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Cover Comparative Politics

6. Authoritarian Regimes  

Natasha Lindstaedt

For many years, the concept of an authoritarian regime was considered to be one large category, with little understanding of how these regimes differed. The study of authoritarian regimes has come a long way since. Though all authoritarian regimes share in common that there is no turnover in power of the executive, there are considerable differences that distinguish autocracies. Authoritarian regimes today are increasingly attempting to use ‘democratic’ institutions to prolong their rule. This has led to a rise in competitive authoritarian regimes, or hybrid regimes. In spite of these changes, authoritarian regimes are more robust than ever. This chapter explains the different ways in which authoritarian regimes are categorized. The chapter then explains how the different types of authoritarian regimes perform, and what factors make them more durable. As the chapter demonstrates, autocratic regimes have become increasingly better equipped to maintain themselves.


Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Descriptive, Explanatory, and Interpretive Approaches  

Louis M. Imbeau, Sule Tomkinson, and Yasmina Malki

This chapter assesses descriptive, explanatory, and interpretive approaches. ‘Description’, ‘explanation’, and ‘interpretation’ are distinct stages of the research process. Description makes the link between what is to be described and a concept and its empirical referent. It defines a way to understand empirical reality, as variations, significations, or processes. Description refers to the ‘what’ question, as the first step towards explanation. When it comes to answering the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, some social scientists differentiate between explanation and interpretation. For them, the aim of social sciences is to ‘understand’, that is, to uncover the meanings of individuals’ or groups’ actions through the interpretation of their beliefs and discourses, whereas the aim of natural sciences is to ‘explain’, that is, to establish causality and general laws. The chapter presents an approach which offers a broader perspective for the social sciences, advocating an explanatory pluralism that allows for a more ecumenical approach.


Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts


Theory and Methodology of Interpretation

Mélanie Samson

This chapter assesses hermeneutics, which can refer to an art, a methodological paradigm, or a philosophical movement. In its primary sense, hermeneutics is the art of interpreting texts correctly. Today, hermeneutic method is practised across the human sciences and applied to the study of all types of written texts, actions, and other meaningful material. The chapter then focuses on the relationship between hermeneutics and human sciences. It also examines hermeneutics as a methodological approach used in legal research and the practice of law. There are two broad notions of legal interpretation. According to the first — the prevailing and most traditional notion — the interpretation of the sources of law is knowledge-based; the interpreter’s task is to extract the pre-existing meaning of a legal text, as set out by its author. According to the second notion of legal interpretation, the activity involves the interpreter’s will. The interpreter’s task is to attribute meaning to a text, by choosing from several possible meanings.


Cover Human Rights

Human Rights and Religion  

Roja Fazaeli and Joel Hanisek

This chapter focuses on the correlation between human rights and religion. It explains how the oversimplification of both systems' complexity resulted in the reductive classification of religion and human rights as oppositional systems. Significant ideas of human rights theories overlap with doctrinal claims in religious traditions, while human rights language occasionally features liturgical, public worship, devotional, and public structures of religious traditions. Trends such as treatment of women, toleration, and authoritative interpretation tend to raise arguments on the compatibility between some expressions of religion and international human rights norms. The chapter then covers the interdependence of human rights by referencing the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and the Sahin case.


Cover European Integration Theory

7. Social Constructivism and European Integration  

Thomas Risse

The chapter presents a short overview on social constructivism as a distinct research programme and shows what it contributes to the study of European integration. Social constructivism represents a meta-theory or an ontology, not one more substantive theory of European integration. The substantive contribution of social constructivism to the various theories of European integration is to insist on taking meaning construction, discourse, and language seriously, and to point out the mutual constitution of agency and structure. Moreover, social constructivism emphasizes the constitutive features of social institutions including the EU as not just constraining behaviour, but also affecting the identities, interests, and preferences of actors. The chapter then uses the question of European identity to illustrate empirically social constructivism ‘at work’. A constructivist account of the euro and the migration crises demonstrates that European political leaders reacted largely to the mobilization of exclusive-nationalist identities by (mostly) right-wing populist parties and movements. In sum, the social constructivist research programme in EU studies has quickly left the stage of meta-theorizing and concern for ontology and epistemology behind, and has now entered the realm of concrete empirical work dealing with real puzzles of European political life.


Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Multiple Correspondence Analysis and Geometric Data Analysis  

Amal Tawfik and Stephan Davidshofer

This chapter focuses on multiple correspondence analysis (MCA), which is a factor analysis statistical method used to analyse relations between a large set of categorical variables. Developed by Jean-Paul Benzécri in the early 1970s, MCA is one of the principal methods of geometric data analysis (GDA). Three different statistical methods can be identified as GDA: correspondence analysis (CA), which enables the cross-tabulation of two categorical variables; MCA for the analysis of a matrix of individuals and categorical variables; and principal component analysis (PCA), which uses numerical variables. In GDA, data is represented as a cloud of points to allow statistical interpretations. Although MCA is a relational method, it differs from social network analysis (SNA) as it focuses on the objective relations that characterize actors or groups, rather than the effective relations.