Political Socialization in Eastern Europe: A Comparative Framework

Political Socialization in Eastern Europe: A Comparative Framework

Political Socialization in Eastern Europe: A Comparative Framework

Political Socialization in Eastern Europe: A Comparative Framework

Excerpt

During the last nearly fifteen years of my teaching experience I have witnessed a radical transformation of the field of political science, a transformation that altered both the teachers and the students of the field. During these years we have seen the development of increasingly more complex and more scientific methodologies designed to measure in ever greater detail the phenomena of modern politics. New subfields emerged, specialists began to hold forth on highly technical subjects, and "technicians" began to argue about the "correct" methodology to be used in the measurement of certain political phenomena.

I must confess that those of us who were area specialists dealing with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe looked to these developments with ill-controlled envy and barely disguised anger. Frustrated by our inability to do research in an area open only to visitors from the West, we watched our colleagues' attempts to analyze and predict political behavior in open societies, ranging from grassroots organizations in Mississippi to the developmental theories generated from observable African experience, with ever growing frustration. Trained in 'traditional area studies," steeped in the culture, literature, history, economics and languages of the area, we struggled with ever growing desperation to master the newly developed quantitative techniques from the use of statistical analyses to the utilization of computers, only to find, time and time again, that the techniques we learned were inapplicable in the absence of data. Our own surveys-- the small amounts we were allowed to conduct in the Eastern European states--were too limited in scope to make valid generalizations concerning the prevailing social processes: either our sample sizes were too small, or our interview subjects were not "randomly selected." Furthermore, the research done by our Eastern European colleagues was of little help. It was either "not scientific enough" to suit the needs of our complex discipline, or it did not deal with the subjects in which we were interested. The greatest frustrations stemmed from finding that good studies existed concerning the topics in which we were interested, but were not available due to "political reasons."

Out of the frustrations of the last fifteen years grew a new generation of political scientists interested in Eastern Europe, some of whom are contributors to this volume. Our training as area specialists has been reinforced by our interest in the methodology developed for the study of comparative politics, and we have learned . . .

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