The Road Not Taken: Analyticism and Configurational Analysis in IR
40 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 28 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2010
There has been a lot of ink spilled in recent years over the issue of “qualitative methods” in Political Science in general, and in International Relations and Comparative Politics in particular. Unfortunately, much of the work seeking to define some kind of autonomous qualitative way of conducting social and political research has remained almost exclusively at the level of method — technique — and not really gotten into the much more important issues that only emerge at the level of methodology, or logic of inquiry (on this distinction, see, among others, Sartori 1970, 1033; and Schwartz-Shea and Yanow 2002, 459-460). Further, most of the innovative work on qualitative methods has remained almost exclusively within the very methodological commitment — neopositivism — characteristic of the large-n statistical studies of which the qualitative methods movement seems so critical. That neopositivist logic of inquiry, which seeks to elucidate cross-case generalizations through the successive testing of hypothetical propositions, is fairly clearly spelled out in the (in)famous method manual Designing Social Inquiry (1994), and successive modifications and specifications by Collier and Brady and their colleagues (2004), George and Bennett (2005), Mahoney (2008; Mahoney and Goertz 2004; Mahoney, Kimball, and Koivu 2009), and various other scholars have not changed that basic commitment one iota.
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