Political Valuation Analysis and the Legitimacy of International Organizations

By Schmidtke, Henning; Nullmeier, Frank | German Policy Studies, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Political Valuation Analysis and the Legitimacy of International Organizations


Schmidtke, Henning, Nullmeier, Frank, German Policy Studies


1 Introduction

Research methods dealing with textual data (Krippendorf 2004; Roberts 2000) enjoy increasing popularity in the field of political science research. Both the magnitude of quantitative (see for instance King/Lowe 2003; Klingemann et al. 2006; Laver et al. 2003) and qualitative methods (see for instance Fairclough 2003; Keller et al. 2008; Wodak/Krzyzanowski 2008; Wodak 2009) applied to the analysis of political text and their scope of application have been mounting in recent years. While this is especially the case with regard to the inquiry into political claims (claims analysis, Gerhards et al. 2007; Koopmans/Statham 2010a) and the deconstruction of interpretative frames (frame analysis, Gerhards et al. 1998; Snow/Benford 1992), the proposed contribution focuses on an aspect that has so far been rather neglected: That of political valuation analysis.

Political valuations play a significant role in politics. Wherever a state of societal affairs is subject of political debate we can witness valuing utterances. The issue at stake will be valuated as 'inacceptable', 'problematic', 'shocking', 'unsatisfactory' or as a 'big step towards a better society'. The situation is considered a result of 'ongoing injustice', 'a further political victory of the pharmaceutical industry', an outcome of 'corruption', or an expression of 'pure campaign strategy'. Valuations are a very familiar part of our everyday and political language. They function as the first step in the formulation of political claims, proposals, and programs. A specific situation is only likely to be subjected to political regulation if it is evaluated as 'problematic'. In light of such significance and universality of evaluative utterances in public life, political science has to be interested in a method which explicitly addresses political valuations in textual data. However, in the literature of political science methods, we find only very specific and restricted contributions to a systematic analysis of political valuations.

2 Why we do not have political valuation research

The philosopher Donald Davidson - who died in 2003 - included in his essay collection "Problems of Rationality" a lecture titled "Expressing Evaluations" (2004: 19-38). He picked the title to emphasize that evaluations do not constitute a speech act but are rather to be interpreted as an evaluative attitude. Although it is possible to express such attitudes linguistically, Davidson argued that the analysis of explicitly evaluative utterances does not yield meaningful insights into valuations and values. Until today, most empirical political science research is marked by this focus on attitudes and the concurrent contempt of evaluative language. Consequently, research on political regime support is predominantly characterized by survey-based public opinion research (most recently for Germany: Westle/Gabriel 2009). In this branch of research - developed and advanced by Almond and Verba (1963) and David Easton's theoretical considerations (1965; 1975) - data on public opinion is generated in a reactive way. Citizens' assessments activated and gauged by means of surveys are declared to depict public opinion on political regimes, the current government, or some particular policy (Dalton 2004; Kaase/Newton 1995; Westle 2007). Accordingly, public opinion is based on what citizens have put on record in representative surveys. This approach is, however, not only prone to systematic bias resulting from particular framings of survey items and nuances in the linguistic context (Thaler/Sunstein 2008) but also to the more fundamental issue of whether survey-based research can capture all dimensions of public opinion. This topic surfaces because private valuations covered by survey research do not become public until they are aggregated by the research method itself. Only if poll ratings are published in the mass media they can become part of public debates on political regimes. …

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