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Introduction to Political Analysis

Summary – Behavioralism

Behavioral approach concentrates on one question: Why do people behave in the way they
do? Behavioralists argue that observable behavior should be the focus of the analysis regardless if
it is on the individual or social aggregate level; and any explanation of that behavior should be
susceptible to empirical testing. Behavioralists have investigated a wide variety of substantive
problems. They studied the behavior of those who are politically participating by voting, and those
who joined other unconventional forms of political activities such as mass demonstrations, strikes
and even riots. They also studied the behavior in the elite level, their leadership behavior, how they
view the world and the particular actions that they take. At the international level, behavioral
analysis has also focus on the actions of nation states, as well as the behavior of non-state actors
such as MNCs and the likes.

The behavioralists seek to answer the questions such as: What do actors involved actually
do? How can we best explain why they do it? For the behavioralists, these are the most important

According to Positivism, analytic statements made about the physical or social world fell
into one of three categories. First, such statement could be useful tautologies. They could be purely
definitional statements that assigned a specific meaning to a particular concept of phenomenon,
and they could mean another thing. Second, statements could be empirical, they could be tested
against observation in order to see if they were true or false. Third, statements that fell into neither
of the two first categories were devoid of analytic meaning, in other words, meaningless.

An empirical theory is a set of interconnected abstract sentiments, consisting of

assumptions, definitions and empirically testable hypotheses, which purports to describe and
explain the occurrence of a given phenomenon or set of phenomena.

An explanation is a causal account of the occurrence of some phenomenon or set of

phenomena. An explanation of a particular events consists in the specification of the minimum
non-tautological set of antecedent necessary and sufficient conditions required for its occurrence.
For both positivists and behavioralists, there are three main ways in which explanatory theories
can be evaluated;

1. A good theory must be internally consistent.

2. A good theory relating to a specific class of phenomena should be consistent with
other theories that seek to explain related phenomena.
3. Genuinely explanatory theories must be capable of generating empirical predictions
that can be tested against observation.

There are two characteristic features of behavioral approach to social inquiry;

1. Behavioralism’s commitment to the systematic use of all the relevant empirical

evidence rather than a limited set of illustrative supporting examples; and
2. Scientific theories and/or explanations must be capable of being falsified.

Behavioralists emphasize the twin notions that theories should;

1. Seek to explain something; and

2. Be capable, in principle, of being tested against the world of observation.

For behavioralists, non-falsifiable theories are not really theories at all. They are merely elaborate
fantasies of varying degrees of complexity that scholars can choose to believe or disbelieve as they
wish. For them, theory evaluation must proceed beyond merely examining a theory in order to
assess its internal consistency and the nature of the puzzles that is seems to resolve: theory
evaluation must also involve subjecting theoretical propositions to empirical test.

Criticism of the behavioral approach:

1. Objections to the positivist claim that statements which are neither definitions nor
empirical are meaningless.
2. The tendency towards mindless empiricism.
3. The assumed independence of theory and observation.