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About this book

This is an ideal introduction for all embarking on a degree in Politics or International Relations. Starting from the premise that the 'doing' of political science is an active, and interactive, process of critical evaluation, it addresses the crucial question of how – as well as what – we should study.

The book examines a wide range of theoretical perspectives and shows how they can be usefully applied to questions such as 'Why do states go to war?' and 'In whose interests does the political system work?' Chapters are organized by core areas of study – such as power, the state, policy, institutions, the media, security, political economy – and show how theories can be used and applied within each topic.

Key benefits:

- shows how to apply and critique theories with confidence
- provides the complete analytical toolkit needed to study Politics and International Relations
- incorporates case studies and examples from around the world

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
What is it that we ‘do’ when we engage in Political Science or International Relations? Clearly, we study the world of politics, but what does this activity entail? The aim of this book is to provide an understanding of what it means to be a political scientist/analyst; that is, to demonstrate what it is that we as students or analysts of politics do, and how we do it. In this book we reflect upon the different ways in which we might go about: tackling a particular question or political problem; analyzing an issue or event; discussing the potential for political and/or social transformation; or challenging dominant interpretations of the political world. Our central argument is that the ‘doing’ of political analysis is an active, and interactive, process of critical evaluation and application of theory, and it is this skill which we hope to shed some light on in the pages that follow.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 1. Themes and Issues in Political Science and International Relations

Abstract
As we identified in the introduction, one of the biggest debates within Politics is about how we actually go about doing our analysis: how do we actually ‘do’ Politics? How do we decide what it is we are looking at? How do we find out what the real world of politics looks like and how can we find out information about it? How do we decide what questions to ask? How do we decide what theoretical position to adopt and which theory to apply? Once we start to think about these questions, we realize that there are bigger issues at stake; we don’t simply randomly pick what it is that we analyze. Rather we make a series of assumptions and judgements about what it is that is important, what it is we are seeking to do. These assumptions may often be implicit in the work of some of the scholars that we read, but it is important to be aware of them. Why? Because it enables us to recognize the strengths and limitations of the work we are analyzing and to enable us to be more rigorous in our own work. Awareness of these assumptions also enables us to be able to reflect upon differing positions and contributions of other approaches and enables us to make a decision about why that particular perspective provides the most useful account. It also provides a vocabulary through which we are able to articulate to others why we see the world in the way that we do.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 2. Power

Abstract
Open any book on Politics and we do not have to turn too many pages before seeing the concept of power discussed. Indeed, the pursuit and exercise of power is traditionally presented as the very cut and thrust of both domestic and international politics, and theorists go to great lengths to conceptualize and contextualize this power. Politicians go into politics to be able to exercise ‘power’ in order to achieve their personal and party political objectives; electorates may be said to exercise power when they choose who governs them. Power can also be exercised in the suppression or expression of a particular political debate or issue. Power might be the property of individuals, or might be located within systems. Power may be a ‘thing’ or it may be a process. So what do we really understand by the concept of power? In seeking to do political analysis for ourselves how should we approach the subject of power? There will certainly be questions that need addressing such as: what is power? Who has it? Where is it located? How is it exercised? In whose interest does it operate? The ontological and epistemological approaches we adopt will also largely determine how we explore ‘power’.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 3. The State

Abstract
The state is often assumed to be the starting point of analysis in the traditional study of Politics. This dominance has been challenged in recent years by empirical phenomena (and subsequent theoretical debates) around issues such as globalization and the perceived move away from government to governance. Some scholars have argued that there has been too little focus upon the state and that it needs to be brought back in to our analysis (Skocpol, 1985). Given the importance of the state for understanding our discipline(s), even if in our later work we come to reject its centrality, we need to begin with an understanding of what it is and how it operates. We do this by asking questions such as: what role does the state play in society? Is the state powerful? How can we understand what happens within and between states? We give an overview here of some of the different ways in which political scientists/analysts and IR scholars have sought to address these questions.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 4. Policy

Abstract
Public policy impacts upon our lives every single day, both in our private lives (affecting the things that we do at home) and public lives (for example, at work). Public policy isn’t only directed at us but is created to regulate the way in which individuals, organizations or states interact with each other in domestic polities and international society. As such, a fundamental area of investigation in Political Science, and to a lesser degree IR, is the way in which public decision-making takes place, and how the outcomes of those decisions are implemented. One of the ways in which we do this is through policy analysis.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 5. Institutions

Abstract
Until the 1950s, the primary activity of Political Science, apart from political theory, was the description and comparative analysis across time and between countries of political structures and constitutions with a particular emphasis on the executive, legislature and judiciary. This institutional approach was largely uncontested and unexamined as ‘common sense’ assumptions restricted debate on the theoretical and methodological basis of institutionalism (John, 1999: 38). However, as the discipline progressed, behaviouralist, rational choice and structuralist theorists challenged these certainties and contended that political scientists needed to do more than simply examine parliamentary, presidential or totalitarian governance. The 1980s witnessed the revival of interest in institutions as a ‘new institutionalism’ emerged, broadening definitions of institutions and a new research agenda:
The new institutionalists are concerned with the informal conventions of political life as well as with the formal constitutions and organizational structures. New attention is paid to the way in which institutions embody values and power relationships, and to the obstacles as well as the opportunities that confront institutional design. Crucially, new institutionalists concern themselves not just with the impact of institutions on individuals, but with the interaction between institutions and individuals. (Lowndes, 2010: 61)
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 6. Representation and Participation

Abstract
Representation and participation are the lifeblood of vibrant democracies and yet among Western democracies there has been much soul-searching about democratic deficits and crises of legitimation as voter turnout has become increasingly volatile over the past few decades. A veritable industry has grown up consisting of academics, political analysts, pollsters, media professionals, activists and politicians accepting the prevailing wisdom and proffering all manner of possible solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. Nothing less than the demise of democracy itself is forecast in a series of wonderfully titled books explaining why the West has become disengaged from the political process. Why Americans Mistrust Government (Nye et al., 1997), The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (Zakaria, 2003), Why We Hate Politics (Hay, 2007) provide a small flavour of the genre. Gerry Stoker, in an antidote to gloom and despondency, warns of the dangers of cynicism and populism, urging active political participation in his Why Politics Matter (2006). Stephen Macedo and associates’ report to the Brookings Institution, Democracy at Risk, presents a stark picture:
American democracy is at risk. The risk comes not from some external threat but from disturbing internal trends: an erosion of the activities and capacities of citizenship. Americans have turned away from politics and the public sphere in large numbers, leaving our civic life impoverished. Citizens participate in public affairs less frequently, with less knowledge and enthusiasm, in fewer venues, and less equally than is healthy for a vibrant democratic polity. (Macedo et al., 2005: 1)
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 7. The Media

Abstract
Most of the time, the way in which we find out about our politics is through the media. Whether it is via the TV, press, radio or the internet, these communications technologies play a central role in enabling politicians to communicate with us, and are the main way through which we find out about the political world. However, underneath these seemingly simple statements lies a complex series of relationships between media and politics. The media are not neutral actors, nor just passive conduits uncritically relaying information to us. The main aim of the media is to make money; they do this by attracting an audience, for without an audience there would be no purpose to the media. Thus, the media engage in tactics and strategies to attract us to them — for example, by using snappy headlines or striking images. Competition both between and within different media platforms, combined with a proliferation of technologies and outlets, means that an increasing number of media are competing for a smaller share of audiences. For some, this has led to a crisis in communication where we receive, and have access to, ‘more and more information [which has] … less and less meaning’ (Baudrillard, 1983: 95).
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 8. Security

Abstract
Security is among the most highly contested issues in Political Science and IR, complicated by the taken-for-granted assumptions about security that make up so much of the discourse of our daily lives, politicking and media coverage. In the study of Politics, a mainstream view might suggest that the issue of security is paramount to our understandings of how the world works and how people relate to one another. In this view, the topics we have discussed in previous chapters, such as the state, policy, institutions etc., while the subject of vigorous debate as to their constituent features, are premised on the idea of security as necessary to protect individuals from fellow citizens, the state, foreign citizens and foreign states. However, security is a highly contested concept. Not only that; for Edward Kolodziej (2005: 1) it has the added dimension that it is ‘heavily laden with emotion and deeply held values’. Indeed, for James Der Derian ‘no other concept in international relations packs the metaphysical punch, nor commands the disciplinary power of ‘security” (Der Derian, 1995: 24–5).
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 9. International/Political Economy

Abstract
Why is business so powerful? How is it that decisions taken in the City or financial markets can affect our everyday lives? Can we challenge our position in the existing global or domestic economy? Do states regulate markets in the interest of businesses or the public? What role is there for the public interest in political analysis of markets? How and why do ideas about economics become embedded in our social and political systems? In short, can we understand politics through reference to economics? The differing approaches within this chapter all assume a linkage between politics and economics, as disciplines, or as practice. The purpose of this chapter is to outline theories which discuss the relationship between politics and economics and explore the ways in which the two have been linked, in terms of their content and approach.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 10. The Environment

Abstract
The environment poses and contains some of the most pressing problems and challenges of our age. But how do we respond to it? Is it something which requires a scientific solution? Do we need to generate more knowledge about the natural world, and develop technologies which enable us to respond to changes in the earth’s climate? Or is it something which requires a social, economic or political response, such as that provided through the markets or through the actions of states? How important are governments and regulation in tackling this phenomenon? What role does that leave us as citizens as we go about our everyday lives? To what extent are we connected to the global natural system as well as the social systems (such as the economic and political ones)? How can we live within what the natural resources of the earth can provide? What happens when we start to live beyond our natural means? What might this mean not only for our generation, but also for future generations? In a way like no other topic, analyzing the environment can represent an explicit integration across disciplines, of both natural and social science. It can be conceived of as an economic issue; a political issue; a technological or scientific issue. It can require solutions from all of these approaches, singularly or as an integrated response.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 11. Globalization

Abstract
The concept of globalization has become a taken for granted assumption by policy-makers and shapers since the end of the Cold War, with academics such as Anthony Giddens, in his 1999 Reith Lectures, and leading politicians proclaiming an ‘era of globalization’. The assumption is widespread that we live in a globalized world; indeed, one of the best-selling introductory IR textbooks is Baylis, Smith and Owens’ The Globalization of World Politics (Baylis et al., 2008). However, as with the other chapters, there are keenly contested empirical and theoretical debates. In this topic this debate takes place around the extent to which we are in era of globalization and what the implications of this might be. Before beginning to consider the theoretical and empirical arguments surrounding this concept we first need to consider what we actually mean by globalization.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden

Chapter 12. Doing Your Own Political Science and International Relations

Abstract
Our aim in this book has been to illustrate that, whatever the political issue or problem, there are competing ways in which we can do our analysis. These are informed by assumptions that we make both prior to (as we outlined in Chapter 1) and during our analysis. The aim of this final chapter is to reflect upon this latter point and discuss some of these wider issues and concerns that we bring to our studies, both implicitly and explicitly, and irrespective of the framework we use, the approach we adopt, or the political questions we ask.
Heather Savigny, Lee Marsden
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