A Perestroikan Straw Man Answers Back
David Laitin and Phronetic Political Science
I am grateful to David Laitin (2003) and Stephen White (2002) for pointing out that my book Making Social Science Matter (MSSM; Flyvbjerg 2001) captures many of the core themes in a perestroikan political science. I share the basic intent and argument of perestroikans and would be delighted if the book might help advance Perestroika in political science. However, where White provides a balanced review of the book, in the hands of Laitin I feel like the proverbial straw man.
I address three main issues in what follows. First, I show that Laitin misrepresents my work in the extreme. Second, I assess Laitin's proposed alternative to the methodology he claims I present in MSSM, his tripartite method, and “scientific frame.” Third, I outline what I call phronetic social and political science, a methodology for the analysis of values and interests aimed at praxis.
David Laitin's main move in developing both his critique and his alternative is to distort my distinction in MSSM between phronetic and epistemic social science. Laitin equates phronetic disciplines with qualitative and narrative methods, whereas epistemic disciplines have formal modeling and statistics at their core, according to Laitin. He thus invokes the dualisms of qualitative versus quantitative methods, case study research versus large samples, and narrative versus formal modeling. This makes