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Studying Your Own Country: Social Scientific Knowledge for Our Times and Places: Presidential Address to the Canadian Political Science Association, St Catharines, May 28, 2014

  • Alain Noël (a1)
Abstract

Political science is both a generalizing and an anchored, nationally defined, discipline. Too often, the first perspective tends to crowd out the latter, because it appears more prestigious, objective, or scientific. Behind the international/national dichotomy, there are indeed rival conceptions of social science and important ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions. This article discusses these assumptions and stresses the critical contribution of idiographic, single-outcome studies, the importance of producing relevant, usable knowledge and the distinctive implications of studying one's own country, where a scholar is also a citizen, involved in more encompassing national conversations. The aim is not to reject the generalizing, international perspective, or even the comparative approach, but rather to reaffirm the importance of maintaining as well, and in fact celebrating, the production of social scientific knowledge directly relevant for our own times and places.

La science politique est une discipline qui aspire à la fois à la généralisation et à la production de connaissances ancrées localement, sur le plan national. Trop souvent, la première perspective domine la seconde, parce qu'elle apparait plus prestigieuse, objective ou scientifique. La dichotomie international/national recouvre en effet des postulats fort différents en ce qui concerne les fondements ontologiques, épistémologiques et méthodologiques de la discipline. Cet article discute ces postulats et souligne la contribution déterminante des études idiographiques, centrées sur des évènements uniques, l'importance de produire des connaissances pertinentes et utilisables, et le caractère distinctif de l'étude de son propre pays, qui fait aussi du chercheur un citoyen impliqué dans de plus larges conversations. Le but n'est pas de rejeter la généralisation ou même l'approche comparative, mais plutôt de réaffirmer l'importance de maintenir également, et même de célébrer, la production de connaissances directement pertinentes pour nos propres temps et milieux de vie.

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Corresponding author
Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, C. P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, H3C 3J7, Email: alain.noel@umontreal.ca
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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
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