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Monday, May 16, 2011 Different Methodologies of IR – A Scientific Epistemology – Case Study: The second Great Debate between Traditionalism and Scientism.

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Presentation on theme: "Monday, May 16, 2011 Different Methodologies of IR – A Scientific Epistemology – Case Study: The second Great Debate between Traditionalism and Scientism."— Presentation transcript:


2 Monday, May 16, 2011 Different Methodologies of IR – A Scientific Epistemology – Case Study: The second Great Debate between Traditionalism and Scientism

3 International Theory: The Second Debate Realism versus Behavioralism Or, to be more precise: Traditionalism versus Scientism Or also: the debate between Understanding and Explanation

4 Basic Terms Ontological: concerning itself with what exists - a 17th century coinage for the respective branch of philosophical metaphysics Epistemological: concerning itself with the theory of knowledge origin of knowledge, the role of experience in generating know- ledge, the function of reason in generating knowledge, the relationship between know- ledge and certainty, and the criteria accor- ding to which we decide on the validity and tenability of statements

5 During the first part of the seminar, we looked at the ontology of I.R., at the respective world views linked to particular Grand Theories. Classic Example of different ontologies: the First Great Debate betweeen Idealism and Realism (or between a Hobbesian & a Lockean/Kantian/Grotian view of IR) * * * The Second Great Debate between Traditionalism and Scientism looks at the epistemology of I.R. How can we be sure that the statements we formulate are correct ??

6 The methodological- epistemological/ontological field of I.R.theory Billiard-Ball-Model of Int. Politics REALISM NEOREALISM Traditionalism Scientism Qualitative, historical- Quantitative hermeneutical, (deductively-) empirical, common-sensual nomological IDEALISM GLOBALISM Cobweb-Model of Int. Politics

7 Traditionalism vs. Scientism I The Traditional Approach to theorizing derives from philosophy, history, and law, and is characterized above all by explicit reliance upon the exercise of judgment and by the assumption that if we confine ourselves to strict standards of verification very little can be said of international relations. General propositions about this field must therefore derive from a scientifically imperfect process of perception and intuition; general propositions cannot be accorded more than tentative and inconclusive status adequate to their doubtful & fuzzy origin

8 Traditionalism vs. Scientism II The Behavioralist or Scientistic Approach shows a concern with explanatory rather than normative theory recurring patterns rather than the single case operational concepts that have measurable empirical referents rather than reified concepts conceptual frameworks rather than all- encompassing world-explaining theories the techniques of precise data gathering, measurement and presentation.

9 Literaturtipp Klaus Knorr/James N. Rosenau (eds.): Contending Approaches to International Politics. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP 1969 Martin Hollis/Steve Smith: Explaining and Understanding in International Relations. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1990

10 Traditionalism I scientific/cognitive interest Scientific advice to those who govern, and political education of those who are governed; evaluating comments, norm-based opinions, and recom- mendations for action regarding present political decisions on the basis of respective scientific research results

11 Traditionalism II Problem statement: striving for an understanding of politics on the basis of an insight into and of a knowledge of historical-social deve- lopments and processes

12 Traditionalism III specific view of the object of enquiry a)Politics is a specific social form of action full of sense and values – an art which can be learned on the basis of historical examples. Historical and social phenomena can be clearly distinguished from natural phenomena; thus, they are not susceptible to scientific explanations taking the form of if - then statements b)b) International Politics competitive zero-sum-game for power and influence in an anarchic world of states, characterized by the security dilemma and the role of states as primary (if not near-exclusive) international actors

13 Traditionalism IV methods of analysis: hermeneutic, ideographic, descriptive, or normative approaches typical for the arts and historical sciences validity criteria of scientific statements: Common Sense – the view that we know most, if not all, of those things which ordinary people think they know and that any satisfactory epistemological theory must be adequate to the fact that we know such things Value relationship: scientific statements are characterized by explicit dependence on values

14 Traditionalism V Concept of Theory: a)Constitution of a general theory of political action based on the regular appearance of phenomena and forms of international politics over time, formulating recommendations to political decision- makers for action in comparable situations b)Formulation of ideal types based on historical comparisons which help with the understanding and classification of concrete historical and political phenomena

15 The Birth of Realism: Morgenthau In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Hans J. Morganthau was credited with having systematised classical Realism. His Politics Among Nations became the standard textbook, and continued to be reprinted after his death. Morgenthau starts with the claim that he is presenting a "theory of international politics". He sees his theory bringing "order and meaning" to the mass of facts. It both explains the observed phenomena and is logically consistent, based on fixed premises. Like Carr, he sees this Realism as a contrast to liberal-idealism.

16 Morgenthau: Six principles Morgenthau’s theory is based on six principles he enumerates in his first chapter. In summary, these principles were: International relations "…is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature". The key consideration "…is the concept of interest defined in terms of power’. "…Interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid", although its exact meaning may change with time and circumstance. While moral principles have a place, they cannot be defined identically at every time and place, and apply differently to individuals and the state. "The moral aspirations of a particular nation…" are not "moral laws that govern the universe". Politics is an autonomous sphere that needs to be analysed as an entity, without being subordinated to outside values.

17 What is Realism II Of the threads that make up the Realist school, the most important ideas include: International relations are amenable of objective study. Events can be described in terms of laws, in much the way that a theory in the sciences might be described. These laws remain true at all places and times. The state is the most important actor. At times the state may be represented by the city-state, empire, kingdom or tribe. Implicit in this is that supra-national structures, sub-national ones and individuals are of lesser importance. Thus the United Nations, Shell, the Papacy, political parties, etc, are all relatively unimportant. The first corollary is that the international system is one of anarchy, with no common sovereign. A second corollary is that the state is a unitary actor. The state acts in a consistent way, without any sign of divided aims.

18 What is Realism III Further, state behaviour is rational - or can be best approximated by rational decision-making. States act as though they logically assess the costs and benefits of each course open to them. States act to maximise either their security or power. The distinction here often proves moot as the optimum method to guarantee security is frequently equated to maximising power. States often rely on force or the threat of force to achieve their ends. The most important factor in determining what happens in international relations is the distribution of power. Ethical considerations are usually discounted. Universal moral values are difficult to define, and unachievable without both survival and power.

19 High Politics/Low Politics

20 Realistic Premiss International politics is a zero-sum game: one actor‘s gains (power, status, ressources) are all or other specific actors‘ losses Conflict rules the game, military force serves as a latent or open means to decide the game in one or more parties‘ favour International influence results from the actual use – or the threatened use – of power, defined as actual or potential military and/or economic capabilities of action

21 Realism: ontological and analytical problems Problematic premisses: a) Elevation of states to the status of rational, unitary actors which follow, within the context of the an- archic international system. the aim of guaranteeing their own survival by means of the game of power politics b) The political calculus of states is solely governed by the distribution of power within the system c) State action is primarily oriented towards the acquisition, conservation, augmentation, and demonstration of power; secondarily towards the conservation of the Balance of Power

22 Realism: ontological and analytical problems II Hypostization of concepts International System The international system regulates the behaviour of its units in the same way the market regulates the behaviour of firms; power politics based on self-help assumes the same function in international politics as the maximization of profit in a market economy State If the unitary actor is dissolved - as e.g. in the bureaucratic politics model - it splinters into an uneasy conglomerate of competing/warring power factions and political and socio- economic interests. This suspends - the homogeneity of state actions - the likeness and comparabi1ity of actors and of their systemic behaviour

23 Literaturtipp Benjamin Frankel (ed.): Roots of Realism. London: Frank Cass 1996 Stefano Guzzini: Realism in International Relations and International Political Economy. The Continuing Story of a Death Foretold. London: Routledge 1998 Christoph Rohde: Hans J. Morgenthau und der weltpolitische Realismus. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag 2004

24 Scientism Scientism is a philosophical position that exalts the methods of the natural sciences above all other modes of human inquiry. Scientism embraces only empiricism and reason to explain phenomena of any dimension, whether physical, social, cultural, or psychological. Drawing from the general empiricism of The Enlightenment, scientism is most closely associated with the positivism of August Comte (1798-1857) who held an extreme view of empiricism, insisting that true knowledge of the world arises only from perceptual experience. Comte criticized ungrounded speculations about phenomena that cannot be directly encountered by proper observation, analysis and experiment. Such a doctrinaire stance associated with science leads to an abuse of reason that transforms a rational philosophy of science into an irrational dogma. It is this ideological dimension that we associate with the term scientism. Today the term is used with pejorative intent to dismiss substantive arguments that appeal to scientific authority in contexts where science might not apply.

25 Scientism (2) Epistemological scientism lays claim to an exclusive approach to knowledge. Human inquiry is reduced to matters of material reality. We can know only those things that are ascertained by experimentation through application of the scientific method. And since the method is emphasized with such great importance, the scientistic tendency is to privilege the expertise of a scientific elite who can properly implement the method.

26 Behavioralism The so-called “behavioral revolution” took hold in academic disciplines and grant- making bodies during the 1940’s, placing emphasis on individual level psychological variables and quantitative methods. Cf. article on “Behaviorism” by George Graham, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, under

27 The Behavioral Revolution Goal: an interdisciplinary, methodologically rigorous science of human behavior, with the ability to predict as well as prescribe. Announcing its commitment to behavioralism, the Ford Foundation identified two main convictions: –All problems “from war to individual adjustment” could be traced to individual behavior and human relations. –Methodologically rigorous research might uncover “laws” of human behavior and thus help to inform policy.

28 Behavioralism: Characteristics One of the most "influential" definitions of behavioralism has been David Easton's list of its characteristics: 1) search for regularities, even with explanatory and predictive value, 2) verification with testable propositions, 3) self-conscious examination for rigorous techniques, 4) quantification for precision when possible and relevant, 5) keeping values and empirical explanations analytically distinct, 6) systematization as an intertwining of theory and research, 7) pure science preceding the application of knowledge, and 8) integration of the social sciences (Easton 1962: 7-8; Easton 1965: 7).

29 Stimulus-Response-Model Stimulus-Response-Model (Reiz- Reaktions-Modell) S R Later, in somewhat less rigorous form, „Stimulus-Organism-Response-Model“ S O R

30 Literaturtipp David Easton: The New Revolution in Political Science.. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 63, No. 4, Dez.1969., 1051-1061. Falter, Jürgen W.: Der "Positivismusstreit" in der amerikanischen Politikwissenschaft, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag 1982 Falter, J. W./Honolka, H./Ludz, U.: Politische Theorie in den USA. Eine empirische Analyse der Entwicklung von 1950 bis 1980. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag 1990

31 Positivism I Axioms: correspondence theory of truth, methodological unity of science, value-free scientific knowledge Premisses: Division of Subject and Object, Naturalism – deduction of all phenomena from natural facts, Division of statements of facts and statements of values

32 Positivism II Consequences: Postulated existence of a „real“ world (object) independent from the theory- loaded grasp of the scientist (subject); identification of facts in an intersubjectively valid observation language independent from theories; methodological exclusion of idiosyncratic characteristics and/or individual (subject) identities assures objective knowledge of an intersubjectively transferable character

33 Positivism III Postulate of like regularities in the natural as well as the social world, independent of time, place, and observer, enables the transfer of analytic approaches and deductive- nomological processes of theory formulation from the field of the natural to the field of the social sciences & to the analysis of social/societal problems Knowledge generated on the basis of positivist research approaches and methodologies is limited to the objective (i.e. empirical) world. Statements and decisions on values are outside the sphere of competence of science.

34 Positivism IV Further Consequences : Concept of Reason predicated on the purposeful rationality/rationality of purpose of instrumental action aiding the actor to technically master her/his environment Rationalisation of societal (inter-)action by its predication on planned/plannable means- end- relationships, technical (or engineering) knowledge, depersonalisation of relationships of power and dominance, and extension of control over natural and social objects (“rationalisation of the world we live in”)

35 Positivism V Theory regards itself as problem-solving theory, which accepts the institutions and power/dominance relationships of a pre-given reality as analytical and reference frameworks, and strives for the explanation of causal relationships between societal phenomena; its aim is the elimination of disturbances and/or their sources in order to insure friction-less action/functioning of social actors International politics is regarded as the interaction of exogeneously constituted actors under anarchy, the behaviour of which is as a rule explained by recourse to the characteristics or parameters of the international system (top-down explanation)

36 Positivism VI


38 Positivist theory creation and testing hypotheses Prediction fulfilled, theory appears consistent with the facts predictions logical deduction empirical observation theory correct theory discarded, new theory needed theory amended Prediction not fulfilled, theory appears inconsistent with the facts or either

39 Literaturtipp A.J.Ayer: Logical Positivism. New York: Free Press 1959 Rudolf Haller: Neopositivismus. Eine Historische Einführung in die Philosophie des Wiener Kreises. Darmstadt: Wissen- schaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1993

40 Neorealism - a New Life for Realism: Kenneth Waltz Morgenthau’s work formed the basis for many other authors in the Realist tradition. Yet it was not until 1979 that Kenneth N. Waltz attempted to reformulate Realism in a new and distinctive way. His aim was to cure the defects with earlier theories of international relations, including classical realism, by applying a more scientific approach. The approach he took in Theory of International Politics became known as Neorealism. While classical Realists saw international politics in terms of the characteristics of states and their interaction with each other, Waltz believed that there was a level above this. According to Waltz, "The idea that international politics can be thought of as a system with a precisely defined structure is Neorealism’s fundamental departure from traditional realism". The conditions of the system as a whole influenced state behaviour, not just state level factors.

41 Neorealism - a New Life for Realism: Kenneth Waltz II By concentrating on the nature of the system-level structure, Waltz avoided the need to make assumptions about human nature, morality, power and interest. Neorealists were thus able to see power in a different way. For the classical Realists power was both a means and an end, and rational state behaviour was simply to accumulate a maximum of power. Neorealists found a better guide to IR was provided by assuming that the ultimate state interest was in security, and while gathering power often ensured that, in some cases it merely provoked an arms race. Yet while power was no longer the prime motivator, its distribution was the major factor determining the nature of the structure.


43 Addendum: Inhaltlich-perspektivische Differenzen von klassischem Realismus und Neorealismus Gemeinsame Prämisse: Verhalten von Staaten über Zeit und Raum zeigt mehr Gemeinsamkeiten als Unterschiede Realismus Neorealismus Dominanz des Akteurs Akteursverhalten bestimmt durch anthropozentrische Grundannahme: Machtstreben Charakteristische Eigenschaften, Situationsdefinitionen und Zielsetzungen der Akteure eines Systems bestimmen dessen Verhaltensergebnisse („bottom-up-view“) Dominanz des internationalen Systems Akteursverhalten bestimmt durch systemische Grundannahme: strukturelle Anarchie Struktur des Systems (Verteilung der Macht unter den Akteuren) bestimmt das Interaktionsverhalten der Akteure und die Verhaltensergebnisse ( „top-down-view“)

44 RealismusNeorealismus Primat des in Kategorien von Macht definierten Nationalinteresses Erwerb, Vermehrung, Demonstration von Macht als Zweck der Aussenpolitik des Akteurs Maximierung von Macht als absoluter Gewinn im Nullsummenspiel der Akteure Sicherung der nationalen Souveränität als Voraussetzung des Überlebens des Akteurs in einer feindlichen Umwelt Primat der Sicherheit Selbsthilfe Verteidigung der Akteursposition im System relativ zu den Positionen anderer Akteure Herstellung und Sicherung des Gleichgewichts im System als Voraussetzung des Überlebens der Akteure unter Anarchie

45 Literaturtipp Kenneth N.Waltz: Theory of International Politics. Reading/Mass.: Addison-Wesley 1979 Carlo Masala: Kenneth N. Waltz. Einführung in seine Theorie und Auseinandersetzung mit seinen Kritikern. Baden-Baden: Nomos 2005 Benjamin Frankel (ed.): Realism: Restatement and Renewal. London: Frank Cass 1996

46 … Thanx for today …

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