable causing both)

4 Different Types of Conditions
1. Necessary Conditions (without x, no y)
2. Sufficient (if x, then must y)
3. Indirect Causation (x -> a -> y)
4.Multiple Causation (x -> y, a -> y, b -> y)

Major Types of Properties
1. Dependent Variable (DV) – must vary, normally called “y”
2. Independent Variable (IV) – “explanatory variable,” causes change in y
3. Intervening Variables – dependent on x, but explains y, conditions relationship
4. Antecedent Conditions – (terminological confusion by van Evera?)

Hypotheses Themselves
Theoretical Population
– the community of interest

Forms of Hypotheses (from handout)
1. As x increases, y tends to increase (or decrease)
2. One category of x implies one category of y, while a different category of x implies a different category of y.
3. One category of x is more likely to imply a category of y than is a different category of x
4. One category of x implies more of y than does a different category of x

Common Errors in Writing Hypotheses
1. poor formulating
– bad: “poor people are alienated from the political system
– good: “poor people are more likely to be alienated from the political system”
– bad: “prejudiced individuals are more likely to believe blacks are inferior”

2. relationship unclear
– bad: “economic development is related to literary levels”
– good: “economic development is positively related to literacy levels”

3. statement lacks generality
– statements should be true across individuals and times

4. words to avoid
– will, might, may, could
– should, ought, better, worse

Example Introduction (?)

Aliens: scary, mysterious, possibly non-existent. The existence of aliens is unknown, but so is the existence of the answer to this question: would aliens hate Congress more than earth-born beings? In this research design, I seek to determine whether a non-extraterrestrial origin of beings correlates to a despisal of the United States Congress..