Causal mechanisms in political science

Metascience 24 (3):453-456 (2015)

Rosa W. Runhardt
Leiden University
Philosophers of social science have emphasized mechanistic approaches to causal inquiry for some time now, showing why focusing on the mechanisms behind correlations is preferable to focusing on correlations alone (cf. Johnson 2006, Little 1991, Reiss 2007, 2009, Steel 2004, see also King, Keohane, and Verba 1994 for an example of purely correlational research). In Process Tracing: from Metaphor to Analytic Tool, political scientists Andrew Bennett and Jeffrey Checkel present a concrete method for finding evidence of causal mechanisms, process tracing. Process tracers give evidence for causal relations in terms of the observable implications of the underlying causal mechanisms through which a putative cause affects some effect of interest. Such observable implications often take the form of a chain of events, or process, which connects cause and effect. Though Process Tracing contains applications of mechanistic reasoning unfamiliar to philosophers, and as such will be of interest to those working in the mechanist tradition, Bennett and Checkel’s own discussion of the philosophical foundations of process tracing is limited. The reader will have to delve deep into the volume’s contributed chapters for links between the literature on causation and this new method.
Keywords causal mechanisms  process tracing  methodology  political science
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DOI 10.1007/s11016-015-0009-x
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References found in this work BETA

Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference.Judea Pearl - 2000 - Cambridge University Press.
What is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account.Jim Woodward - 2002 - Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S366-S377.
What Is a Mechanism? A Counterfactual Account.Jim Woodward - 2002 - Philosophy of Science 69 (S3):S366-S377.

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