Normative Methodology

Russell Hardin

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780199286546
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191577307 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Normative Methodology

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This article shows that one should start social science inquiry with individuals, their motivations, and the kinds of transactions they undertake with one another. It specifically discusses four basic schools of social theory: conflict, shared-values, exchange, and coordination theories. Conflict theories almost inherently lead into normative discussions of the justification of coercion in varied political contexts. Religious visions of social order are usually shared-value theories and interest is the chief means used by religions to guide people. Individualism is at the core of an exchange theory. Because the first three theories are generally in conflict in any moderately large society, coercion is a sine qua non for social order. Coordination interactions are especially important for politics and political theory and probably for sociology, although exchange relations might be most of economics, or at least of classical economics. Shared-value theory may possibly turn into the most commonly asserted alternative to rational choice in this time as contractarian reasoning recedes from center stage in the face of challenges to the story of contracting that lies behind it and the difficulty of believing people actually think they have consciously agreed to their political order.

Keywords: social theory; conflict theory; shared-values theory; exchange theory; coordination theory; political theory; politics

Article.  6196 words. 

Subjects: Political Methodology ; Comparative Politics

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