Agent Structure Problems

December 27, 2018 | Author: aramlogan1990 | Category: Theory, Prediction, Epistemology, Academic Discipline Interactions, Cognition
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the agent structure problem...


Agent-Structure Problems May 28, 2013

Nature of Problem The character of the agent-structure problem has to do with several questions: •  At what level of analysis does or should one concentrate? •  Are there tradeoffs in choosing one level of analysis over another • Can one engage in explanation if one stays at the system level, and can one do much in terms of general theory building if staying at the nation level? • Does staying at the systems level mean you don’t attempt to theorize in terms of agents? • If staying at the nation level, what room is there for structure, and if staying at the systems level, can one explain the nature and origins of states other than as entities that have particular types of relations with one another?

Singer: The Level of Analysis Problem in IR  A very early piece that addresses the emergence of the types of analysis that will later be deemed neorealism Deciding what level of analysis to use has a variety of implications for the types of study in which one engages. Deciding on a level of analysis is also important for the sake of consistency. To move between levels of analysis in a single study is to invite methodological, ontological and other types of confusion.

Singer Requirements of a good theory: • Must be capable of producing good (in terms of relatively accurate) description of the phenomena in question. Accuracy is measured in terms of being in accordance to our emperical observations of the phenomena • Must be capable of generating convincing and illuminating explanations for the relations involving the phenomena ▫  Valid and thorough ▫ Parsimonious

Singer Good theory: • Reliably predictive ▫ However, this might be the least demanding and therefore the least dispositive characteristic of a good theory. Relatively easy to predict lots of phenomena; therefore, good prediction record not necessarily a good way of sorting out different theoretical approaches.

Singer International systems theory: • Comprehensive • Simple • Identify patterns, generate generalizations • Description: ▫ Of all important matters ▫ But lack of detail

• Explanation: ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫ ▫

Emphasizes importance of system and de-emphasize national actors States are said to act in a uniform manner No recourse to motives or ideology No concern with internal variations within states Therefore better at identifying correlations than in identifying causal factors

• Good with generating predictions

Singer National level of analysis •  Able to differentiate among states • Greater detail of description • May lead to dearth of true comparison • May lead to overemphasis on states as actors • May lead to ethnocentric analysis • Understanding of decisionmaking confined to states under consideration •  Allows for considerations of differences among goals, motivations and purposes, and thus to grapple with subjective views that may factor into explanations • Questions as to what are states as agents and actors: decisionmakers, groups who control organizations, the people as a  whole? • Thus better at fine-grained explanations

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