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Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Lucas Dolan

This chapter highlights positivism and post-positivism in the social sciences. ‘Post-positivism’, much like ‘positivism’, is a notoriously imprecise term that nonetheless does significantly effective work in shaping academic controversies. Post-positivist approaches are loosely organized around a common rejection of the notion that the social sciences should take the natural sciences as their epistemic model. This rejection, which is a dissent from the naturalist position that all the sciences belong together and produce the same kind of knowledge in similar ways, often also includes a rejection of what are taken to be the central components of a natural-scientific approach: a dualist separation of knowing subjects from their objects of study, and a limitation of knowledge to the tangible and measurable. To get a handle on ‘post-positivism’, the chapter discusses these three rejections (naturalism, dualism, and empiricism) in turn.


Olga Herzog

This chapter focuses on behaviourism, which is a methodological approach that involves the observable measurement of individual behaviour. It is closely related to the epistemology of positivism and empiricism, which emphasize the observation and verifiability of individual or social phenomena to generate knowledge. Hence, behaviourists focus on the study of perceptible reactions of humans or animals to different situations. Behaviour is understood as reflexive or conscious reactions to different stimuli and does not presume an underlying rationality. Ultimately, behaviourism follows the logic of the natural sciences, by relying on objective, observable information based on sensory experiences. The chapter then traces the origins of behaviourism and its use across disciplines.


This introductory chapter examines the nature of politics and the political, and more specifically whether politics is an inevitable feature of all human societies. It begins by addressing questions useful when asking about ‘who gets what, when, how?’; for example, why those taking decisions are able to enforce them. The discussion proceeds by focusing on the boundary problems inherent in an analysis of the nature of the political. One such problem is whether politics is equivalent to consensus and cooperation, so that it does not exist in the event of conflict and war. The chapter then explores different forms of political analysis — the empirical, the normative, and the semantic—as well as deductive and inductive methods of studying politics. Finally, it asks whether politics can ever be a science to rival subjects in the natural sciences.