History and International Relations

By Thomas W. Smith | Go to book overview

6

"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC"

J. David Singer and the Correlates of War

The use of history in international relations reaches its methodological zenith in the quantitative approach. While neorealism pursues scientific rigor by way of deductive theory and empirical falsification, quantitative political science employs the full arsenal of computer and statistical methods in heavily inductive fashion. Quantitative researchers believe that their methods remedy many of the historical problems recounted in the preceding chapters: selection bias, interpretive prejudice, theoretical filtering, anecdotalism, and ahistoricism. "The historian can continue to pile up facts and do his case studies but only as he borrows from the social sciences can he produce hard evidence or compelling interpretations of the past," argues J. David Singer, founder and director of the Correlates of War project at the University of Michigan Center for Research on Conflict Resolution. Failing this scientific rigor, "our understanding of the past will remain in the hands of the literati, responding to one revisionist or counter-revisionist interpretation after another, as the consensus ebbs and flows" (Singer 1969:82). 1

Begun in 1963, the Correlates of War (COW) is today the premier behavioral research program in international politics. Heralding a true science of international relations, the project held out reproducible, long-term historical study in place of the "intuition," "folklore," and "armchair theorizing" that have marked "several centuries of pre-operational speculation" and "wisdom literature" about the causes of war (Singer 1981:1). A succession of researchers has compiled a statistical database for major wars, alliances, civil conflicts, and systemic attributes from 1816 to 1992. (COW data sets include Singer and Small 1972, Small and Singer 1982, and Singer and Small 1994a, 1994b.) Analysts continue to digest historical accounts, and work based on COW data is ongoing around the globe. (The latest bibliography of COWbased research is Diehl 1992.) Pursuing a diverse agenda of data-making, index construction, statistical manipulation, and theoretical modeling, the project's contribution has come in the form of fragmentary findings and as the result of its more narrowly posed hypotheses. As yet, there has been no major breakthrough in the study of war (see Vasquez 1987). 2

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History and International Relations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Historical Problem in International Relations 7
  • 3 - History, Contingency, and the Roots of Realism 33
  • 4 - History, Analogy, and Policy Realism 61
  • 5 - The Poverty of Ahistoricism 92
  • 6 - "The Importance of Being Scientific" 119
  • 7 - Exit from History? 148
  • 8 - Conclusion 179
  • Notes 191
  • References 196
  • Index 218
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