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Chapter

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

Positivism, Post-positivism, and Social Science  

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.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

8. Post-positivist Approaches: Post-structuralism, Postcolonialism, Feminism  

This chapter examines post-positivist approaches in international relations (IR). Post-positivism rejects any claim of an established truth valid for all. Instead, its focus is on analysing the world from a large variety of political, social, cultural, economic, ethnic, and gendered perspectives. The chapter considers three of the most important issues taken up by post-positivist approaches: post-structuralism, which is concerned with language and discourse; postcolonialism, which adopts a post-structural attitude in order to understand the situation in areas that were conquered by Europe, particularly Africa, Asia, and Latin America; and feminism, which argues that women are a disadvantaged group in the world, in both material terms and in terms of a value system which favours men over women. It also reflects on recent calls for ‘Global IR’, where voices from outside of Western research environments are heard. The chapter concludes with an overview of criticisms against post-positivist approaches and the post-positivist research programme.

Chapter

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

Behaviourism  

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.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

1. Why Study IR?  

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories and approaches, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps you to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organise and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, major issues in IPE and IR, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to discussing the state of the world: are we seeing world chaos or world order? The text is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre, which includes: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights

Introduction  

Michael Goodhart

This introductory chapter explores the field of human rights, considering it first as a field of enquiry that can be interrogated through both normative and empirical approaches. The chapter goes on to consider the theories and practices of human rights, including liberalist, legal positivist, and social constructivist theories. The chapter then briefly considers the international human rights regime and ends with an introduction to the rest of the book.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

2. Forms of Knowledge: Laws, Explanation, and Interpretation in the Study of the Social World  

This chapter focuses on fundamental assumptions that researchers make about how we can know and develop knowledge about the social world, such as assumptions about the nature of human behaviour and the methods appropriate to studying and explaining that behaviour. The main objective is how to carry out a systematic and rigorous investigation of social phenomena. The chapter considers three different answers to the question of how to approach the study of social phenomena: those offered by positivism, scientific realism, and interpretivism. It also explores the differences among these answers and their implications for conducting political research. Finally, it discusses the use of a positivist (rational choice) and interpretivist (constructivist) approach to the analysis of ethnic conflicts in Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Chapter

Cover The Politics of International Law

1. Introduction  

What is international law and why does it matter for international relations?

This introductory chapter provides an overview and a brief history of international law. Why should students of international relations be interested in international law? International politics and international law are so closely intertwined that one cannot be understood without understanding the other. The United Nations describes international law as ‘the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries’. Just as domestic law frames a political community and regulates relations among its members, international law helps to frame international society, to signal its core values, and to regulate relations among states and other actors. The chapter then considers two philosophical traditions that have shaped the study and practice of international law over the past four centuries: natural law and legal positivism.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

17. Traditional Theories in Global Politics  

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. It begins with a discussion of early liberal approaches, with particular emphasis on liberal international theory whose proponents include US President Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell. Liberal international theory is characterized by an optimism concerning the prospects of a peaceful international order established through strong international institutions underpinned by international law. The chapter proceeds by considering the emergence of ‘realism’ as a general approach to the study of politics, along with the different approaches to the study of international politics following the Second World War, including positivism. It also explores the rise of the English School and the concept of international society before concluding with an analysis of neo-liberalism and neorealism that resulted from revisions of both liberalism and realism in the post-war period.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

17. Traditional Theories in Global Politics  

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter examines traditional theories in global politics. It begins with a discussion of early liberal approaches, with particular emphasis on liberal international theory whose proponents include U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and Norman Angell. Liberal international theory is characterised by an optimism concerning the prospects of a peaceful international order established through strong international institutions underpinned by international law. The chapter proceeds by considering the emergence of ‘realism’ as a general approach to the study of politics, along with the different approaches to the study of international politics following World War II, including positivism. It also explores the rise of the English School and the concept of international society before concluding with an analysis of neo-liberalism and neorealism that resulted from revisions of both liberalism and realism in the post-war period.

Chapter

Cover Political Research

1. Political Research  

This text provides readers with the analytic skills and resources they need to evaluate research findings in political research, as well as the practical skills for conducting their own independent inquiry. It shows that empirical research and normative research are not independent of each other and explains the distinction between positivism and interpretivism, and between quantitative and qualitative research. Part 1 of this edition discusses key issues in the philosophy of social science, while Part 2 presents a ‘nuts and bolts’ or ‘how to’ guide to research design, such as how to find and formulate a research question. Part 3 evaluates different methods of data collection and analysis that can be used to answer research questions, along with the variety of considerations and decisions that researchers must confront when using different methods.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

6. Sociological and Anthropological Approaches  

Damien Short

This chapter explores sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of human rights. Anthropologists and sociologists have typically been either positivists or relativists. Consequently they have been slow to develop an analysis of justice and rights, thus lagging behind other disciplines in analysing the growth of universal human rights. This chapter shows how sociology and anthropology finally engaged with the concept of universal human rights after a long disciplinary focus on cultural relativism and legal positivism. It considers how sociology expanded its analysis of citizenship rights to that of human rights and how anthropology turned its ethnographic methodology towards an examination of the ‘social life of rights’. It also describes ‘social constructionism’ as a common bond between sociology and anthropology, laying emphasis on the importance of sociological and anthropological perspectives to the study of human rights.

Book

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

Georg Sørensen, Jørgen Møller, and Robert Jackson

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories and approaches, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps the reader to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organize and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, major issues in IPE and IR, foreign policy, and world order. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domfactors in their explanatory frameworks. The final part of the book is dedicated to major global issues and how theory can be used as a tool to analyse and interpret these issues. The text is accompanied by online resources, which include: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.