The Future's Back: Nuclear Rivalry, Deterrence Theory, and Crisis Stability after the Cold War

By Frank P. Harvey | Go to book overview
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1 Cumulation in International
Relations: Methodological
Constraints and Solutions

The sustained disagreement over the nature of inquiry and related debates about appropriate criteria for judging progress are significant impediments to cumulation -- that is, to the development of a generally accepted body of knowledge -- in the subfield of international relations. 1 While some commentators believe that knowledge is advanced by in-depth study of a few crucial cases, others are convinced that aggregate analysis of many cases is required for valid generalizations ( Bueno de Mesquita 1985). A second disagreement continues between adherents of deductive and inductive approaches to explanation; a third concerns quantitative analysis as opposed to more traditional qualitative methods; and a final division exists among those who subscribe to system-level (macro) as opposed to actor-level (micro) analyses. 2 Although all four are important, only the inductive/deductive debate will be described here, in order to reveal the effect these kinds of disputes have on cumulative knowledge about u.s.-Soviet rivalry, crisis management, and deterrence theory.

Deduction involves reasoning from general laws, that is axioms, to specific instances. Hypotheses are subsequently derived and tested on the basis of empirical evidence. The axioms, which combine to create models or theories, are products of intuition, common sense, simple observations, or a credible interpretation of history. The inductive approach, on the other hand, involves a different route to knowledge: generalizing from experience and observed patterns. Propositions that purport to explain those patterns are generated and empirically tested, and on the basis of these tests, which usually entail correlations

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