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Behavioralism The Behavioral Revolution Premises. “ Political science could be, should be, and very shortly would be a scientific discipline .” (25) “Hard facts should be found (empiricism) and should be summarized in formal propositions (theory building).”

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the behavioral revolution premises
The Behavioral RevolutionPremises.
  • “Political science could be, should be, and very shortly would be a scientific discipline.” (25)
  • “Hard facts should be found (empiricism) and should be summarized in formal propositions (theory building).”
  • Positivist background: Need of collecting empirical data and of testing theoretical propositions against the data.
behavioralism traditional political science
Behavioralism Traditional political science
  • Traditional political science was accused of:
    • Being “merely descriptive,” and even worse, “narrowly descriptive.”
    • Being only normative (and biased)
    • Focusing on Ideas instead of FACTS (i.e., studies on constitutions)
david easton
David Easton:
  • In 1953, Easton argued that political science had not made any progress in 2,500 years.
  • Political science could neither define its terms nor tell which data were relevant.
  • Solution: embracing the scientific method, with political theory on the lead (the latter was true for Easton only… most Behavioralists dismissed theory)
popper s falsacionism implicit
Popper’s Falsacionism (implicit)
  • In order to be valid (scientific) a theory must be falsifiable, that is open to empirical refutation.
  • The Behavioral Revolution consecrated a like understanding of theory.
the revolution
The “Revolution”...
  • Was not a unified event, but
  • “The concurrent work of many separate individuals” and different works, which
    • Defined a “new frontier” the political science community decided was worthy to explore...
      • In order to become more Scientific
Challenge: to grasp the highly complex and changing universe of politics in “some scientific conceptualization.”
  • Politics, “the Enemy”?
diversity of approaches
Diversity of Approaches.
  • Works based on the collection of empirical data from mass public opinion surveys. The American Voter(1964),The Civic Culture(1963).
  • Works based on economic reasoning that provide models to understand empirical political data. An Economic Theory of Democracy (1957).
  • Works inspired on sociological approaches:
    • On aggregate data and class-based analysis. Political Man (1963)
    • On grassroots micro-sociological analysis. Who Governs? (1961)
    • On System Theory (Easton)
1 works based on public opinion surveys
1.Works based on public opinion surveys
  • The use of opinion surveys came from the field of sociology (expansion in the 1940s).
  • In political science, the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center became (and still is) the standard for this style of research.
    • Important DATA COLLECTION
  • Socioeconomic, political, psychological, and voting behavior questions.
  • National Election Studies (“microscope”)
  • The survey approach became a “microscope” to look at grassroot behavior that was never before given attention
    • Allowed to reject traditional assumptions on democracy
main works
Main Works
  • The American Voter (1960) (Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes)
  • The Civic Culture(1963) (Almond, Gabriel, and Sydney Verba)
the civic culture
The Civic Culture
  • “Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations.”
  • “The present book is based about one thousand interviews carried on in each of five nations (about five thousand interviews in all). In each case an attempt was made to obtain a national cross-section sample.(...)The cross-section interveiws were carried on in June and July of 1959 in all of the nations except in the United States; the interviews in the United States were carried on in March, 1960. In most cases the follow-up interviews took place about six months to a year after the first interviews.” (Almond & Verba 40).
study on political culture
Study on political culture
  • Political culture “refers to the specifically political orientations—attitudes toward the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the role of the self in the system.” (12)
  • Three types of citizen
    • Participants
    • Subjects
    • Parochial
the civic culture13
The Civic Culture
  • Consists of “a pluralistic culture based on communication and persuasion, a culture of consensus and diversity, a culture that permitted change but moderated it. This was the civic culture.” (6) (developed in Great Britain)
  • “The civic culture and the open polity, then, represent the great and problematic gifts of the West. (...) Can the open polity and the civic culture...spread as well?” (7)
goal to see the likelihood for the expansion of the civic culture
Goal: to see the likelihood for the expansion of the Civic Culture
  • Discovery of National Patterns
  • The Data contradicted established assumptions and prejudices
    • (i.e., neither the U.S. Nor Great Britain did as well as expected)
  • The study settled a very high standard for comparative research (discouraging effect)
2 works based on economic reasoning
2. Works based on economic reasoning.
  • Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (1957).
  • Method:economic approach, which assumed individuals are rational (maximizers)
  • Rational behavior was understood as directed by goals, based on self-interest, and, in Downs’ analysis, related to government selection.
  • Foundation of the RATIONAL CHOICE approach (dominant these days).
down s main hypotheses
Down’s Main Hypotheses:
  • Political parties make policies only to win votes.
  • Voters vote for the candidate/s they think will give them more benefits.
  • Government decisions are based on marginal expenditure, that is programs are expanded until the vote gain from each dollar spent equaled the loss of votes resulting from increased taxes.
  • All parties must find out what the voters want and compete to do it better.
  • Parties must frame their discourse vaguely so they can attract as many voters as possible.
basic democratic model 8 rules
Basic Democratic Model: 8 rules.
  • All adults are allowed to vote
  • Every adult gets one vote
  • Existence of at least two political parties
  • Periodical elections
  • A single party/coalition is chosen in each election
  • The party that gets the majority of votes wins.
  • Losers don’t prevent winners from taking office
  • Winners don’t attempt to wipe out the losers.
main hypothesis
Main Hypothesis:
  • “Political parties in a democracy formulate policy strictly as a means of gaining votes.”
  • Parties’ social function—to carry out policies while in government—“is accomplished as a by-product of their private motive—which is to attain the income, power, and prestige of being in office.” (137)
other hypotheses
Other Hypotheses:
  • Voters vote for the candidate/s they think will give them more benefits.
  • Government decisions are based on marginal expenditure, that is programs are expanded until the vote gain from each dollar spent equaled the loss of votes resulting from increased taxes.
  • All parties must find out what the voters want and compete to do it better.
  • Parties must frame their discourse loosely so as to attract as many voters as possible.
In analyses such as Downs’, once the premises are accepted, there is no way of avoiding the conclusions.
  • Individuals’ uneven access to information
  • Situations for which there is no rational solution
  • Dilemma: When politicians act rationally, voters cannot do so, and viceversa
    • Consequence: The system is inconsistent, and the search for a rational basis of politics fails.
problem imperfect knowledge fosters
Problem: imperfect knowledge fosters...
  • Persuasion (exposure to a “biased selection of facts”) Specialists/Gvt. Representatives.
  • Ideologies (help voters to rapidly identify differences between parties). Parties then invent ideologies to attract voters
  • Rational Ignorance (may lead to apathy, which is very rational considering the costs of information).
dilemmas hardin 1968
Dilemmas (Hardin 1968)
  • Cold War: “dilemma of steadily increasing military power and steadily decreasing national security.” (1243)
  • “How can I win the game of tick-tack-toe? It is well known that I cannot” if I assume that my opponent knows the game.
  • “Maximizing population does not maximize goods”
  • The “tragedy of the Commons”: in a pasture open to all, each herdsman will add as many animals as possible, until the grass disappears. So, individual freedom contradicts the common good.
different party systems
Different Party Systems...
  • Depends on the statistical distribution of the electorate.
    • If the curve is normal, it produces a two-party system, with parties quite alike
    • If the electorate is polarized, there will be a two-party system with increasing differences between the parties—each party gains more votes the more differences it poses to the opposition... Ultimately this leads to CHAOS (continuous dramatic changes in policy)
    • A multimodal distribution produces a multi-party system
downs anticipates the problem of the free rider
Downs anticipates the problem of the “free rider”:
  • In a democracy policies benefit all citizens evenly. Thus, my own participation do not increase my gains, unless my vote is going to decide the election.
  • So, apathy and withdrawal from political participation are rational.
3 works inspired on sociological approaches
3. Works inspired on sociological approaches:
  • Relying on aggregate data and class-based analysis. Lipset’s Political Man (1960).

Economic foundation of democracy:


Class Struggle

“Wealth fosters democracy”...

(Or the other way round?)

The direction of causation was not clear.

b based on grassroots micro sociological analysis robert dahl s who governs
b. Based on grassroots micro-sociological analysis. Robert Dahl’s Who Governs?
  • Study of Local Government
  • Focus on leaders and Networks of power (“petty sovereignties”).
  • Thesis: although the U.S. is a democratic society, elites are the actual rulers... Foundation for pluralist theory.
    • Classification of different elites (Patrician, entrepeneurs, plebeian)
c based on system theory david easton
c. Based on System Theory (David Easton)
  • Easton defines politics as “the authoritative allocation of values for a society.”
  • Political System = Black box with “inputs” and “outputs” within an “environment”
  • Main question: “How do systems manage to persist,” or to balance the stress coming from the environment with the support coming from the members?
  • Attempt to develop a comprehensive and universal theory of politics.
  • Universal but empty concepts
  • Vague concept of equilibrium
  • Depoliticizing views of politics