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Conflicting Imperatives and Concept Formation

  • Andrew C. Gould

“Conflicting imperatives” lie at the heart of many important social science concepts. This label was introduced by Reinhard Bendix to characterize concepts that entail a dynamic tension among contradictory goals, priorities, or motivations. Notwithstanding the attention scholars give to conflicting imperatives, the importance to social science research of concepts based on conflicting imperatives has not adequately been recognized and the issues of concept formation that arise with these concepts have not been explored. This article seeks to address these shortcomings and to give the consideration of conflicting imperatives a more central place in conceptual and methodological discussions.

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1 Along with conflicting imperatives and conceptual oppositions, Reinhard Bendix uses other labels as well (“basic conflicts of values” and “polarities”). Max Weber: An Intellectual Portrait (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960; Anchor Books, 1962), p. 438; Nation-Building and Citizenship (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1964; new enlarged edition, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977), p. 137; Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978), pp. 17, 56–57; Unsettled Affinities, ed. Bendix, John (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1993), p. 12.

2 Pitkin, Hannah Fenichel, The Concept of Representation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), p. 9; Stepan, Alfred C., The State and Society: Peru in Comparative Perspective (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), pp. 4045 291–97, and 301–316.

3 A major emphasis in the methodology of concept analysis is on the relationships between the attributes in a concept's definition and the cases to which the concept usefully applies. Sartori, Giovanni, “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics,” American Political Science Review 64, no. 4 (12 1970) 1033–53; Sartori, Giovanni, “Comparing and Miscomparing,” Journal of Theoretical Politics 3 (1991): 243–57; Sartori, Giovanni, ed., Social Science Concepts: A Systematic Analysis (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1984); Przeworski, Adam and Teune, Henry, The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry (New York: John Wiley, 1970); Collier, David and Mahon, James, “Conceptual ‘Stretching’ Revisited: Adapting Categories of Comparative Analysis,” American Political Science Review 87, no. 4 (12 1993): 845–55; Gerring, John, “What Makes a Concept Good?: An Integrated Framework for Understanding Concept Formation in the Social Sciences,” Polity 31 (Spring 1999). Conceptual analyses of regime, democracy, and related terms exemplify this emphasis. Fishman, Robert M., “Rethinking State and Regime: Southern Europe's Transition to Democracy,” World Politics 42 (04 1990): 422–40; Schmitter, Philippe and Karl, Terry, “What Democracy Is ⃛ And Is Not,” Journal of Democracy 2, no. 3 (1991): 7588; Lawson, Stephanie, “Conceptual Issues in the Comparative Study of Regime Change and DemocratizationComparative Politics 25 (01 1993): 183203; Munck, Gerardo L., “Disaggregating Political Regime: Conceptual Issues in the Study of Democratization,” Kellogg Institute Working Paper, no. 228 (Notre Dame, IN: Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, 08 1996); Collier, David and Levitsky, Steven, “Research Note: Democracy with Adjectives: Conceptual Innovation in Comparative ResearchWorld Politics 49, no. 3 (1997): 430–51; Schedler, Andreas, “What Is Democratic Consolidation?Journal of Democracy 9, no. 2 (1998): 91107.

4 Sartori, Giovanni, “Guidelines for Concept Analysis,” in Sartori, , Social Science Concepts, p. 54.

5 While one could begin this analysis with the work of various scholars other than Weber, there are differences between approaches to concept formation discussed here and some other approaches derived from the dialectical and utilitarian traditions. Conflicting imperatives involve a more complex reading of individual human motivation, both in terms of the internal conflict that individuals are hypothesized to experience and in terms of the range of possible motivations. In the dialectical tradition, conflicts within a system are sometimes asserted to lead to the transformation and eventually the replacement of the system. By contrast, Weber's placement of conflicting imperatives at the core of several concepts does not necessarily imply that the realities closely matched those concepts are in the process of being permanently undermined from within. In addition, in some other approaches, concepts can be simply taken from a larger theory and used largely without further refinement.

6 Weber, Max, Economy and Society, ed. Roth, Guenther and Wittich, Claus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 215.

7 Bendix, , Nation-Building and Citizenship, p. 40, n. 1.

8 Weber, , Economy and Society, p. 227.

9 Bendix, , Kings or People, p. 21; Bendix, Reinhard, Work and Authority in Industry: Ideologies of Management in the Course of Industrialization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 38.

10 Weber, , Economy and Society, p. 242.

11 Marostica, Matthew Merril, “Pentecostals and Politics: The Creation of the Evangelical Christian Movement in Argentina, 1983–1993” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Berkeley, 1997), pp. 115–16.

12 Weber, Max, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Parsons, Talcott (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), p. 180; Weber, , Economy and Society, p. 556.

13 Jackson, Robert H. and Rosberg, Carl G., Personal Rule in Black Africa: Prince, Autocrat, Prophet, Tyrant (Berkeley: University of California Press 1982), p. 9; Jowitt, Kenneth, The Leninist Response to National Dependency, Research Series of the Institute for International Studies, no. 37 (Berkeley: University of California, 1978); Jowitt, Kenneth, New World Disorder: The Leninist Extinction (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

14 Weber, , Economy and Society, p. 215.

15 Bendix, , Unsettled Affinities, p. 167.

16 Bendix's father was Jewish and a lawyer in Weimar Germany. Bendix, Reinhard, From Berlin to Berkeley (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1986), pp. 8795

17 Shklar, Judith, Legalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), pp. 16–17.

18 Bendix, , Nation–Building and Citizenship, p. 132; Kopstein, Jeffrey, The Politics of Economic Decline in East Germany, 1945–1989 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 112

19 These results generated by a cited reference search for Author=Schmitter, Title=Rev Politics, and Year=1974 in the Institute for Scientific Information's Social Science Citation Index (on the “Web of Science” for 1988–99 and in book form for 1978–87).

20 Schmitter, Philippe C., “Still the Century of Corporatism?Review of Politics 36, no. 1 (1974): 9394.

21 Schmitter, Philippe C., “Modes of Interest Intermediation and Models of Societal Change in Western Europe,” in Trends Toward Corporatist Intermediation, ed. Schmitter, Philippe C. and Lembruch, Gerhard (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1979), p. 93, fn. 1.

22 Stepan, State and Society, cites David Apter's discussion of polar models and their characteristic predicaments. Apter, David, The Politics of Modernization (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), pp. 2836. In discussing different developmental types, Apter notes that “each type of system manifests internal conflicts and contradictions in connection with the variables listed,” that is, goals, costs, uses of coercion, and information available to decision-makers. Apter, David E., “System, Process and the Politics of Economic Development,” in Industrialization and Society, ed. Hoselitz, Berthold Frank and Moore, Wilbert Ellis (The Hague: Mouton, 1963), p. 145.

23 Collier, Ruth Berins and Collier, David, Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, The Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), p. 53. See also Collier, Ruth Berins and Collier, David, “Inducements versus Constraints: Disaggregating Corporatism,” American Political Science Review 73, no. 4 (1979): 967–86.

24 Schmitter, Philippe C., “Confesiones de un pirata conceptual,” in Teoria del Neocorporatismo. Ensayos de Philippe C. Schmitter, ed. Rigoberto, Ocampo A. (Guadalajara, Mexico: Universidad de Guadalajara, 1992). For Schmitter's first conceptualization, see his Interest Conflict and Political Change in Brazil (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1971). Even while disagreeing over key issues, other scholars advanced the concept. Wilensky, Harold L, The ‘New Corporatism,’ Centralization, and the Welfare State (London and Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1976); Wilensky, Harold L., “Leftism, Catholicism and Democratic Corporatism: The Role of Political Parties in Recent Welfare State Development,” in The Development of Welfare States in Europe and America, ed. Flora, Peter and Heidenheimer, Arnold J. (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1981), pp.345–82

25 Thelen, Kathleen, “Beyond Corporatism: Toward a New Framework for the Study of Labor in Advanced Capitalism,” Comparative Politics 27 (1994): 108; Collier, David, “Trajectory of a Concept: ‘Corporatism’ in the Study of Latin American Politics,” in Latin America in Comparative Perspective: New Approaches to Methods and Analysis, ed. Smith, Peter H. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 135–62.

26 Collier, and Collier, , Shaping the Political Arena, p.48.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., pp. 162–68.

29 Ibid., pp. 55, 785.

30 Munck, Gerardo L., Authoritarianism and Democratization: Soldiers and Workers in Argentina, 1976–1983 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998), pp. 29, 31–32. For the first exposition of bureaucratic authoritarianism and its internal tensions, see O'Donnell's, Guillermo works, including Modernization and Bureaucratic Authoritarianism: Studies in South American Politics (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1973; second edition with postscript, 1979).

31 Ibid., p 165.

32 Ibid., pp. 170–84, especially Figure 7.1.

33 Bendix, Reinhard, “Reflections on Charismatic Leadership,” in State and Society: A Reader in Comparative Political Sociology, ed. Bendix, Reinhard (Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1968), pp. 616–29.

34 Jowitt, , The Leninist Response, p. 34. Emphases removed in all quotations from this source.

35 Ibid., p. 35.

36 Ibid., p. 36.

37 Ibid., p. 50.

38 Jowitt, Kenneth, “Inclusion and Mobilization in European Leninist Regimes,” World Politics 28, no. 1 (1975): 6971.

39 Padgett, John F. and Ansell, Christopher K., “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434,” American journal of Sociology 98, no. 6 (1993): 1260.

40 Ibid., p. 1307.

41 Ibid., p. 1310.

42 Smelser traces the roots of the idea of psychological ambivalence in the works of Eugen Bleuler and Sigmund Freud. He also notes Robert K. Merton's similar conception, “sociological ambivalence.” Smelser, Neil, “The Rational and the Ambivalent in the Social Sciences,” American Sociological Review 63, no. 1 (1998): 5.

43 Ibid., p. 6. Emphasis removed.

44 Ibid., p. 11.

45 Pitkin, , Concept of Representation, pp. 910, 92, 144, 153–54.

46 Ibid., pp.165–66.

47 Ragin, Charles C., “Introduction: Cases of ‘What Is A Case?’” in What Is A Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry, ed. Ragin, Charles C. and Becker, Howard S. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 9.

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