Analytic Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics: Reconfiguring Problems and Mechanisms Across Research Traditions

21 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 11 Sep 2010

See all articles by Rudra Sil

Rudra Sil

University of Pennsylvania

Peter Katzenstein

Cornell University

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

This paper defines, operationalizes, and illustrates the value of analytic eclecticism in the social sciences, with a focus on the fields of comparative politics and international relations. Analytic eclecticism is not an alternative model of research or a means to displace or subsume existing modes of scholarship. It is an intellectual stance that supports efforts to complement, engage, and selectively utilize theoretical constructs embedded in contending research traditions to build complex arguments that bear on substantive problems of interest to both scholars and practitioners. Eclectic scholarship is marked by three general features. First, it is consistent with an ethos of pragmatism in seeking engagement with the world of policy and practice, downplaying unresolvable metaphysical divides and presumptions of incommensurability and encouraging a conception of inquiry marked by practical engagement, inclusive dialogue, and a spirit of fallibilism. Second, it formulates problems that are wider in scope than the more narrowly delimited problems posed by adherents of research traditions; as such, eclectic inquiry takes on problems that more closely approximate the messiness and complexity of concrete dilemmas facing “real world” actors. Third, in exploring these problems, eclectic approaches offer complex causal stories that extricate, translate, and selectively recombine analytic components - most notably, causal mechanisms - from explanatory theories, models, and narratives embedded in competing research traditions. The article includes a brief sampling of studies that illustrate the combinatorial potential of analytic eclecticism as an intellectual exercise as well as its value in enhancing the possibilities of fruitful dialogue and pragmatic engagement within and beyond the academe.

Keywords: eclecticism, paradigms, causal mechanism, pragmatism, middle-range theory

Suggested Citation

Sil, Rudra and Katzenstein, Peter, Analytic Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics: Reconfiguring Problems and Mechanisms Across Research Traditions (2010). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1642929

Rudra Sil (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Peter Katzenstein

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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