The methodical study of politics

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Ecclesiastes teaches that, “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heaven (Book of Ecclesiastes 3:1).” Although methodological seasons come and go, I believe most students of politics are united in their purpose. We want to understand how the world of politics works. Some may be motivated in this purpose by a desire to improve, or at least influence, the world, others to satisfy intellectual curiosity, and still others by mixes of these and other considerations. Within the generally agreed purpose for studying politics, however, there are important differences in emphasis that lead to variations in methodological choices. For instance, those concerned to establish the verisimilitude and precision of specific conjectures about particular political events are likely to choose the case study method and archival analysis as the best means to evaluate the link between specific events and particular explanations. Those concerned to establish the general applicability or predictive potential of specific conjectures are likely to choose experimental designs or large-N, statistical analysis as the best means to evaluate the link between independent and dependent variables. Those concerned to probe normative arguments or to engage in social commentary will find other methods, such as poststructuralism and some forms of constructivism, more fruitful. Whatever the explanatory goal and whatever the substantive concern, research benefits from efforts to establish the logical foundation of propositions as it is exceedingly difficult to interpret and build upon commentary or analysis that is internally inconsistent.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationProblems and Methods in the Study of Politics
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9780511492174
    ISBN (Print)0521831741, 9780521831741
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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