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POS 350 Week 4 Notes 5

by: Alexandria Paterson

POS 350 Week 4 Notes 5 POS350

Alexandria Paterson
GPA 4.0

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About this Document

These notes go over what theory is and is not, what makes a good theory, and a basic definition. It also covers the importance of structure, agency, the Rational Choice Approach, as well as the Str...
Comparative Politics
Class Notes
Politics, comparative, Global Comparative Politics, Comparative Politics, POS350, pos, definitions, notes, Theory, structure, agency, RationalChoiceApproach, StructuralApproach, ASU
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Alexandria Paterson on Tuesday September 6, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to POS350 at Arizona State University taught by Koehler in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 18 views. For similar materials see Comparative Politics in Humanities and Social Sciences at Arizona State University.

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Date Created: 09/06/16
POS 350 Tuesday, September 6 th[Week 4 Notes 5] Theory - Absolutely essential in the social sciences - And within Comparative Politics (Rationality/Structure/Culture) Theory is not: - Unsubstantiated, subjective, opinion bases, unrelated to the real world, or separate from “fact” or “truth” Theory is: - Inextricably connected - For Positivists: explains how “reality” works - PostPositivists view theory and reality as mutually constitutive ie. How we think about the world can actually construct/shape the world or construct reality - Cultural theorists in CP often adopt this view - Postmodernists and Constructivists often hold this view too  We theorize every day  They are simplifying devices that tell us what “fact” to focus on and which to ignore, you can’t just look at “facts” by themselves, you need to put them into context When we theorize, we are: - Making judgements about what is and is not relevant or important in terms of explaining some significant economic, social or political phenomenon - Identifying a specific level of analysis and making assumptions about power, structure and agency - Connecting certain facts with specific outcomes  There are Multiple Theories in Comparative Politics some of which are general, others are more specific  Rational Choice Approach/Structural Approach/Cultural Approach Multiple (competing) Theories: - Are not all equally valid Good Theory: - Self-aware, self-critical, examine what informs our views, ask ourselves why we have our views or theories we do in the first place, never assume our views or theories are self-evident or beyond criticism Basic definition of Theory: A simplified representation of reality and a framework within which facts are not only selected but also interpreted, organized and fitted together so that they create a coherent whole.  Example: Maps= representations of reality/simplified reality (but do not include everything), there are different maps for different purposes Agency: - The power of human beings to make choices and impose those choices on the world - Our lives are primarily of our own making Structure: - An overarching framework or context within which choices are made - See our choices as highly constrained and shaped by these structures Rational Choice Approach: - We should focus on the behavior of human beings themselves (ie. Focused on the individual level of analysis) - Fundamental assumption - People are rational maximizers of self-interest (seeking better outcomes over lesser outcomes) - People engage in Cost-benefit analysis in making decisions which is called strategic calculation by Rationalists - Self-interest - Focused on acting consistently in relation to one’s preferences or interests - Preferences (an ambiguous concept) - Preferences/interests can change depending upon the environment an actor is in - As researchers, we must define an individual’s preferences or interests in advance - No defining anything after the fact (we want to avoid circular reasoning) Strategic Calculation: - Weighing the costs and benefits of a decision Strategic Interaction: - Most decisions aren’t made in isolation - The involve more than one “player” or actor - Decisions influence, and are influenced by the decisions of others Information and Uncertainty: - People don’t have perfect or complete access to information or know how others will react to their decisions - This lack of information can lead to what we might consider “bad decisions” - The decisions aren’t necessarily irrational - They were rational based on the information available to the actor in question Structural Approach: - Structuralists think that structure shape our lives - Human actions and decisions are partly, even largely, determined by underlying, sometimes invisible forces over which they have little or no control - Relationships exist within a broader framework or system of action - We can’t just look at individual attributes or behavior - Human behavior is fundamentally shaped by the larger environment - Structuralists examine these overarching structure Key assumptions in the (Historical) Structural Approach: - Structures are enduring, but not necessarily permanent - Structures contain their own logic and dynamic - Structures create particular relationships - The fate of individuals, groups, and societies are largely determined by their position within a structure - Structuralists see the rules of the game (ie. The System) as constraining human behavior, thus constraining individuals’ actions and decisions - Structures are more important than individual decision making - This is because structures influence, shape, and constrain the behavior of actors in a given system


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