PLS 370-A01

Josh Letteer

Levels of analysis

  • traditionallyy, adopting the scheme of Kenneth Waltz, IR scholars classify cariables into 3 diff. levels of analysis
  • Waltz examined whether war is rooter in the nature of individuals, state or society, or the international system (3 diff. lvls of analysis)
  • Jervis ID’s 4 lvls
  • J. David Singer discussed how one’s choice of the lvl of analysis has implications for one’ sanalysis and determines the perspective

war = power, territory, etc  (dependent variable = ind. variables)

  1. system lvl: nature of intl system, geography, dist. of pwr, tech, etc
  2. natl lvl: state lvl often considered to be a unitary actor, society, political institutions, etc.(democratic, authoritarian, socialist, etc) nature of social econ poli structures, culture, etc
  3. Groups: bureaucratic politics, lvl of bureaucracy
  4. indiv. lvl: idiosyncratic factors, individuals & as part of groups, psych and social psych, personality of leaders, etc

These different levels involve different levels of causation, different actors and processes, classifying into different levels helps inthe organization of variables

  • anarchy
  • democracy
  • pentagoon
  • personality (personal consideration)

Iron triangle: military-industrial complex (DoD + contractors + Cong. cmtes)

Graham Allison: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Different purposes of theories

  • empirical theory: “IS,” test hypotheses about observable phenomena, they may explain and/or predi9ct; deals with “what is”
  • Policy-relevant theory: driven bythe value-preferences of the threorist and seeking to influence policymaking (reducing global poverty, global warming)
  • normative theory: “Ought”, involves norms and values (prescriptive in nature)

ontological issues

  • agent v. structure deate (nature of agent and structure and relationship between)
  • agents and structures are the fundamental units
  • voluntarism & determinism


  • agent/agency: voluntarism
  • structure: determinism (constraints on action)

constuctivism: combination of both

Epistemological issues (ontology & epistem> related)

  • positivism, postpositivism and epistemological challenges to positivism
  • positivism: according to Steve Smith, positivism is a methodological position that is reliand on empiricist epistemology

elements of positivism (positivism & beyond, Steve Smith)

  • believes in the dichotomy btw fact & values, possible to separate the 2. believes in the existence of objective knowledge, that there is an objective reality which can be accurately measured and known even though observation is subjective
  • believes in the existence of patterns or regularities in the natural and social world (long cycles, polarity, etc) possibility of revealing irregularities or patterns – allowing for causal explanations and predictions
  • adopts the empiricist epistemplogy: knowledge attained thru empiri. validation or falsification, task of IR theory is to test competing hypoth. against each other, reject those not supported by data

postpositivism and epistemological challenges to positivism

  • reality is not objective and cannot be objectively studied. interpreters, context, situation, language all shape how an event is understood and explained
  • emphasizes the role of human understanding and perception
    • impossible to disconnect facts from values
    • criticized positivism for ignoring the “human dimension of scholarship”
  • language & communic not unproblemativ or value-free
  • theories and perspectives are value-laden: marginalize certain issues and events/perspectives, they impose meaning and help reproduce certain knowledge and behavior in IR
    • what we can do in IR depends on how we think (Smith)
  • reveals the values embedded in the ideas we take for granted or consider to be natural
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