Does History Repeat?
Goodin, Robert E. and Charles Tilly, Oxford Handbook of Contextual Politics, Oxford University Press, 2006, Pp. 472-89
9 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016
Date Written: 2006
History is typically seen as non-repeating; yet repetition is often considered necessary for making general, explanatory statements in the social sciences. How, then, can political science explain outcomes in a way that does not contradict their fundamentally historical character? This dilemma is a key focus of debate in methodological discussions. After distinguishing among three types of repetition -- replication, recurrence, reproduction -- we show that the dilemma is a false one. First, history can usefully be seen as repeating, and even the most radical critics accept some forms of repetition. Second, explanation does not require repetition. We show how political phenomena can be seen as repeating, both in terms of description of cases of the same thing and in terms of common causal patterns. We then review a set of analytic approaches to examine their treatment of repetition as a requisite for assessing cause patterns.
Keywords: political science, history, methodology, historical context
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