Meta‐Methodology: Clearing the Underbrush

Mark Bevir

in The Oxford Handbook of Political Methodology

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Meta‐Methodology: Clearing the Underbrush

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This article offers some explanations for the rise of causal thinking as the ‘behavioural revolution's’ reaction to the nineteenth century's teleological narratives about developmental historicism and early twentieth-century emphasis on modernist empiricism. It describes the philosophical issues that are indispensable to any discussion of the role of a given methodology. Each section after that on the traditions of political science concerns a particular subfield of philosophy — epistemology, ontology, and explanation. The emergence of modernist empiricism, behaviouralism, institutionalism, and rational choice in political science is reported. A comparative approach implies that political scientists are wrong if they think methods can ever justify causal claims or even the data they generate. This article attempted to clarify the underbrush of confusion that arises from reflecting on methods in terms of traditions of political science rather than philosophical subfields and doctrines.

Keywords: meta-methodology; behavioural revolution; developmental historicism; modernist empiricism; falsificationism; Bayesianism; realism; constructivism; institutionalism; rational choice

Article.  10633 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Political Methodology ; Comparative Politics

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