Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives

Overview

Political scientists often ask themselves what might have been if history had unfolded differently: if Stalin had been ousted as General Party Secretary or if the United States had not dropped the bomb on Japan. Although scholars sometimes scoff at applying hypothetical reasoning to world politics, the contributors to this volume--including James Fearon, Richard Lebow, Margaret Levi, Bruce Russett, and Barry Weingast--find such counterfactual conjectures not only useful, but necessary for drawing causal ...
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Overview

Political scientists often ask themselves what might have been if history had unfolded differently: if Stalin had been ousted as General Party Secretary or if the United States had not dropped the bomb on Japan. Although scholars sometimes scoff at applying hypothetical reasoning to world politics, the contributors to this volume--including James Fearon, Richard Lebow, Margaret Levi, Bruce Russett, and Barry Weingast--find such counterfactual conjectures not only useful, but necessary for drawing causal inferences from historical data. Given the importance of counterfactuals, it is perhaps surprising that we lack standards for evaluating them. To fill this gap, Philip Tetlock and Aaron Belkin propose a set of criteria for distinguishing plausible from implausible counterfactual conjectures across a wide range of applications.The contributors to this volume make use of these and other criteria to evaluate counterfactuals that emerge in diverse methodological contexts including comparative case studies, game theory, and statistical analysis. Taken together, these essays go a long way toward establishing a more nuanced and rigorous framework for assessing counterfactual arguments about world politics in particular and about the social sciences more broadly.
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Editorial Reviews

The Times Literary Supplement - Andrew Hurrell
The book sets out to examine the many roles that counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning play in the study of world politics. It has many merits. The quality of the papers is high. It is well edited by Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin. It succeeds very well in building on earlier discussions of counterfactuals in social science, from Weber to Elster, and linking them with a wide range of concrete problems and issues in international relations.
From the Publisher
"The book sets out to examine the many roles that counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning play in the study of world politics. It has many merits. The quality of the papers is high. It is well edited by Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin. It succeeds very well in building on earlier discussions of counterfactuals in social science, from Weber to Elster, and linking them with a wide range of concrete problems and issues in international relations."—Andrew Hurrell, The Times Literary Supplement
The Times Literary Supplement
The book sets out to examine the many roles that counterfactuals and counterfactual reasoning play in the study of world politics. It has many merits. The quality of the papers is high. It is well edited by Philip E. Tetlock and Aaron Belkin. It succeeds very well in building on earlier discussions of counterfactuals in social science, from Weber to Elster, and linking them with a wide range of concrete problems and issues in international relations.
— Andrew Hurrell
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691027920
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/19/1996
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Contributors
Acknowledgments
1 Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics: Logical, Methodological, and Psychological Perspectives 1
2 Causes and Counterfactuals in Social Science: Exploring an Analogy between Cellular Automata and Historical Processes 39
3 Counterfactual Reasoning in Western Studies of Soviet Politics and Foreign Relations 69
4 Confronting Hitler and Its Consequences 95
5 Back to the Past: Counterfactuals and the Cuban Missile Crisis 119
6 Counterfactual Reasoning in Motivational Analysis: U.S. Policy toward Iran 149
7 Counterfactuals about War and Its Absence 171
8 Using Counterfactuals in Historical Analysis: Theories of Revolution 187
9 Counterfactuals and International Affairs: Some Insights from Game Theory 211
10 Off-the-Path Behavior: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Counterfactuals and Its Implications for Political and Historical Analysis 230
11 Rerunning History: Counterfactual Simulation in World Politics 247
12 Counterfactuals, Past and Future 268
Commentary 1: Conceptual Blending and Counterfactual Argument in the Social and Behavioral Sciences 291
Commentary 2: Psychological Biases in Counterfactual Thought Experiments 296
Commentary 3: Counterfactual Inferences as Instances of Statistical Inferences 301
Commentary 4: Counterfactuals, Causation, and Complexity 309
References 317
Index 337
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