Political Contingency: Studying the Unexpected, the Accidental, and the Unforeseen

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History is replete with instances of what might, or might not, have been. By calling something contingent, at a minimum we are saying that it did not have to be as it is. Things could have been otherwise, and they would have been otherwise if something had happened differently. This collection of original essays examines the significance of contingency in the study of politics. That is, how to study unexpected, accidental, or unforeseen political phenomena in a systematic fashion.

Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated. Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait. Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans. How might history have been different had these events not happened? How should social scientists interpret the significance of these events, and can such unexpected outcomes be accounted for? Can unpredictable events be predicted for? Political Contingency addresses these and related questions, exploring theoretical and historical perspectives on the subject, empirical case studies, and methodological challenges that the fact of contingency poses for the study of politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Clear, jargon-free writing prevails throughout the volume. The authors are leaders in their respective fields of inquiry, yet each of them writes not to a narrow group of specialists but to the intelligent reading public.”
-Elisabeth Ellis,author of Kant’s Politics: Provisional Theory for an Uncertain World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740446
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Shapiro is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, where he also serves as Henry R. Luce Director of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. He is the editor or author of numerous books, most recently Political Contingency (NYU Press) and Rethinking Political Institutions (NYU Press).

Sonu Bedi is Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Contingency's Challenge to Political Science Ian Shapiro Sonu Bedi 1

Part I Roots of Contingency

1 From Fortune to Feedback: Contingency and the Birth of Modern Political Science David Wootton 21

2 Mapping Contingency Andreas Schedler 54

3 Resilience as the Explanandum of Social Theory Philip Pettit 79

Part II Contingency's Challenge

4 Events as Causes: The Case of American Politics David R. Mayhew 99

5 Contingent Public Policies and Racial Hierarchy: Lessons from Immigration and Census Policies Jennifer Hochschild Traci Burch 138

6 Region, Contingency, and Democratization Susan Stokes 171

Part III What Is to Be Done?

7 Contingency, Politics, and the Nature of Inquiry: Why Non-Events Matter Gregory A. Huber 205

8 Modeling Contingency Elisabeth Jean Wood 222

9 When Democracy Complicates Peace: How Democratic Contingencies Affect Negotiated Settlements Courtney Jung 246

10 Contingency in Biophysical Research Robert G. Shulman Mark R. Shulman 266

Contributors 279

Index 283

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