Political Analysis


Course Objective

To gain a deeper understanding of the various theoretical approaches
(research paradigms) - in political science and to be able to work with
them in your own research.

Learning outcomes:

Knowledge and understanding – The student has acquired knowledge and
understanding of:
(1) the meta-theoretical foundations of the central analytical paradigms
within Political Science.

Making judgements – The student is able to:
(2) reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the main positions taken
in the meta-theoretical debates, in particular the position taken by
Colin Hay.

Communication - The student has acquired the skills to:
(3) write a research design of which the meta-theoretical foundations
are made explicit by paying ample attention to the research problem, the
State of the Art, the theoretical framework, testable hypotheses,
operationalization and case selection, and ontology and epistemology -
how do you defend your claims?

Course Content

Hay’s book contains a highly useful overview of the main approaches in
political science, including comparative politics and international
relations. In the former the mainstream consists of Rational choice,
Behaviouralism and New institutionalism. In the latter the mainstream is
dominated by Realism, Neo-realism, Neo-liberalism, Constructivism and
Postmodernism. Hay argues that the issue of the political is an
ontological issue and that the issue of the science claim is an
epistemological issue and how you solve or chose in these matters has
methodological repercussions for the analytical strategy and research
design to choose for our research into some specified object/event.
The main focus is on ontology that deals with the assumptions about the
nature of political reality that one wants to analyze/investigate. What
is and what is not out there in the political world that we can start
learning about?
Hay advocates an strategic-relational approach in an attempt to
transcend the dualism of structure and agency. Neither agents nor
structures are real, since neither has an existence in isolation from
the other ¬ their existence is relational (structure and agency are
mutually constitutive) and dialectical (their interaction is not
reducible to the sum of structural and agential factors treated
Hay favours a ‘Critical Political Analysis’ that is empirical but
without being empiricist, balanced in its conception of the relationship
between structure and agency, inclusive in its conception of the
political and its incorporation of extra-political factors, attentive to
the interaction of the domestic and the international, sensitive to the
potential causal and constitutive role of ideas in social, political and
economic dynamics and, above all, attentive to the contingency, open-
endedness and inherent unpredictability of social, political and
economic systems.
This course aims at a deeper understanding of the various theoretical
approaches (research paradigms) by reflecting on their strengths and
weaknesses and offers many ideas on how an ideal political analysis may
look like.

Teaching Methods

This course combines lectures (in the beginning) and tutorials

Method of Assessment

Individual assignment (45%), group assignment (45%) and peer reviews


Hay, Colin (2002). Political Analysis. A Critical Introduction,
Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, appr. 33 euro.

Additional literature to be announced in the course manual (see CANVAS).

Target Audience

3rd year bachelor students in Political Science.

General Information

Course Code S_PA
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator dr. J.M. Hoye
Examiner dr. J.M. Hoye
Teaching Staff dr. J.M. Hoye

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Teaching Methods Lecture, Study Group