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The Reductionist Gamble: Open Economy Politics in the Global Economy

  • Thomas Oatley (a1)

International political economy (IPE) should transition to “third-wave” scholarship because Open Economy Politics (OEP), which dominates current American IPE scholarship, can generate inaccurate knowledge. OEP can produce inaccurate knowledge because it studies domestic politics in isolation from international or macro processes. This methodological reductionism is often inappropriate for the phenomena IPE studies because governments inhabit a complex social system. As a result, the political choices that OEP strives to explain are typically a product of the interplay between domestic politics and macro processes. When OEP omits causally significant macro processes from empirical models, the models yield biased inferences about the domestic political relationships under investigation. Although scholars tolerated such errors when the gains from OEP were large, these errors are less tolerable now that OEP has matured. Consequently, the field should transition toward research that is nonreductionist, problem-driven, and pluralistic.

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