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Analytic Eclecticism in the Study of World Politics: Reconfiguring Problems and Mechanisms across Research Traditions

  • Rudra Sil (a1) and Peter J. Katzenstein (a2)
Abstract

This article defines, operationalizes, and illustrates the value of analytic eclecticism in the social sciences, with a focus on the fields of comparative politics and international relations. Analytic eclecticism is not an alternative model of research or a means to displace or subsume existing modes of scholarship. It is an intellectual stance that supports efforts to complement, engage, and selectively utilize theoretical constructs embedded in contending research traditions to build complex arguments that bear on substantive problems of interest to both scholars and practitioners. Eclectic scholarship is marked by three general features. First, it is consistent with an ethos of pragmatism in seeking engagement with the world of policy and practice, downplaying unresolvable metaphysical divides and presumptions of incommensurability and encouraging a conception of inquiry marked by practical engagement, inclusive dialogue, and a spirit of fallibilism. Second, it formulates problems that are wider in scope than the more narrowly delimited problems posed by adherents of research traditions; as such, eclectic inquiry takes on problems that more closely approximate the messiness and complexity of concrete dilemmas facing “real world” actors. Third, in exploring these problems, eclectic approaches offer complex causal stories that extricate, translate, and selectively recombine analytic components—most notably, causal mechanisms—from explanatory theories, models, and narratives embedded in competing research traditions. The article includes a brief sampling of studies that illustrate the combinatorial potential of analytic eclecticism as an intellectual exercise as well as its value in enhancing the possibilities of fruitful dialogue and pragmatic engagement within and beyond the academe.

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