Ontology, methodology, and causation in the American school of international political economy

  • Finnemore M
  • Farrell H
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This paper explores disjunctures between ontology and methodology in the American school to better understand both the limits of this approach and ways we can counter its blind spots. Tierney and Maliniak's TRIP data point to a strong elective affinity between, on the one hand, rationalist/liberal ontological assumptions and quantitative methodologies, and on the other, constructivist assumptions and qualitative methodologies. This affinity is neither natural nor obvious, as is discussed. It also raises deeper issues for the field about the nature of causation. As a variety of philosophers of science have insisted, we need to do much better in thinking about the relationship between our underlying notions of causation and the methodological tools that we employ. By so doing, we will not only be able to better build social-scientific knowledge, but also better help bridge the empirical-normative gap that Cohen identifies. More broadly, the paper suggests that by combining a more thoughtful approach to causation with a broadly pragmatist approach to the philosophy of science we can both remedy some of the defects of the American school of international political economy, and provide some pointers to the British school, too. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Author-supplied keywords

  • American school
  • Causal realism
  • Causality
  • Constructivism
  • International relations
  • Methodology
  • Ontology
  • Political economy
  • Rationalism
  • Scientific method
  • Studies

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  • Martha Finnemore

  • Henry Farrell

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