Erik Olin Wright 7, Vilas Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, “Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias”, Soundings, April, www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/Published%20writing/Guidelines-soundings.pdf
5. Waystations¶ The final guideline for discussions of envisioning real utopias concerns the importance of waystations. The central problem of envisioning real utopias concerns the viability of institutional alternatives that embody emancipatory values, but the practical achievability of such institutional designs often depends upon the existence of smaller steps, intermediate institutional innovations that move us in the right direction but only partially embody these values.Institutional proposals which have an all-or-nothing quality to them are both less likely to be adoptedin the first place, and may pose more difficult transition-cost problems if implemented. The catastrophic experience of Russia in the “shock therapy” approach to market reform is historical testimony to this problem.¶Waystations are a difficult theoretical and practical problem because there are many instances in which partial reforms may have very different consequences than full- bodied changes. Consider the example of unconditional basic income. Suppose that a very limited, below-subsistence basic income was instituted: not enough to survive on, but a grant of income unconditionally given to everyone. One possibility is that this kind of basic income would act mainly as a subsidy to employers who pay very low wages, since now they could attract more workers even if they offered below poverty level¶ earnings. There may be good reasons to institute such wage subsidies, but they would not generate the positive effects of a UBI, and therefore might not function as a stepping stone.¶ What we ideally want, therefore, are intermediate reforms that have two main properties: first, they concretely demonstrate the virtues of the fuller program of transformation, so they contribute to the ideological battle of convincing people that the alternative is credible and desirable; and second, they enhance the capacity for action of people, increasing their ability to push further in the future. Waystations that increase popular participation and bring people together in problem-solving deliberations for collective purposes are particularly salient in this regard. This is what in the 1970s was called “nonreformist reforms”: reforms that are possible within existing institutions and that pragmatically solve real problems while at the same time empowering people in ways whichenlarge their scope of action in the future.
Policy-makers can make reasonably accurate predictions based on social science methods, empiricism, and relatively objective facts
Chernoff 9 Fred, Prof. IR and Dir. IR – Colgate U., European Journal of International Relations, “Conventionalism as an Adequate Basis for Policy-Relevant IR Theory”, 15:1, Sage
For these and other reasons, many social theorists and social scientists have come to the conclusion that prediction is impossible. Well-known IR reflexivists like Rick Ashley, Robert Cox, Rob Walker and Alex Wendt have attacked naturalism by emphasizing the interpretive nature of social theory. Ashley is explicit in his critique of prediction, as is Cox, who says quite simply, ‘It is impossible to predict the future’ (Ashley, 1986: 283; Cox, 1987: 139, cf. also 1987: 393). More recently, Heikki Patomäki has argued that ‘qualitative changes and emergence are possible, but predictions are not’ defective and that the latter two presuppose an unjustifiably narrow notion of ‘prediction’.14 A determined prediction sceptic may continue to hold that there is too great a degree of complexity of social relationships (which comprise ‘open systems’) to allow any prediction whatsoever. Two very simple examples may circumscribe and help to refute a radical variety of scepticism.First, we all make reliable social predictions and do so with great frequency. We can predict with high probability that a spouse, child or parent will react to certain well-known stimuli that we might supply, based on extensive past experience. More to the point of IR prediction – scepticism, we can imagine a young child in the UK who (perhaps at the cinema) (1) picks up a bit of 19th-century British imperial lore thus gaining a sense of the power of the crown, without knowing anything of current balances of power, (2) hears some stories about the US–UK invasion of Iraq in the context of the aim of advancing democracy, and (3) hears a bit about communist China and democratic Taiwan. Although the specific term ‘preventative strike’ might not enter into her lexicon, it is possible to imagine the child, whose knowledge is thus limited, thinking that if democratic Taiwan were threatened by China, the UK would (possibly or probably) launch a strike on China to protect it, much as the UK had done to help democracy in Iraq. In contrast to the child, readers of this journal and scholars who study the world more thoroughly have factualinformation (e.g. about the relative military and economic capabilities of the UK and China) and hold some cause-and-effect principles (such as that states do not usually initiate actions that leaders understand will have an extremely high probability of undercutting their power with almost no chances of success). Anyone who has adequate knowledge of world politics would predict that the UK will not launch a preventive attack against China. In the real world, China knows that for the next decade and well beyond the UK will not intervene militarily in its affairs. While Chinese leaders have to plan for many likely — and even a few somewhat unlikely — future possibilities, they do not have to plan for various implausible contingencies: they do not have to structure forces geared to defend against specifically UK forces and do not have to conduct diplomacy with the UK in a way that would be required if such an attack were a real possibility. Any rational decision-maker in China mayuse some cause-and-effect (probabilistic) principles along with knowledge of specific facts relating to the Sino-British relationship to predict (P2) that the UK will notland its forces on Chinese territory — even in the event of a war over Taiwan (that is, the probability is very close to zero). The statement P2 qualifies as a prediction based on DEF above and counts as knowledge for Chinese political and military decision-makers. A Chinese diplomat or military planner who would deny that theory-based prediction would have no basis to rule out extremely implausible predictions like P2 and would thus have to prepare for such unlikely contingencies as UK action against China. A reflexivist theorist sceptical of ‘prediction’ in IR might argue that the China example distorts the notion by using a trivial prediction and treating it as a meaningful one. Butthe critic’s temptation to dismiss its value stems precisely from thefact that it is so obviously true. The value to China of knowing that the UK is not a military threat is significant. The fact that, under current conditions, any plausible cause-and-effect understanding of IR that one might adopt would yield P2, that the ‘UK will not attack China’, does not diminish the value to China of knowing the UK does not pose a military threat. A critic might also argue that DEF and the China example allow non-scientific claims to count as predictions. But we note that while physics and chemistry offer precise ‘point predictions’, other natural sciences, such as seismology, genetics or meteorology, produce predictions that are often much less specific; that is, they describe the predicted ‘events’ in broader time frame and typically in probabilistic terms. We often find predictions about the probability, for example, of a seismic event in the form ‘some time in the next three years’ rather than ‘two years from next Monday at 11:17 am’. DEF includes approximate and probabilistic propositions as predictions and is thus able to catagorize as a prediction the former sort of statement, which is of a type that is often of great value to policy-makers. With the help of these ‘non-point predictions’ coming from the natural and the social sciences, leaders are able to choose the courses of action (e.g. more stringent earthquake-safety building codes, or procuring an additional carrier battle group) that are most likely to accomplish the leaders’ desired ends. So while ‘point predictions’ are not what political leaders require in most decision-making situations, critics of IR predictiveness often attack the predictive capacity of IR theory for its inability to deliver them. The criticsthus commit the straw man fallacyby requiring a sort of prediction in IR (1) that few, if any, theorists claim to be able to offer, (2) that are notrequired by policy-makers for theory-based predictions to be valuable, and (3) that are not possible even in some natural sciences.15 The range of theorists included in ‘reflexivists’ here is very wide and it is possible to dissent from some of the general descriptions. From the point of view of the central argument of this article, there are two important features that should be rendered accurately. One is that reflexivists reject explanation–prediction symmetry, which allows them to pursue causal (or constitutive) explanation without any commitment to prediction. The second is that almost all share clear opposition to predictive social science.16 The reflexivist commitment to both of these conclusions should be evident from the foregoing discussion.