| EMPIRICAL THEORIES OF POLITICS
Professor Lawrence C. Dodd
University of Florida
Part One: Introduction
Week One: Class Organization: January 8th
Week Two: Science, Theory and Empirical Inquiry: January 15th
Week Three: Multiple Perspectives on Reality: January 22nd
Part Two: Foundations of Empirical Theory
Week Four: Social Choice I: January 29th
Week Five: Social Choice II: February 5th
Week Six: Social Structure I: February 12th
Week Seven: Social Learning I: February 19th
Week Eight: Sociocultural Evolution I: February 26th
Week Nine: SPRING BREAK (No Class-March 5th): Prepare Theory Paper I:
Part Three: Advanced Topics in Empirical Theory
Send Class/Dodd a Draft Statement about Theory I paper on Sunday, March 10th
Week Ten: Doing Theory I: Discussing Draft Statement: March 12th
Send Class/Dodd Theory I paper by Sunday Midnight, March 17th
Week Eleven: Doing Theory I: Discussing Final Theory I Paper March 19th
Week Twelve: Social Choice III: March 26th
Week Thirteen: Social Structure II: April 2nd
Week Fourteen: Social Learning II: April 9th
Week Fifteen: Sociocultural Evolution II: April 16th
Send Class/Dodd a Draft Statement about Theory II paper on April 21st
Week Sixteen: Doing Theory II: Class discussions of theory papers: April 23rd
Spring Classes End: April 24th; Possible Potluck that night
Send Dodd Final Theory II Paper by email on May 3rd
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the relevance and role of empirical theory in political analysis. It seeks to do so in four ways. First, it provides an overview of some basic attributes that characterize ‘good empirical theory’ and presents several contrasting theoretical traditions in political analysis. Second, it engages students in learning to think and argue in a manner that is both theoretical -- that is, abstract, systematic and reasoned in nature – and empirical – that is, subject to probing, investigation and testing by empirical observation. Third, it guides students towards the construction of an empirical theory that will be useful in addressing a puzzle of immediate interest to them; in particular, it seeks to help students develop theoretical ideas and arguments relevant to their doctoral dissertations. Fourth, it seeks to alert students to the problems and pitfalls of various forms of theoretical thinking and to encourage them to think about the broader paradigmatic and philosophical implications of empirical theories.
The basic assumption of the course is that as we employ empirical theory in political inquiry, we increase our capacity to clarify, understand, explain, discuss intelligently and perhaps foresee the nature of political reality. Empirical theory is, then, first and foremost a way of thinking about the world that allows us to comprehend the world more fully and foresightedly than we would otherwise. Along the way, empirical theory provides, secondarily, a variety of perspectives, hypotheses and possibilities that we can test both through empirical research and through observation of predicted outcomes in the real world.. The purpose of empirical theory, however, is not to provide fodder for our razzle-dazzle statistical techniques, justifications for exotic field trips or rationales for required research projects, but to provide ways of thinking about the world that allow us to see it and reason about it more self-consciously, completely, foresightedly and deeply than we would otherwise.
Much of the ‘test’ of empirical theory, thus, comes not in its utility in ‘research’ but in its sustained relevance to the real world as evidenced in a theory’s long term capacity to help society at-large discuss, make sense out of, address and foresee political phenomena. As scholars we seek to contribute plausible empirical theories to societal dialogue while probing and testing elements of our theories that are potentially susceptible to immediate disconfirmation; along the way, however, we realize that the most inventive and far-reaching theories (as with Darwin’s theory of evolution in biology) may involve some major empirical arguments and assumptions not susceptible to test through currently available data and methods. Our obligation, as empirical theorists, is thus three-fold: (1) to state our theories in ways that are subject, in principle, to eventual testing and disconfirmation through potential empirical observation (2) to pursue immediate test of those elements of our theories that are currently amenable to empirical observations, being as rigorous, resourceful and disciplined as we can be in this endeavor; and (3) also to engage in the broader theoretical dialogues of our discipline and society in a conscientious and constructive manner that seeks to clarify the applicability of our theories to broad puzzles while also evidencing a significant element of humility that reflects the limits of our capacity to ‘prove’ our theories.
Given this general understanding of the nature and role of empirical theory, in this course we attempt to understand how scholars generate empirical theories that address intriguing political puzzles, how they test and apply elements of their theories through empirical observation, and how they can best utilize empirical theories in broad conversations about politics. We will do so by examining four theoretical traditions:
social choice theories: arguments that emphasize the rational goal-oriented calculus of individuals in politics, as qualified and informed by social-psychological, cognitive, genetic and neuro-biological studies;
social structure theories: arguments that emphasize the role of social, institutional and economic conditions and processes in shaping the context and outcome of political action;
social learning and political psychological theories: arguments that center on the role that perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, ideas and learning play in shaping individual and group capacities to make choices in specific contexts; and
socio-cultural evolution theories: arguments that highlight the collective processes by which goals, structure, beliefs and behavior are reshaped and transformed into new patterns across time.
Each of these four theoretical traditions covers an immense literature that scholars could spend a lifetime studying. The intent in examining these four traditions is not to engage students in a comprehensive effort to master each literature, but (1) to introduce them to some foundation concepts and arguments that illustrate the four distinct ways of theorizing about empirical political reality, and to consider how social scientists have built on such concepts and arguments in their research and theorizing; (2) to provide some overview bibliography and discussions that will help students critically assess each theoretical tradition and engage in the study of the individual theoretical traditions on their own; (3) to help students grasp the ‘logic’ of theorizing in the four different ways, so that students can engage in some initial efforts at theory-building and empirical research from each perspective; and (4) to help students combine the different forms of theorizing into broader empirical interpretations and learn from the interplay of the different traditions.
The overarching logic of the course, in other words, is to engage the student in ‘doing empirical theory’ through the use and combination of four different ways of conceptualizing and analyzing political reality. Two explicit assumptions throughout the course are that one can learn to ‘do empirical theory’ by studying and critiquing foundations works and exemplars in the major traditions of empirical theory and that one can learn to appreciate and critically assess different theoretical traditions by explicitly comparing them to one another. ‘Doing theory’ involves seeking to make one’s assumptions about the world (or analytic vision) explicit, to clearly identify key causal principles that operate in one’s assumed world, to develop a core thesis from one’s assumptions and causal principles that is reasoned and logical, and to pursue the argument in a systematic manner that addresses a specific puzzle in an intellectually compelling and empirical plausible manner. As we read different empirical theories, and examine critiques and discussions of theory, and as we try our hand at building on or emulating such theoretical efforts, we ourselves can ‘become theorists.’
An underlying assumption of the course is that the four different ways of analyzing politics examined in this course actually capture four different dimensions of politics: the foreground of political calculation and instrumental action; the background which structures the social pursuit of goals; the connective pattern of meaning (that is, the shared beliefs and collective ideas about politics and society) that permeate both the foreground and background so that political actors in the foreground can calculate and act in ways that relate to the background context; and the dynamic processes which influence the interaction of foreground, background and connective patterning in ways that systematically reshape reality across time.
A recurring theme of the course will be that the egregious misunderstandings and mis-predictions of politics generally come in two ways. First, scholars may fail to be explicit and careful in their assumptions, causal arguments, logic, empirical referents, and so forth, and thus engage in self-deceptive and faulty reasoning about the world. Thus much attention must be given to critical assessment of a theory as a reasoned body of empirical argument. However, it is critical that scholars not become so immersed in and entranced by the logic and empirical applicability of one tradition that they overlook the second major problem that can undermine political inquiry: the tendency towards theoretical myopia or intellectual narrowness. In other words, as scholars focus intensely on one dimension of politics, and one theoretical tradition, they may overlook interactive processes and conditions that occur across the dimensions of political life, and that require attentiveness to several theoretical traditions.
Breakthroughs in addressing particular puzzles about politics thus often come, it will be argued, as two or more theoretical perspectives are combined in ways that allow scholars to address a puzzle in a broad, comprehensive, interactive and reasoned manner. Throughout the course, therefore, we will not only look at works that illustrate particular perspectives but also will look at works that combine perspectives. An additional theme will be that a truly comprehensive understanding of politics requires that we see how foreground, background, patterned meaning and transformative processes are connected and interact in ways that change all three and their patterned connections. In consideration of this possibility, the course also will consider whether an evolutionary perspective on politics might provide a way of connecting these four dimensions, generating a more comprehensive understanding, and facilitating broader perspectives on politics that lead to intellectual breakthroughs in our empirical analyses.
The organization of the course is as follows. Part One will focus briefly on the nature, role and range of empirical theory in political inquiry and engage in an overview discussion of several illustrative works that attend to multiple theoretical perspectives on politics, across foreground, background and connective patterns. Part Two will attempt to give students a reasonable ‘feel’ for each form of theorizing, and a sense of how they – separately and in combination – relate to empirical inquiry in students’ primary areas of scholarly interest. It will thus carry students across literature on foreground or social choice, background or social structure, connective patterns or social learning, and connective interaction or evolutionary theory. Part Three will then focus on Advanced Topics in Empirical Theory, with students examining more highly developed and challenging concepts, literature and arguments across the four dimensions and theoretical traditions. Part Three thus will extend the students’ repertoire of concepts and arguments from the different traditions. It will also raise the possibility that, as we move across these four traditions, and particularly as we construct ‘process’ theories that systematically entail all four traditions, we are moving towards an ‘evolutionary learning’ theory of politics. Such a theory may draw on the strengths of each tradition while also generating a broadly encompassing multi-theoretic evolutionary paradigm that better addresses political phenomena than any of the separate theories can alone.
The two core parts of the course divide into two distinct temporal periods. Part Two takes the course through February – at which point we will participate in UF’s Spring Break, so that there is no class on March 5th. Part Three begins with March 12th following Spring Break takes up the remainder of the course.
As discussed more fully below in Class Assignments, the central graded requirement of the course will be two original papers which together focus on the development of a Political Theory relevant to the student’s scholarly interests. During Part Two students are asked to develop an initial Theory I paper presenting an empirical puzzle that intrigues them, a set of initial theoretical perspectives and arguments about the puzzle that they might pursue, some ideas about how to develop those arguments more fully and systematically, and some strategies for testing the arguments. A draft statement on your paper is to be emailed to Professor Dodd and all other students in the class on Sunday March 10th. We will discuss these draft statements during the class on Tuesday March 12th, and/or at a class potluck at Professor Dodd’s house that week. The final Theory I paper is to be emailed to Professor Dodd and entire Class by Midnight Sunday, March 17th. We will discuss these final Theory I papers in class on Tuesday, March 19th, or at a potluck dinner, or both. Three students (the tor-mentors) will be assigned to write critiques for each paper to be finished by Midnight, Monday, March 18th. In Tuesday’s class students will briefly summarize their papers and then the class will discuss the paper, led by the three mentor/tor-mentors who will provide useful critiques for future development of the paper.
During the remainder of Part Three we will again look at the four theoretical traditions/perspectives. This time we focus more extensively on innovations in social choice, social structure, social learning and socio-cultural evolution perspectives, particularly as generated by the explicit addition of a social psychological perspective on politics. In light of these developments, students will be encouraged to adjust and adapt their theoretical arguments developed in Theory Paper I to incorporate such innovations, where appropriate. At the end of Part Three, in Week Sixteen, students will make a second set of short presentations on the development of their individual theories. Students will send Professor Dodd and class members a draft copy of Theory II on Sunday night before this last class. Again, three students will be assigned to critique each paper via email. It is possible that a potluck dinner/class discussion will be held at this point at Professor Dodd’s house, instead of during Week Ten, so that students can discuss at some depth their Theory II papers. If we do so, we probably will meet during the normal class time to discuss some papers and then at Professor Dodd’s house to discuss the remaining papers. Final Theory II papers will be due at the end of Finals week.
This organizational design of the course, it must be stressed, only provides us an initial starting structure for the course, with the instructor reserving the right to alter the design as may prove necessary during the course. In particular, since the course is designed for advanced doctoral students, each of whom has special needs and concerns, to some extent the professor will subject the course, as well as the students, to a week by week ‘trial and error’ assessment of how the learning process is proceeding. If intervention and alteration in the course is needed, he will take it. In particular, he reserves to add additional reading (or remove certain readings) if that should prove necessary. Along the way, as the course proceeds, he will welcome student input, and will seek to shape assignments and course structure in ways that reflect student interests, insights and needs. It is hoped that by the end of the course students will feel less ‘daunted’ by empirical theory, more assured of their own ability to engage in theorizing, and somewhat settled into general paths of theoretical exploration and discovery in their own selected areas of empirical analysis. A test of goal accomplishment will be the ability to complete the final paper in a way that presents an interesting theoretical argument about some puzzle central to the students’ interests and doctoral dissertation research areas and identifies a research strategy for probing the plausibility of the argument.
Most fundamentally, students entering the course must trust the professor to guide them through a process of learning to ‘do theory’ as best he can, however indirect and erratic that process may appear. I have learned to do theory by reading widely across disciplines so as to get a ‘feel’ for the theoretical process; by reading about theory and theorizing in the natural and biological sciences, as well as in the social sciences; by exploring in depth several contrasting theoretical traditions within the social sciences and political science; and by getting my feet wet through personal efforts at theorizing and empirical theory-testing. The course will introduce students to the range of experiences and literatures that I have embraced in the hope that out of this process, and each in his or her own unique way, students will gain some leverage on the process of doing empirical theory. In the end, therefore, this course must be seen not as the ‘last word’ on empirical theory but simply as an opening probe, with each student responsible for moving beyond the course in response to his or her own reactions to and assessments of the course material. The long term test of this course comes in the extent to which students ‘become theorists’, each true to his or her own voice and vision of politics.
The Questions of the Course: What does it mean to think as a social choice theorist, a social structure theorist, a social learning theorist or a social evolution theorist? Can these ways of thinking be combined? Would the separate or combined ways of theorizing be useful to the student’s specific empirical questions or research puzzle? What sort of argument might the student make about an empirical puzzle if he or she were operating within each separate theoretical tradition? If one were to combine traditions? How might such arguments be explored and tested in an empirically compelling manner? If the student’s arguments prove empirically plausible, what implications might the arguments have for how we better understand politics in the future? These are the questions of this course.
Paper assignments and Grading Standards:
Weekly Assignments: (a) I will assign each student a special weekly email report to write on a question about the readings from that week. The reports can be one to two pages single spaced in length and are intended to aid class discussion of that specific reading and question. These special reports should be emailed to Professor Dodd and all students to arrive by midnight on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday class. (b) In addition, all students are asked to write a short response to a common thought question’ in various weeks; these thought papers can be a page in length – give or take a bit -- and are intended to provide your initial perspective on the thought question, thereby aiding preparation for class discussions. These thought-papers should arrive by 5 pm on the Monday before class on Tuesday. These responses can be written in a casual, stream of consciousness style, so long as they are comprehensible.
It is vitally important to get the individual special assignments to me and all class participants by Sunday night. You will have Monday to complete any additional unfinished reading for the Tuesday seminar and to read all special email assignments from other students. These assignments are ungraded but the completion of quality assignments will be taken into account by Professor Dodd in determining each student’s final grade. Tuesday morning can be devoted to preparing for class discussion, aided by reading through the thought papers emailed Monday afternoon by all students.
Term Paper: Each student is to prepare a term paper on a topic of his or her choice, subject to the approval by the professor. The purpose of the paper will be to develop an empirical theory designed to address a puzzle about politics that interests the student and to identify a strategy for testing the puzzle that could be realistically pursued in a convention paper, article, book, and/or doctoral dissertation. These papers are to be developed in two stages: a first version – Theory Paper I – will be due to Professor Dodd on Friday, March 15th; a second version – Theory Paper II – will be due to him by email toward the end of Finals Week for the Spring semester, at a time to be determined in class. The classes of Week Ten and Week Sixteen will be devoted to discussing students’ development of their papers, and Professor Dodd also will be available during office hours and by appointment to discuss the development of the papers.
The class grade will be based on the following formula: thirty per cent of the grade will reflect the quality of the short weekly papers and class presentations; twenty per cent will be based on the first draft of your class paper; ten percent will be based on your presentation of Theory I and Theory II in class; and forty per cent will be based on the final draft of the paper, as handed in during Finals Week. Quality of papers will be judged by their originality, creativity, organization, clarity, systematic development, stylistic/ grammatical appropriateness, intellectual compelling-ness, empirical plausibility/testability, and human insight. Students will be encouraged/guided to clarify as early as possible in the course the empirical puzzle or special concern that they want to examine in their Theory I and Theory II papers. Particular weight will be given to students’ ability to build compelling theoretical arguments across the two papers that are both (1) intellectually valuable, interesting and persuasive and (2) clearly susceptible to empirical investigation that is realistic and manageable for a doctoral dissertation project and/or convention paper project.
Some Guidelines in Theorizing: Throughout the course assignments, students should remember that the key to empirical theory is its parsimony, comprehensibility, reasoned quality, susceptibility to empirical falsification, supportive evidence or plausibility and real-world applicability. Our search is not for obtuseness, arcane complexity, or showy and discursive coverage of a vast and dense literature, but for clarity, for compelling simplicity, for the identification of a core truth that synthesizes apparent complexity into a comprehensible reality. The ‘core truth’ of your paper hould speak to and make causal sense out of empirically observable reality. In so far as you wish to make a complex argument, do so by combining simple concepts and a parsimonious argument/theory into a broader set of inter-linked arguments/theories.
There is no better exemplar of complex yet parsimonious empirical theory than the work of Charles Darwin. Students thus are encouraged to read Origin of Species, guided in this endeavor by Ernst Mayr’s book, One Long Argument, and to be attentive to the theory of biological evolution as an example of how a complex and seemingly inexplicable reality can be subjected to parsimonious empirical explanation through systematic theorizing. Within contemporary Social Science in the United States, perhaps the exemplar of systematic theorizing is Anthony Downs’ book, An Economic Theory of Democracy, which we also read during the semester. In addition, students are encouraged to read widely in the history and philosophy of science, seeking thereby to better appreciate the nature of scientific inquiry and the role of empirical theory in it.
We also will study the ways in which empirical or social scientific theory has helped address some ‘big puzzles,’ in order to illustrate the varied nature and long-term value of empirical theorizing, One kind of ‘big puzzle’ is the capacity of empirical theory to help us address important normative issues, and so one broad theme of the course will be to understand how empirical theories of politics help with clarify certain issues of normative democratic theory, such as the conditions that may aid the effective functioning of participatory democracy, conditions that aid some degree to economic-political equality and well-being, and conditions that aid effective negotiation, decision-making and policy responsiveness. Another kind of ‘big puzzle’ is how we explain that emergence of the broad features of the modern world and the varied and contrasting forms of politics and policymaking that characterize it. In particular, how do we understand and explain the emergence of the modern Euro-centered democratic world and assess the distinctive features of the nations and policymaking institutions that operate in that world, with special attention to American Exceptionalism and the U. S. Congress.
We will highlight these big puzzles in Weeks Two and Three and then read relevant literatures that address these puzzles, along with other work on empirical theory, throughout the semester. These big puzzles, it should be noted, are of particular relevance to students of American Politics, Comparative Politics, and Democratic Theory.
And one caveat: I do not expect you to build ‘big theories’ about ‘big puzzles’ in your term paper. That can be a career-long and even multi-generational task. Rather, focus on limited or intermediate puzzles about some aspect of politics that you can expect to address through theorizing and empirical observation/ testing in an article, book or dissertation of ‘middle-range’ status. In other words, focus on ‘small wins’, that is, on relatively simple theories about a delimited puzzle. In so far as you do well in this endeavor, such theories may grow over time and across generations of scholars into overarching theories that address ‘big puzzles.’ We focus on ‘big puzzles’ in this class to see the long-term value of theory building and to see the ways in which small puzzles fit together in addressing big puzzles. As you grasp the great payoff that comes with engaging in theorizing, including how theories can merge to address increasingly important puzzles about politics, then you better understand just how valuable and exciting ‘theorizing’ can be.
To aid you in your ‘middle range’ theorizing, we look at various ‘building blocks’ of theory, that is, abstracted concepts and arguments that can be utilized in constructing theoretical arguments to address specific puzzles. We also will be attentive to the ways in which multiple conceptual lenses can be useful in addressing a puzzle, as illustrated by close attention to the interplay of foreground theories of individual and group behavior, background theories focused on social context, connective theories that address shared ideas and learning processes across foreground and background, and diachronic theories of change. And we will engage in self-reflective discussion of how best to approach theorizing.
All of this is intended to help you understand the nature of theorizing and develop strategies of theorizing appropriate to a puzzle about the empirical political world that interests you. But in the end, as Abraham Kaplan reminds us in The Conduct of Inquiry, each of you is a free and independent agent engaged in an autonomous act of scientific inquiry, with your own special cognitive style or logic-in-use through which you discover and craft causal arguments about the empirical nature of the world under study. There is no simple rule-book detailing the best way, or the necessary way to discover and craft theories that matter, thereby insuring a successful product. You are ultimately on your own in this endeavor, free to engage within ethical bounds in whatever creative processes aid you in unlocking your puzzle. In the end, the one clear requirement is that you transmit your theories and evidence to us in inter-subjective ways that enable us comprehend them and see their applicability to a mutually observable empirical world.
Required Reading: As to required reading, the books listed below are for sale at local bookstores for use during the course. Other books and articles will be placed on reserve or made available by xeroxing.
Books: Donald Green and Ian Shapiro, Pathologies of Rational Choice
Riker, The Art of Political Manipulation
William Riker, Liberalism Against Populism
Michael Laver, Private Desires, Political Action
Graham Allison, Essence of Decision
Charles Tilly, Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons
Karl Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing
Karl Weick, Sensemaking
Bryan Jones, Politics and the Architecture of Choice
George Marcus, Russell Neuman and Michael MacCuen, Affective Intelligence and
Robert Wright, The Moral Animal
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Robin Wright, Nonzero
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
Jared Diamond, Collapse
Josiah Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens
Josiah Ober, Democracy and Knowledge
Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality
Larry Bartels, Unequal Democracy
Ronald Ingelhart, Culture Shift (recommended)
Leslie Anderson and Lawrence Dodd, Learning Democracy (recommended)
Dodd, Thinking About Congress (recommended)
Code for Reading Assignments:
The reading for this course is necessarily heavy, given the topics it is covering and the advanced nature of the training it is providing. To guide you as you prioritize the reading, you can utilize the following codes:
***must read closely: required for class
**close reading is recommended, in so far as possible
*read as time permits: for greater depth, during the course or later
no stars: for future reference
To use Electronic Library Reserve:
1. Log into ARes using your Gatorlink username and password. You can access ARes at http://ares.uflib.ufl.edu, or by clicking Course Reserves on the UF Libraries homepage.
2. Under the Student Tools menu on the left side of the page, select Search Courses.
3. Use the third search option: Search by Course. Search for Course Number POS 6716.
4. The results page should list only this course, POS 6716 Section 5651, Scope & Epistemology of Political Science. The first column should offer the option to "Add" the course for immediate access in the future.
5. All readings not included in the course packet are listed here. To sort by author, simply click the header in the Author column. Clicking on book titles will direct you to the call number information needed to obtain the book from the main desk on the 2nd floor of Library West.
6. Clicking on article titles will link you directly to articles available via electronic databases. If you are on campus, these links will allow you immediate full access to the articles. If you are off campus, you must first either connect to the UF network via the VPN client (http://net-services.ufl.edu/provided_services/vpn/anyconnect/) or log in to the library site using the Off-Campus Access link at http://www.uflib.ufl.edu and search for the journals and articles yourself.
1. Do not use a cell phone, Blackberry or any other electronic device during class. Turn them off and put them away. You can use laptops to take notes provided that you follow the no-cell phone rule.
2. Assignments. The dates for all weekly assignments are provided in the syllabus. Please advise me in advance if you need to discuss an extension for a paper.
3. Incompletes will not be given for this class. The only exceptions will be for dire and unavoidable emergencies or special conditions that are discussed with Professor Dodd in advance. Should a student fail to complete the course, any effort to complete the course thereafter will be subject to a grade reduction to be determined by Professor Dodd in consultation with the student.
4. Honor Code and Plagiarism: In enrolling as a UF student you have agreed to follow the UF Honor Code, which includes neither giving nor receiving authorized aid in doing your graded assignments and final papers. Any student who violates UF’s Honor Code will be referred immediately to appropriate departmental and University authorities for disciplinary action.
5. Matters of accommodation: I will make every effort to provide for accommodations for students with disabilities. Please see me at the start of the semester to alert me to issues of accommodation and we will address them in a discrete manner according to university guidelines.
6. Office Hours: I welcome students coming by office hours to discuss issues with the course or with their graduate training and career preparation. I make every effort to keep office hours, and will stay in my office beyond the scheduled hours as long as students are waiting to see me, insofar as I can given other scheduled events. In addition, I will arrange meetings by appointment at other times, when necessary. I enjoy talking with students immensely, and value meeting with you. But do note: I will be traveling to various conferences this semester, and also will be involved in department and university affairs at times that I cannot easily control, so that students with pressing issues should take care to arrange with me a time-certain, during office hours or at other times when I am available, so that I can guarantee attention to their issues. I am also available by email: email@example.com, and can be reached in emergencies at my home phone: 352 485 1971.
Week One: Class Organization
Week Two: Introduction: Science, Theory and Empirical Inquiry
Required Reading: Overview Issues:
1. The Nature of Political Theory
***Leslie Thiele, Thinking Politics, Chapter One: “Theory and Vision”
Arnold Brecht, Political Theory: The Foundations of Twentieth-Century Political
***Introduction (pages 3-24);
***Chapter 1 (pages 27-38, (remainder recommended);
*Chapter 2 (pp. 73-113; see also pages 520-524);
***Chapter 2 (pp. 113-116)
**Chapter 3 (pp. 121-130).
**Abraham Kaplan, The Conduct of Inquiry (1964 edition),
*Chapter 4, “Experiment”
***Chapter 7 “Models”
***Chapter 8, “Theories”
**Chapter 9, “Explanations” and
**Chapter 10 “Values”
*Evelyn Fox Keller, Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology,
“Preface” and Part One, “Language and Science”
**Karl Deutsch, The Nerves of Government, Introduction and Chapters 1-5
*Charles Cnudde and Deane Neubauer, eds., Empirical Democratic Theory,
“Introduction” and Chapter 23
2. Examples of Political Theory (Most students will have read some or all of the following
exemplars. Read or review as appropriate).
***Robert Michels, Political Parties, Preface, Ch. 1 and Part Six (all)
*Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy, Ch 8.
*Robert Dahl, Polyarchy, Chapters 1-4
*Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162: 1243-1248 (1968)
*Robert Wright, The Moral Animal, ‘Introduction’***
3. Empirical Theory and Normative Inquiry:
Puzzle: Is Participatory Democracy Possible, Sustainable and Desirable? The Case of
Ancient Athenian Democracy
***Josiah Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology and the
Power of the People
Preface and Chapters 1, 2
***Josiah Ober, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical
Athens, Preface and Chapter 1
Puzzle: Are Some Kinds of Institutions Helpful and Some Kinds of Institutions Hurtful
In Fostering Prosperity versus Poverty in Large Contemporary Nation-States?
**Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Why Nations Fail, Preface, Chs 1-3
Puzzle: Do some kinds of negotiating strategies and contexts appear more conducive to problem resolution than others, from an empirical-theoretic and evidentiary perspective? How much weight or attention should be give to such perspectives?
***Jane Mansbridge, “Getting to ‘Yes’ in Politics”
4. Hints about Theorizing
**Karl Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing, Chapters 1, 2
James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions
James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, Democratic Governance
Individual Email Assignments:
What constitutes the critical elements of ‘theory’ as articulated by Leslie Paul Thiele, and how would his formulation apply to ‘empirical theory?’__Jon Perdue (also #7)___
What does Brecht see as the tragedy of 20th century political science and how does he purpose
redressing that tragedy? (See Introduction)___Vic Olivieri____
What constitutes the scientific method, as presented by Brecht (Chapters I and II), and what role does ‘inter-subjective transmissibility of knowledge’ play in his understanding of science (pages 113-116)? See also Kaplan, Chapter 4.___Jon Whooley (also #4)_____
Is ‘observation’ possible in the study of politics, as discussed by Kaplan (Chapter IV), and are there factors we must take into account as we seek to engage in ‘observation’ as political scientists? __Jon Whooley_____
What roles do models, theories and explanations play in science, particularly in their relevance to a science of politics? See Kaplan Chapters 7, 8, and 9, and Deutsch, Intro, 1-5___Stephen (also #8)____
What roles do values play in science, as seen by Brecht (Chapter 3) and Kaplan (Ch10).____LiLi)
Of what relevance are metaphors in scientific theory, from Keller’s perspective, and how does that relate to the study of empirical theory in political science?___Jon Perdue (also #1)____
What are the major kinds of ‘empirical theory’ that have been dominant historically, from
the perspective of Karl Deutsch, and how was political inquiry moving beyond those perspectives by the mid-1960s, with what potential payoffs and pitfalls?__Stephen (also #5)____
What is Michel’s primary thesis in Political Parties, his argument, its implications, and his proof? How compelling do you find this work, a century old now? Why? What are the implications of your answer for ‘doing empirical theory?___Ross___
When thinking about ‘creating a theory,’ what lessons would you draw from Downs’ work on An Economic Theory of Democracy, as seen in the assigned Chapter? What was the most central thing or things Downs did to create his theory?___Sarah____
When thinking about ‘creating a theory,’ what lessons would you draw from Dahl’s work in Polyarchy? What were the most central things Dahl did in creating his theory?___Charles____
What about Hardin? What was/were the most central thing or things he did?___Mauro___
Of what relevance is Darwin and his theory of evolution to social and political theory, from Wright’s perspective?__Jung Hoon)_____
What are Josiah Ober’s overarching scholarly concerns in Mass and Elite and Democracy and Knowledge, taken together; what role does social scientific (or empirical) theory play in his endeavor (as he foreshadows it in the assigned chapters); and is his endeavor and use of social science theory at all relevant to a focus on values and normative inquiry in the study of politics? From his perspective? From yours? Is his endeavor worthwhile? Why or why not?___Ryan_____
What are the varied factors that scholars believe help and hurt the creation of nation-state prosperity, vs poverty, which factors are truly important from the standpoint of Acemoglu and Robinson, why? How compelling or wrong-headed do you find their arguments?___Aaron______
Outline Jane Mansbridge’s arguments about “negotiation” and assess their standing as empirical arguments and normative theory. Do you find her effort to increase the profession’s attention to the study of negotiation a useful one? Why and/or why not? How might her effort be built on and amplified in future studies of politics?:___David_____
17. Insofar as politics involves organizing, what insights about theorizing about politics might flow
Weick’s observations about theorizing about organizing, as seen in Chapters 1/ 2?__Kevin____.
Thought Question: What is Empirical Theory?: How do you know one when you see one, of what use is an empirical theory, and why is it called ‘empirical’ theory (or sometimes social scientific theory or behavioral theory or organizational theory)?
Week Three: Multiple Perspectives on Reality
Required and Suggested Reading:
1. Empirical Complexity, Multiple Dimensions and the Varieties of Theory:
**Richard Dawkins, “Preface” to the 1989 edition of The Selfish Gene
Ernst Mayr, “Epilogue: Towards a Science of Science” in The Growth of Biological Thought
***Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature, Chapter 3, “Multiple Versions of Reality”
**Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern
Evolutionary Thought, Chapters One through Four
2. Political Puzzles and Empirical Theory: Some Illustrations
The first two illustrations below help you grasp the conceptual logic underlying the course and the relevance of that logic to explanation in the social sciences. The
four additional illustrations serve as introductions to some of the recurring puzzles addressed in different portions of the class.
a. Puzzle: Explaining the Resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis:
***Allison and Zelikow, The Essence of Decision: All
` *Breslauer and Tetlock, Learning in U.S. and Soviet Foreign Policy, Ch. 20.
b. Puzzle: Explaining the Republican Revolution:
***Dodd, “Re-Envisioning Congress: Theoretical Perspectives on Congressional Change” in Congress Reconsidered, 7th or 8th edition; also available as Chapter 10 in Dodd, Thinking about Congress, on reserve.
c. Puzzle: Explaining the Dynamic Character and Exceptional Nature of American Politics, as Contrasted with other Contemporary Democratic Nation States
**Seymour Martin Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword,
Foreword and “Introduction”
d. Puzzle: Explaining the Eurocentric Nature of the Modern World
**Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, Prologue, Chapters 1,2,3
e. Puzzle: Explaining the Collapse and Survival of Societies
**Jared Diamond, Collapse, Prologue (Pages 1-24), Chapter Two
3. Hints about Understanding Interdependent and Interlocked Phenomena, as in Politics
**Karl Weick, The Social Psychology of Organizing, Chapters 3, 4
Describe Bateson’s argument in “Multiple Versions of the World” and assess its relevance to empirical theories of politics and then discuss what Dawkins sees as the power of a ‘change in vision,’ in ‘transfigurative terms,’ for scientific inquiry and how might that perspective apply to political inquiry __________
Very simply, describe Darwin’s argument, as presented by Mayr, and assess the ways in which it provides multiple perspectives on reality in constructing a theory of evolution_____
Describe Allison’s multiple visions or theories of the Cuban Missile Crisis and assess their utility – separately and together – in explaining the crisis and its resolution._______
Describe Dodd’s multiple perspectives on the Republican Revolution and assess their utility – separately and together – in explaining it.____ ____
Return to Jane Mansbridge’s arguments about “negotiation,” briefly outline them again, and consider how relevant they are to real-world politics, looking at the Cuban Missile Crisis, the ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ and other political phenomena:________
Summarize Lipset’s perspective on American Exceptionalism and assess the extent to which the issue of exceptionalism could be a useful scientific puzzle and susceptible to empirical theoretical inquiry.____Charles?_____
Describe Diamond’s opening perspective on the Eurocentric nature of the modern world and assess the ways in which multiple theories or vision generate this perspective.____
Describe Diamond’s opening perspective on the Collapse and Survival of Societies and assess the ways in which multiple theories or visions generate this perspective._______
Insofar as interdependencies exist among political phenomena, what insights does Weick’s discussion of interdependencies have for how we might see and theorize about political interdependencies?_______
Insofar as interlocked behaviors exist among political phenomena, what insights does Weick’s discussion of interlocked behaviors have for how we might see and theorize about such behavior in politics?_______
Why are multiple perspectives of politics useful in explaining phenomena and how might they be useful to your perspective on your puzzle? What do you see as valuable component parts of such an approach to theoretical inquiry, especially as it relates to social and political puzzles, and how might such component parts be manifest in your own puzzle? What are the drawbacks and limits to a multi-theoretic perspective in empirical theorizing?
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