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HANDBOOK OF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Volume 7

STRATEGIES

Edited by

FRED 1. GREENSTEIN Princeton University


NELSON W. POLSBY University o California, Berkeley

ADDISON-WESLEY PUBLISHING COMPANY

Menlo Park, California London

Reading, Massachusetts
Amsterdam Don Mills, Ontario Sydney

This book is in the


ADDISON-WESLEY SERIES IN POLITICAL SCIENCE

Copyright @ 1975 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. Philippines copyright 1975


by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.
Al1 rights reserved. No part o this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Printed in the
United States of Amenca. Published simultaneously in Canada. Library o Congress Catalog
Card No. 75-6240.
ISBN 0-20102607-4
ABCDEFGHIJ-HA.798765

CONTENTS

Chapter 1 Sources for Political Inquiry 1: Library Reference Materials


and Manuscripts as Data for Political Science
Clement E. Vose, Wesleyan University
Errors and Oddities in Reference Materials
Catalogs and Indexes to Books and Periodicals
Encyclopedias, Yearbooks, Directories, and Handbooks
Documents by and about the United States Government
Chapter 2 Sources for Political Inquiry 11: Quantitative Data
Jerome M. Clubb, University of Michigan
Social Science Data Archives
Operation and Utilization of Data Archives
Archiva1 Development

Data Sources

Concluding Commen ts

Partial List of Social Science Data Archives and Related Facilities


Chapter 3 Case Study and Theory in Political Science
Harry Eckstein, Princeton University
Introduction

Definitions

Options on the Utility of Case Studies:

An Overview
o the Argument
Types and Uses of Case Study
Objections to the Argument (and Replies to the Objections)
Conclusion

xvii

CASE S'I'UDY AND THEORY


IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
'ARRY ECKSTEIN

ZNTRODUCTZON
Tlie extent to which certain kinds of study are carried out in the field o political science seems to be a poor indicator o their perceived utility for building
theories.
The type of study most frequently made in the field is the intensive study
oindividual cases. Case studies run the gamut from the most microscosmic to
the most macrocosmic levels of political phenomena. O n the microlevel, we have
inany studies of conspicuous political personalities (political leaders such
as Lincoln, Stalin, Gandhi), and of particular leadership positions and small
leadersliip groups (the American presidency, the British Cabinet, the prime
minister in British government, tlie operational code of the Soviet leadership,
and so on). At the level o political groupings, the literature o the field teems
witli studies of particular pressure groups, political parties, party systems, revolutionary and protest movements, and political "elites," both on the national
and local levels. More abundant still are studies o individual polities in al1
corners o the world and at many stages o Iiistory and development. Many o
these treat polities as overall macrocosms; many deal with their subsidiary organizations (administrative apparatuses, legislatures, judiciaries, systems o local
government), or witli their programs and policies, or their particular electoral,
legislative, executive, or judicial decision processes. Beyond that level, one finds
a similar profusion of case studies of transnational plienomena: specific processes of and organizations for transnational integration, particular "systems" o
international politics, particular crises in international relations, and the like.
The abundance of examples is such tliat it seems pointless to provide bibliography. Precisely because tlie genre is so common, political scientists can
easily construct a representative list o examples for themselves. If not, a brief

80

Case Study and T h e o ~ yi n Politicol Science

visit to the political science section o tlie library will serve. I t is not much of
an exaggeration to say tliat the case study literature in the field comes close to
being coterminous witii its literature as sucli.

This plenitude of case studies is not associated witli any perception that

they are a particularly useful means for arriving at a tlieoretical understanding


the subject matter of political study. Ivlost political scientists wlio do case
studies appear to liave no views at all, or only ambiguous views, on tlie role
tllat case studies can play in tlieory building. For tliem, tlie case study is literally a genre, not a metliod. If tliey do express views on tlie subject, tliey usually
disparage tlie genre as a method-for instance, by holding that case studies can
at most stir u p becalmed theoretical imaginations. One miglit explain tliis apparent paradox by holding that political scientists do not place a Iiigh value
on theory building. No doubt tliis is true for many of tliem. But it is much less
true nowadays than it used to be, and tlie volume, or proportion, of case studies
in the field has not notably decreased.
I t is i n order, tlierefore, to raise three questions: Wliat general role can case
study play in tlie development of theories concerning political plienomena?
How useful is tlie case metliod at various stages of tlie theory-builcling process?
And how is case study best conducted for purposes of devising theories?
1intend here to propose answers to tliese questions tliat*runsliarply counter
to tlie now conventional wisdom in political science, especially in tlie division
of tlie field we cal1 "comparative politics." Tlie quotation marks no doubt give
tlie dnouement away. Readers are supposed to conclude that "comparative"
studies are by no means necessary (and often not even wise strategy to follow)
in pursuing tlie objective for wliicli tliey are usually conducted: the discovery
of valid generalizations about political plienomena. Indeed, 1 hold that tlie
conventional wisdom has tliings virtually upside down. Case studies, 1 will
argue, are valuable at al1 stages of the tlieory-building process, but most valuable at that stage of tlieory building wliere least value is generally attached to
them: tlie stage at wliicli candidate theories are "tested." Moreover, the argument for case studies as a means for building tlieories seems strongest i n regard
to precisely tliose plienomena witli wliicli the subfield of "comparative"
politics
is most associatecl: macropolitical plienomena,
i.e., units of political study of
considerable magnitude or complexity, sucli as nation-states and subjects virtually coterminous witli tliem (party systems or political cultures). More precise]~,tlie abstract brief in favor o tlie case study as a means of building theories seems to me to Iiolcl regardless of leve1 o inquiry, but at the macrocosmic
leve1 practica1 researcli considerations greatly reinforce tliat brief.
Extensive argument is necessary to make these points. But while tlie fun is
in arguing against conventional views (especially if, as in this case, they seem
truistic), argiiments do not make sense, and counterarguments are unlikely to
be apropos, unless major terms are first definecl. I n political science the safe bet

usually is that even widely used concepts are not widely understood in a uniform, unambiguous manner. Readers must therefore bear witli me for a while
as 1 clarify some basic terminology.

DEFZNZTZONS

Case Study and Comparative Study

1. Tlie conception of case study commonly Iield in tlie social sciences is derived from, and closely similar to, tliat of clinical studies in medicine and
psychology. Such studies are usually contrasted dicliotomously (as if tliey were
antitheses) to experimental ones, wliicli furnisli the prevalent conception of
coinparative study. Contrasts generally drawn between tlie two types o study
cover virtually al1 aspects of inquiry: range of researcli, methods and techniques,
manner of reporting findings, and researcli objectives. (See, for example, Riley,
1963, pp. 32-75.)
As to range of research: Experimental studies are Iield to be conducted
with large numbers of cases, constituting samples of populations, wliile clinical
studies deal with single individuals, or at most small numbers of tliem not
statistically representative of a populous set. Experimental studies tlius are
sometimes said to be "extensive" and clinical ones "intensive." Tliese adjectives
do not refer to numbers of individuals alone, but also involve the number of
variables taken into account. I n experimental studies tliat number is deliberately and severely limited, and preselected, for tlie purpose of discovering relationsliips between traits abstracted from individual wholes. Clinical study, to
the contrary, tries to capture the wliole individual-"tries to" because it is, of
course, conceded that doing so is only an approacliable, not an attainable, end.
As for methods and techniqztes: Tlie typical experimental study, first o
all, starts with, and adlieres to, a tiglitly constructed researcli design, whereas
ttie typical clinical study is mucli more open-ended and flexible a t al1 stages.
Tlie clinical researclier may Iiave (probably must liave) in mind some notions
of wliere to begin inquiry, a sort of cliecklist o points to look into during its
course, or perhaps even a preliminary moclel of tlie individual being studied;
but actual study proceeds more by feel ancl improvisation tlian by plan. SecOncl, tlie tecliniques most commonly associated with sucli inquiry in the case
"collective indivicluals" (Le., social units) are the loose ones of participant
~bservation(simply observing tlie unit from witliin, as if a member of it) and
Verstehen (i.e., empathy: understanding the meaning oactions and interactions
from tlie members' own points oview). T h e typical techniques of experimental
lnquiry, per contra, are tliose rigorous ancl ro~itinizedprocedures of data processing and data analysis concocted to ensure liigli degrees of "nonsubjective"

82

Case Stzidy and Theovy in Political Science

reliability and validity-the


tecliniques of tlie statistics texts and researcli
inethods primers.
ReForts of the findings o clinical study are generally characterized as narrative and clescriptive: they provide case histories and detailed portraiture. Such
reporting miglit therefore also be termed syntlietic, wliile that of experimental
studies is analytic, siiice it does not present depictions of "whole" individuals
lmt ratlier o relations among components, or elements, of them. Beyond description, clinical studies present "interpretation"; heyond raw data, experimental ones present rigorously evaluated "findings."

I t follows tliat tlie objectives


o tlie two types of study also cliffer. Tliat of
experimental study is generalized knowledge: tlieoretical propositions. Tliese
may certainly apply to individuals but never exliaiist tlie knowledge it is possible to Iiave o tliem. Being general tliey necessarily miss what is particular
and unique, wliicli rnay or rnay not be a lot. Tlie objective of clinical study,
on tlie other hand, is precisely to capture tlie particular and unique, for if
anything about a n individual wliole is such, so must be the whole per se. I t is
conceded tliat in clescribing an individual configuration we rnay get hunclies
aboiit the generalizability of relations not yet experimentally studied, but only
Iiunches, ancl even these only by serenclipity (hlerton, 1957, p. 103). Clinical
study is tlierefore associated more avitli action objectives 'tlian tliose o pure
knowledge. I n tlie case of single individuals, it aims a t diagnosis, treatment, and
adjustment; in tliat of collective individuals, at policy. T h i s association o clinical study witli adjustive action is based on the assumption that therapy and
policy can Iiardly proceecl witliout sometliing approximating full knowledge of
its subjects, however mucli general propositions rnay help i n proceeding from
clinical knowledge of a case to tlie appropriate manipulation of a subject. Clinical and experimental objectives clraw near, asymptotically, as "pure" knowledge becomes "applied" (i.e., in engineering models), but application is merely
a possible extension of experimental knowledge while generally being an intrinsic objective o clinical researcli.
2. Anyone familiar witli tlie moderii Iiistory of comparative politics (foi a
brief review, see Eckstein and Apter, 1963, pp. 3-32) will realize tliat its development since tlie early 1950s involves a transition, or shift, from the clinical to
tlie experimental mode of study. Macridis ancl Brown (1955) criticized tlie old
"comparative" politics for being, among otlier tliings, noncomparative (concerned mainly witli single cases) anci essentially descriptive and monographic
(not substantially concernecl witli theory and, at least in aim, wliolistic); and he
implies that it liad a clominant tlierapeutic objective: to fincl ways o cliagnosing
the ills of unstable clemocracies ancl making tliem more stable. Sucli studies,
conformirig to tlie moclel o clinical researcli, still abouncl, I ~ u tlie
t proportion
of those concluctecl in accordance witli tliat o experimental study has steadily
grown, as has tlie proportion of monograpllic studies seeking, someliow, to tie
into tlie other variety.

However, wliile tlie distinction between clinical and experimental studies


is useful for contrasting tlie old and new comparative politics, it does not serve
nearly so well in distinguisliing tlie case study from other modes of research.
~t best, it can provide an initial inkling (but only an inkling) of the differences
among them. Certainly tliis cliapter, wliicli argues in favor of case studies, is
.ot by any stretch of tlie imagination to be taken as a defense of
tlie kind of
work Macridis assails and tlie field
has downgraded. Tlie distinction offers a
useful denotative definition of case studies in tlie social sciences (that is, what
people usually mean by tlie term) but a far from useful connotative and generic
one (liow tlie term ouglit to be used if it is not to raise serious difficulties of
rneaning and classification and not to defiw merely one of numerous types of
case study).
3. Tlie essential objections to equating case stiicly witli clinical ancl comparative study with experimental inquiry al1 revolve on one basic point: notliing
compels tlie clustering (Iience, dicliotomization) o tlie various characteristics
iised to distinguisli clinical and experimental studies. Altliough that clustering
in fact occurs very frequently in tlie social sciences, it does so chiefly because of
clubious beliefs and assumptions. At most, tlie cliaracteristics llave a certain
practica1 affinity, e.g., tlie fewer tlie cases studied tlie more intensive study may
be, otlier tliings being equal. But no logical compulsion is at work and tlie
practical considerations often are not weighty.
We rnay certainly begin witli the notion tliat case studies, like clinical
stiidies, concern "individuals," personal or collective (and, for tidiness o conceptualization, assume tliat only one individual is involved). From this, however, it does not follow tliat case studies must be intensive in tlie clinician's
sense: nothing like "wliolistic" study rnay be attempted and the researclier may
certainly aim a t finding relationsliips between preselectecl variables-unless he
assumes, a priori, tliat tliis is foolisli. Tlie researcli rnay be tiglitly designed and
may put to use al1 sorts o sopliisticated researcli tecliniques. (An excellent
example is Osgood and Luria's [1954] "blind analysis," using the semantic
differential, of a case of multiple personality.) Its results need not be cast i n
narrative form, and its objective can certainly be tlie development of general
Propositions rather than portraiture of tlie particular and unique; nor need
case studies be concerned witli problems of tlierapeiitic action when tliey go beyoncl narration, depiction, and subjective interpretation.
TIie same applies, mutatis mzitandis, to studies o numerous cases, even
leaving aside tlie fact that the cases need not be, ancl often are not, very numerOUS. and certainly not a "sample." Tliis leaves a large residual
no-man's-lancl,
even from
the standpoint of numbers, between tlie clinical ancl experimental.
Studies of numerous cases can also take into accoiint numerous variables. Modern data processing capabilities Iiave, in fact, encouraged a kind o omnibus
approacli even to cross-national researcli, i la Ranks ancl Textor (1963), i n
whicii anytliing one can tliink of is cross-tal~ulateclancl correlated with just

84

Case Study and Theory in Political Science

about everything else. Even before these capabilities existed some comparative
works treated tlie various aspects o complex whole, like polities, as comprehensively as any clinical investigation (e.g., Finer, 1949; and Friedrich, 1968).
Studies o numerous cases also leave room for improvisation i n research. They
are not always tightly designed, do not always use rigorous research techniques,
are sometimes reported in tlie descriptive vein, often Iiave few or no theoretical pretensions, and also often seek direct answers to policy and other action
questions, not answers that amount to the deduction o applied from pure
tlieory.
Tliese points o overlap and ambivalence in tlie distinction between the
clinical and experimental have led to a concerted attack on the dichotomy in
psychology itself. One typical attack argues tliat tlie dichotomy originates in an
archaic and absurd Methodenstreit between "mechanistic" and "romantic"
views o human nature (Holt, 1962). Anotlier argues tliat experimental modes
o study can also be used profitably in researcli into single cases; this is the
theme o a notable book o essays, N =1 (Davidson and Costello, 1969). This
work implies the most important definitional point o all: if case study is defined as clinical study in the traditional sense, then we not only construct a
messy generic (not necessarily classificatory) concept, but also foreclose the possibility o useful argument about case study as a tool in theory building. T h e
definition answers the question: case study and theory are at polar opposites,
linked only by the fortuitous operation o serendipity.
4. This attack on the conventional idea o case study serves a constructive as
well as destructive purpose. I t provides ammunition for later arguments against
highly restrictive views concerning the role ocase study in theory building, and
also points tlie way toward a better, and simpler, definition o what case studies
are.
An unambiguous definition ocase stucly should proceed from the one sure
point that has been established: case study is the study of individuals. T h a t is
about as simple as one can get-but, because o one major problem, it is too
simple. Tlie problem is tliat one man's single individual way may be another's
numerous cases. Take an example: In order to help break down the dichotomy
between the clinical and experimental, Davidson and Costello (1969, pp. 214232) reprint a study by Cliassan on the evaluation o drug effects during psychotlierapy. Chassan argues for tlie greater power o single-case study over the
usual "treatment group" versus "control group" design-in this case, for determining the relative effects o tranquilizers and placebos. Readers can catch the
flavor of liis argument tlirougli two o Iiis many italicized passages:

. . . tlie intensive statistical study oa single case can provide more meaningful and statistically significant information than, say, only end-point observations extended over a relatively large number o patients.

Definitions

85

. . . tlie argument cited against generalization to otlier patients, from tlie


result oa single case intensively studied, can actually be applied in a more
realistic and devastating manner against tlie value o inferences . . . drawn
from stuclies in wliicli extensive ratlier tlian intensive degrees o freedom
are used. (Davidson and Costello, 1969)

I
I

And so on, in tlie same vein. Tlie wliole paper is an object lesson to those who
seek tlieoretical safety only in numbers. But tliere is a catcli. Chassan studied
only one patient, but used a large number o treatments by drug and placebo:
"frequent observations over periods o sufficiently long duration." T h e "individual" Iiere surely is not tlie patient, although he may be for otlier purposes;
it is eacli treatment, tlie effects o wliicli are being compared. I t is easy enough
to see the advantages o administering clifferent treatments to tlie same person
over a long period (hence, safety in small numbers o a sort), as against using
one patient per observation (although it is to Chassan's credit that he pointed
tliem out in contrast to the more usual procedure). But n , despite tlie title o
tlie book, in tliis case is not one.
If this problem arises with persons, it arises still more empliatically with
"collective inclividuals." A study osix general elections in Britain may be, but
need not be, an n = 1 study. I t might also be an n = 6 study. I t can also be an
n = 120,000,000 study. I t depends on whether the subject of study is electoral
systems, elections, or voters.
Wliat follows from tliis is tliat ambiguity about what constitutes an "individual" (Iience "case") can only be dispelled by not looking at concrete entities
but at tlie measures made o tliem. O n tliis basis, a "case" can be defined techn'ically as a phenomenon for ruhich we report an.d interpret only a
sin'gle measise on any
pertinent variable. TIiis gets us out o answering insoluble metapliysical questions that arise because any concrete entity can be decomposed,
at least potentially, into niimerous entities (not excluding "persons": they
differ almost from moment to moment, from treatment to treatment, and consist of Iiighly numerous cells, wliicli consist o highly numerous particles, and
so on). It also raises starkly tlie critica1 problem o this essay: what useful role
can single descriptive measures (not measures o central tendency, association,
correlation, variance or covariance, al1 o wliicli presuppose numerous measures
of each variable) play in tlie construction of theory?
I f case study can be tlius defined, compa~ativestudy is simply the stzldy o f
num.e~ozucases along the sume lines, ruith a view to reporting and interpreting
n,umerous measzlres o n the sume variables of different "in~dividuals."Tlie indi~iduals,needless now to say, can be persons or collectivities, or tlie same perSon or collectivity at clifferent points in time, in different contexts, or under
different treatments. And tlie term "measure" sliould o course here be treated
With latitude: it miglit be a Iiiglily precise quantity (34.67% o al1 Britons al-

86

Case Study and T h e o ~ in


y Politicrtl Science

ways vote Labour) or a ratlier imprecise observation (tlie American Repiiblican


party is a clironic minority party).

Theory and Theory Building


W e will be concerned witli tlie utility of case studies in tlie development o theories i n macropolitics-tlieir
utility botli in tliemselves ancl, to a n extent, relative to comparative (17, = many) studies. Wliile nearly everyone in tlie field at
tlie present time agrees tliat tlie development of good tlieories is tlie quintessentia1 end of political inquiry, conceptions of tlieory, ancl of tlie processes by
wliicli it iiiay be tlevelopecl, vary extreinely in our field. This inakes unavoidable a clefinitional exercise on theory antl a review of the normal steps in theory
building.
, ~ ~ wliat constitutes tlieory in our field can be identi1, T w o polar ~ O S I L I U U.I
fiecl. Wliile positions range between them, they llave recently been rather polarized, more often on, or very near, tlie extremes tlian between them.
O n one extreme (tlie "liarcl" line on tlieory) is tlie view that theory consists solely of statements like tliose characteristic o contemporary tlieoretical
pliysics (or, better, considered to be so by influential philosophers of science). A
good summary of tliis view, tailorecl to tlie field of political science, is presented
i n Holt and Richardson's clisc~issiono tlie nature of "paradigms" (1968, pp.
4-8), but even better sourct:., are tlie writings of scientist-philosopliers sucli as
Kemeny (1959), Popper (1 959), and Hempel (1965).

Theories in tliis sense Iiave


four crucial traits: (1) Tlie concepts used in
tliem are definecl very precisely, usually by stating definitions in terms of empirical referents, and are less intenclecl to describe plienomena fiilly than to
abstract from tliem cliaracteristics iiseful for formulating general propositions
about thein. (2) Tlie concepts are iised in dediictively connectecl sets of propositions that are either axioins (assiiinptions) or theoreins deducecl from thein.
(3) Tlie object of tlie propositions is botli logical consistency and "empirical
import," i.c., correspondence to observations of plienomena. And (4) enil)irica1
import is determined by tests tliemselves deduced from tlie propositions, and
tliese are designeel to make it Iiiglily probable tliat tlie propositions will fliink
tlie tests, conficlence in propositions being proportionate to tlie stiffness of the
tests they manage to survive. I n our own field, tlieories o tliis type are
sometimes called

"formal tlieories," mainly because of tlie large role of formal


deduction
in their elaboration; and economics is generally taken as the nearest social
science model for tliem, not only in general form but also in regard to substantive "rationality" axioms (Downs, 1957; Riker, 1962; Biiclianan and Tullock, 1967; Curry and Watle, 1968).
O n tlie otlier pole (tlie "soft" line), tlieory is simply regarded as any mental
construct tliat orders plienomena or inquiry into tliem. TIiis qualifies as tlieory
many qiiite cliverse constriicts, including classificatory schemes tliat assign in-

Definitions

97

dividual cases to more or less general classes, "analytic" scliernes tliat decc
pose complex plienomena into their component elements,
frameworks and
cllecklists for conducting inquiry
(e.g., tlie "systems" approacli to macropolitics,
or "clecision-making" checklists for tlie study of foreign policy formation), any
empiri~alpatterns found in properly processed data, or
anytliing considered
underlie sucli patterns
(e.g., learning processes or class position).
2. If the term tlieory were always prefaced by an appropriate adjective, wrangling about tliese, and less extreme, positions could be avoided. But tliis would
not take us off the Iiook of Iiaving to specify Iiow "goocl theory" as an objective
of inquiry in our field should be conceived. T h e best position on tliis issue, it
seems to me, is neitlier hard nor soft b u t does come closer to tlie Iiard than the
soft extreme. I t rests on two major premises.

T h e first
is tliat it makes no sense wliatever to cal1 any mental construct a
tlieory. Such constructs differ vastly in Iiature arid purpose, so tliat tliey can
Iiarclly be considered to be of tlie same species. MJitli some o them, not much
more can be done than to assign names to plienomena or to order one's filing
cabinets. And it can be demonstrated t h a:~
, strictlly speaking, tlie soft position
compels one to regard as theory any statcEment wliatever in conventional or
technical discourse.
Second, it makes little more sense to restrict tlie term to constructs like
tliose o theoretical pliysics, or tliose abstracted from tliat fielcl by pliilosopliers
of science. Wliile sucli constructs have proved extremely powerful in certain
senses, one may doubt that tliey alone possess power (even in these senses). IE
constructs like tliem are not atta inable ini a field s~iclias our own at its present
stage o development (whicli is :it least a n open question, since constructs like
~.
. -1,
tliem Iiave in fact not been attaineu),
commitment to tlieory in sucli a narrow
sense may induce one to forego tlieoretical inquiry altogetlier. Most important,
tlieories in tlie "liard" sense are a particular form developed, over considerable
time, to realize the purposes-tlie motivating goals, animus, telos-of a n activity; and wliile tliey do this very well, it does not follow tliat tliey are absoliitely required for realizing tliese purposes.
Consequentiy, even if tlie constructs of tlieoretical pliysics are taken as a
mociel, it seems unwise to restrict tlie notion of tlieory entirely to such conStructs. I t seems better to label as tlieory any constructs designecl to realize the
Same eiids ancI foi-mulatecl witli the same aniinus as tliose w1iicl-i cliaracterize
tlie fields in wliicli Iiarcl tlieory Iias been cleveloped-leaving open, anyway
Provisionally, tlie forms sucli constructs may take consistent witli reasonable
"cliievement of tlie ends. O n tliis basis, tlieory is cliaracterized by a telos, or animus, O inquiry rather than by tlie particular form of statenients. Tlie only
'equirement (wliich, Iiowever, is far from soft) is tliat the forms of theoretical
"atements must be conducive to tlie goals of tlieoretical activity.
Sucli a teleologica! conception of tlieory requires tliat tlie goals he made ex-

Case Study and T h e o y i n Political Science

plicit. They can be cliaracterized under the following lieadings: regvlnrity, reliability, validity, foreknoruledge, and parsimony.
a). T h e quintessential end of theorizing is to arrive at statements of regularity
about the structure, beliavior, and interaction of phenomena. "Regularity"
here means, literally, "rulefulness": tlie discovery of rules that phenomena observe in the concrete world, as players do in games or logicians in logic. Sucli
regularity can exist in many senses. Tlie rules may describe simple relations
among variables without specification of tlieir exact nature; or tliey may describe sequences like causal patlis or historical and genetic patterns; or they
may be statements of the conditions of persistence or efficacy of structures. T h e
rules may also be more or less "ruleful." Tliey may be "probability statements"
that permit no inferences about individual cases but only more or less confident
ones about sets of them, or tliey may be "laws" in which probability is at unity.
Both of these can furtlier vary in "rulefulness" according, for example, to the
number and significance of variables held constant or ignored, or wliether they
state necessary, sufficient, or botli necessary and sufficient conditions if causal
sequences or conditions of viability or performance are specified.
b). Tlie animus of theoretical inquiry requires not merely empirical rules, but
also tliat the rules be as reliable and ualid as possible. Reliability exists to the
extent that inquirers, proceeding in the same manner, arrive at the same results; validity to tlie extent tliat a presumed regularity has been subjected, unsuccessfully, to tough appropriate attempts at falsification. Not al1 presumed or
discovered regularities are subject to tests of reliability and validity, and certainly not to equally tougli ones: e.g., a statistical inference about a set o cases
observed by a researcher tliat cannot be restudied at a11 or i n much tlie same
way can never be reliable and is iinlikely to be valid (i.e., successfully tested).
Hence, just as concepts become theoretical by being used i n regularity statements, so such statements become tlieoretical if tliey are subject to tougli reliability and validity tests.
c). Foreknowledge is tlie correct anticipation, by sound reasoning, o unknowns (wlietlier tlie i~nknownhas or has not yet occurred). Theory not only
does, but needs to, aim at that objective, because tlie toughest, lience most conclusive, test o any rule is tlie correct deduction from it of unobserved experience. I n most cases, theories are sliaped to fit observations already made, and
this is fine, so long as observations are not deliberately selected to fit tlieories.
T h e manner in wliich tlieories are sliapecl to fit observations does te11 us
something about their probable validity. But generally
there are numerous rules
tliat fit well any body of observations and numerous tecliniques that yield different results wlien tlie question of d e s e e of rulefulness arises. Even if this were
not so, al1 we can really learn from rules sliaped to fit knowns is tliat they hold
(in some degree) for tlie cases observetl under tlie wliole complex of conditions
prevailing wlien they were observed, not tliat tliey Iiold for al1 sucli cases, under

al1 conditions or under otlier precisely


specifiable conditions. Only foreknol
ecIge, in the sense above, can
provide confidente tliat the regularities are less
tenuous.
T h e objective of foreknowledge has been neglected in
recent political
science studies
because of a fixation on the power of sopliisticated data proces~ i n gto yield valid rules (rather tlian just rules likely to be validated). Even
more, it lias been neglectecl because of a belief tliat foreknowledge always involves literal prescience of events in tie future of tlie natural world, wliicli, in
view of tiie complexity of macropolitics, seems as near to impossible as anything can be. I n fact, tlieoretical foreknowledge rarely takes tlie form of prescience. More often it involves experimental prediction (anticipating, by cor1-ect reasoning from presumecl regularities, tlie results of activities in wliicli
variables are fully controlled), or concrete prediction (anticipating, by such
reasoning, what will occur in the natural world if and only if specified initial
conditions obtain), or forecasting (anticipating, by sucli reasoning, tlie probabilities of specified events occurring, given the initial conditions that do obtain).
Tliese types of foreknowledge al1 fa11 sliort of prescience and are not al1 equally
conclusive for tlieory. T h e failure of a single forecast, for example, is generally
(not always) less conclusive tlian tliat of an experimental prediction, altliough
repeated forecasting failures are pretty definitive. All, however, give an essentia1 insiglit into validity that tlie mere fitting of regularity statements to known
data can never provide.
I t sliould be evident tliat constructs exactly like those of theoretical pliysics
are not needed for foreknowledge: certainly not for every type of it. Al1 tliat is
required of theory in tlie generic sense i S that so me unknown be strictly deducible from tlie posited regularities, whe:ther tlie unknown is the outcome of
an experiment, or tlie probabilities of n:itural evc2nts under obtaining conditions, or tlie occurrence of natural events under conditions specified by the
tlieorist.
d). Tlie notion of parsimony is liard to define ~recisely.Tlie pliilosopliers of
science seem themselves to Iiave had inordinate rrouble with the concept. 1 take
it to mean that regularity statements are parsimonious in
~ r o p o r t i o nto (i) the
variety and number
o observations tliey order; (ii) tlie number of discrete
tlieoretical constructs (Le., constructs not strictly deducible from one another)
used to order a constant volume and variety of observations; (iii) tlie number
of otlier tlieoretical constructs subsumed to or derivable from them; and (iv)
tlie number and complexity of variables used in the statements. On tliis basis,
regularity statements are never parsimonious or unparsimonious (altliougli the
concept is often used dicliotomously) but always more or less so, especially
"rice trade-offs among tlie criteria of parsimony are possible.

Tlie ideal of parsimony is


to an extent aesthetic, but a higli degree of it is
required by tlie objective o foreknowledge and tlius hangs together with tlie

90

Case Study a n d T h e o - i n Political Science

general aniinus of tlieoretical inquiry. T h e reason is simply tliat regularity


statements can be made so cumbersome and complex tliat nothing (or, much
tlie same, too many different tliings) can be strictly deduced from tliem, even
wlien the cardinal sin of liypotliesis saving is 11ot committed. A case in point is
Easton's "systems analysis" of macropolitics (1965). By my reacling, Easton identifies at least twelve criicial stresses tliat can arise in tlie political system's inputconversion-output-feedback cycle, eacli potentially fatal and eacli capable of
being more or less rediicecl ("managed") by different adaptations to stress. Since
tlie stresses can occiir in various combinations ancl sequences, decliicing wliat
may ensue from any given initial condition in a polity becomes a matter of
permutation, and 12! = 479 million (approximately); lience, any state of political affairs can lead to sometliing like lialf a billion subsequent states o affairs
witliout violating Easton's tlieory. Given that fact, tlie probability of correct
forecasting of any sort seems a bit low. So does tliat ofinding a unique solution
for wliy any given state of affairs exists, or tliat of failing to accoiint for anytliing within tlie terms of Easton's tlieory. Tliis is precisely why parsimony is
essential: only a Iiigli degree of it can ensure tliat regularity statements may
fail, ancl therefore also siicceed.1

)f course, be more or less powerful, or "goocl," depending


Theori
on tlie ruleruiness of regularity statements, the amount of reliability and validity
tliey possess, tlie amount ancl kinds of foreknowledge tliey provide, and how
parsimonious they are.2 Tlie animus of tlieoretical inquiry is constantly to increase their power to some unattainable absolute in al1 tliese senses. And while
that absolute miglit have a unique ideal form to wliicli the forms of theoretical
pliysics might provide a cliscerning clue, it shoulcl be evident that it can be
approaclied tlirough many kinds of formulations, and always only approaclied.
Tliis is why "theory" is better conceived of as a set o goals than as stateinents having a specified form.
At tlie same time, no mental construct qualifies as tlieory unless it satisfies
tlie goals in some minimal sense. Tliis minimal sense is that it must state a
presumed regularity in observations tliat is susceptible to reliability and validity
tests, permits the deduction of some unknowns, and is parsimonious enougll
to prevent tlie decluction of so many tliat virtually any occurrence can be Iield
to bear it out. If tliese conclitions are not satisfied, statements can still be interesting and useful; but they are not "tlieory."

Tliese are
tlie sort of constructs we want about macropolitics. I t sliould be
evident tliat the pivotal point in tlie whole conception is tliat regarcling foreknowledge: validity is Iield to depencl on it, parsimony is mainly required
for tlie sake of establishing valiclity, and regularity statements are not an end
unless valid. Any general appraisal of tlie utility of a metliod of inquiry must
therelore also pivot on tliat point, as will my brief for the case sttidy method.'

3. I t should also be evident tliat foreknowleclge is most


closely bound iip
Tvitli the testing of tlieories and tliat tlie process of tlieory building
involves
inuch that precedes testing, and soine activities subsequent to it as
well. ~t
follows tliat modes of inquiry might be liiglily serviceable at one state of the
process biit not at otliers, and tliis also must be considered in arguments about
tliem.
a). Tlie process of tlieory building, needless to say, always begins witli qzlest i o m about experience for which answers are wanted-and raising questions,
especially penetrating ones, is anything but a simple matter; indeecl it is perhaps
~vliatmost distinguishes the genius from the dullard (for wliom common sense,
the sense of ordinary people, leaves few rnysteries). I t is also an ability tliat,
conceivably, could be sliarpened or dulled by various modes o inquiry.
b). Questions, to be answered by theories, must usually be restated as p ~ o b lenzs or puzzles. This is a complex process that 1 llave discussed elsewhere
(Eckstein, 1964, Introduction) and tliat consists essentially of stating questions
so tliat testable rules can answer tliem (which is not tlie case for any and al1
questions) and determining what core-puzzles must be solved if questions are
to be answered. (A familiar example is the subtle process by wliicli Weber
arrived at the conclusion that tlie question o the Protestant Ethic ("Why
did modern capitalism as an economic system clevelop spontaneously only in
tlie modern West?") boils down to the puzzle "wliat engenders tlie (unlikely)
attitude of continuous, rational acquisition as against other economic orientations?"
c). Tlie next step is hypothesis: formulating, by some means, a candidate-solution of tlie puzzle that is testable in principle and sufficiently plausible, prima
facie, to warrant the bother and costs of testing. Like the formulation of tlieoretical problems, tliis initial step towarcl solving tliem generally first involves
a "vision," then tlie attempt to state tliat vision in a rigorous and unambiguous
form, so tliat conclusive testing becomes at least potentially possible. Tlie
candidate-solution need not be a single hypothesis or integrated set of liypotlieses. I n fact, a p a r t i c ~ i l a r lpowerful
~
alternative is what Platt (1966, pp. 19-36)
calls "strong inference" (and considers cliaracteristic of tlie more rapidly del'eloping "hard" sciences, such as molecular biology and high-energy pliysics):
developing a set of competing hypotheses, some or most of wliicli may be
refuted by a single test.
d). After that, of course, one searclies for and carries out an appropriate, and
if possible definitive, test. Such tests are rarely evident in liypotlieses tliem"lves, especially if questions o practicability are added to tliose of logic.
Testing is, in a sense, tlie end of tlie tlieory building process. I n anotlier
ense, it is not: i f a test is siirvived the process oE tlieorizing does not end.
Apart from attempting to make pure knowledge applied, one continues to

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