This chapter studies causation, which occupies a central place in the social sciences. In their attempts to understand and explain ‘why’ social, economic, and political phenomena occur, scholars have dealt with causality in many different ways. The way to define and observe causal relationships has always been at the heart of harsh academic debates in social as well as natural sciences. Drawing on distinctive ontological and epistemological standpoints, at least four different understandings of causation have emerged in political science. Most authors have adopted a correlational-probabilistic understanding of causation, but some have preferred a configurational one, while others have adopted a mechanistic or even a counterfactual understanding. To illustrate the concrete methodological challenges generated by this theoretical pluralism, the chapter discusses how scholars have dealt with causality to explain the impact of European integration on domestic policies and institutions.
Sierens Vivien and Ramona Coman
Dina Abbott, Gordon Wilson, and Alan Thomas
This chapter studies how the debate on climate change has evolved and how development relates to climate change. Climate change relates to development in two main ways. First, economic development is likely to exacerbate future climate change. Second, climate change as it occurs impacts on development, often negatively. The different ways in which climate change relates to development lead to different types of intervention. Climate change mitigation policies are designed to limit future climate change or reduce its impact but may themselves curtail development options. Climate change adaptation policies attempt to work with climate change and achieve development in spite of its impacts. There are also policies to cope with 'loss and damage', i.e. extreme, often irreversible, impacts which are too severe for adaptation. Lived experiences of climate change and of the effects of mitigation and adaptation policies demonstrate how their impacts result from the interaction of physical effects with existing social and power relationships, including those of gender.
This chapter explores endogeneity, which is a problem of multidirectional causality. Rather than identifying clear cause and effect relationships, social science research is often challenged by factors that mutually cause each other. Indeed, causality patterns in social science research are inherently complex. Three prominent challenges contribute to undermining a simple cause and effect logic. One is multicausality, meaning that the outcomes one tries to explain or predict have multiple causes. The second is that the effects of an explanatory variable can depend on the values of one or more other potential factors in the context, commonly referred to as context-conditionality. However, the most challenging problem to empirical inference when trying to identify unidirectional, necessary, and sufficient causes is endogeneity. As long as there is a chance that endogeneity exists, unbiased empirical findings are impossible.