Political Theory





Thispaper aims at illustrating the relationship as depicted by Wolin inhis article PoliticalTheory as a Vocation,whichprovides a distinction between Methodism and tacit knowledgeapproaches to the study of politics and King, Keohane and Verba intheir book DesigningSocial Inquiry,whichoffers a distinction between qualitative and quantitative politicalscience. The paper offers the respective accounts in which theauthors differ. To start with, the paper provides an overview of eachreading and then proceeds to illustrate the relationship between thetwo readings. This is significant in helping the reader understandthe readings in a better way.

SheldonWolin`s Distinction between Methodism and Tacit Knowledge Approachesto the Study of Politics

PoliticalTheory as a Vocation hasbeen presented by Sheldon Wolin with the aim of providing theimplications, retrospective, and prospective of the predominance ofmethod to the study of politics (1062). Wolin has illustrated theMethodism and tacit knowledge. The author has aimed at providing adistinction between the two bodies of knowledge approaches and whyone can be chosen over the other in understanding politicalknowledge. In the explanation of epic theory, it has been argued thatit is difficult for facts to demonstrate the legitimacy of anaccurate theory. The reason is that as compared to thought, truthprovided in form of acts or practices is far away from the reality(Wolin 1081). As illustrated by Plato, the political reality asdepicted in Athenian democracy seemed to be in line with democratictheory however, the organizing principles of the theory weremethodically incorrect (Wolin 1081). On the other hand, the Methodismapproach is evident in the politics of the modern nations. The socialas well as political setting is controlled by huge structures withwell planned design which symbolize most of the principles andassumptions of Methodism (Wolin 1081). The deliberated design of thepolitical world is significant in generating habitual and intendedbehavior.

Inspite of the availability of a wide array of theories in politicalscience, it should be noted that the subsistence of theories are notdefinite proof of revolution. In this case, the scientific communitymust enforce a distinct theory over its rivals (Wolin 1063). As notedby Polanyi, the behavior of scientists of disregarding proof is whatseems to be contrary to the acknowledged framework of scientificknowledge, resulting in tacit knowledge approach. This approach isbelieved to be founded on past knowledge as well as theory. Theimplication is that unlike methodism approach which is rooted onscientific methods, tacit approach has no scientific basis. Wolinstates that in America, theories are claimed to result in politicalstability, and to pragmatic instead of ideological politics (1064).While Methodism has been termed as the main reality to behavioralrevolution, tactic theory on the other hand has not instigatedpolitical science revolution. Methodism is a mind shaping proposalconsidering the aspect of research techniques as tools used toobserve the world and make daily judgments (Wolin 1064).

Thediscussion regarding Methodism results in the consideration ofcertain well-known theories amongst political scientists is evident.According to Wolin, the majority of cotemporary theories rely onbehavioral revolution both in the methodological way, as well as insharing a similar viewpoint concerning philosophical suppositions,political ideology, and education (1065). The close linkage betweenmethods and theory gives explanation for treating both asconstituents of a similar family, which form a community of“Methodism”. Methods entails following an agreed series of mentalsteps (Wolin 1065). In the current time, political science isoutstanding due to its employment of Cartesian Methodism, as well asit assertion regarding the significance of theory in guidingempirical research (Wolin 1070).

Asillustrated by Wolin, the contrast between political science andpolitical wisdom is founded on two diverse types of knowledge (1070).The scientific kind of knowledge is characteristic of searchingformulations that are rationally reliable as well as empiricallytestable (Wolin 1070). This means that it has various qualitiesencompassing relative independence, manipulability, and compactness.This kind of knowledge is determinate and explicit. The second kindof knowledge is deemed as being illuminative and indicative, and itsymbolizes a distinction with scientific knowledge. It does not relyon search, attentive of reason, contradictoriness, and incoherence.This kind of knowledge is referred to as tacit political knowledge(Wolin 1071). It is acquired through education and is embedded intheory and past knowledge.

Wolinputs forth that Methodism approach is characterized by a “kit oftools” which enable in obtaining knowledge of methods (1071). It isbelieved to be hard and therefore, necessitates significantretooling. This means that a certain type of program is required forinstruction in particular methods (Wolin 1071). On the contrary,tacit approach deems knowledge to accumulate with time. As a result,programs are not necessitated for instruction in order to generatecertain results (Wolin 1071). Theoretical truth is rooted on tacitknowledge which shapes it on what is regarded as politically suitableinstead of what is believed to be scientifically operational. On theother hand, methodistic truth is rooted on scientific methodscharacterized by various features encompassing precision, rigor, aswell as quantifiability (Wolin 1072).

DistinctionKing, Keohane and Verba Present Between Qualitative and QuantitativePolitical Science

Intheir book, DesigningSocial inquiry, king,keohane and verbahaveenedvored in explaining the different between quantitative andqualitative research in political science. As illustrated by king,keohane and verba, quantitative research employs statistical methodsas well as numbers, and it is founded on numerical measurements ofcertain features of an occurrence (3). Quantitative research employssummaries from certain occurrences while testing causal hypothesis(king, keohane and verba 3). This kind of research is applied inmajor decision making, key modification in a nation, politicalrevolution, global crisis, and or in an election. On the other hand,qualitative research does not depend on numerical measurements (king,keohane and verba 4). It centers on interviews, case studies, andthoroughly examination of historical information. Qualitativeresearch is used in social sciences and it mainly focuses on asection of legislation, particular decision, location or event. Theusefulness of quantitative and qualitative methods in politicalscience has been debated for a long time. According to quantitativeresearchers, using statistical analysis is effective in offering thereality of social sciences (king, keohane and verba 4), an assumptionthat has been criticized by qualitative researchers who thinkotherwise. As pointed out by the authors, the distinction betweenqualitative and quantitative researches is merely stylistic, thus aresubstantively insignificant (king, keohane and verba 4).

Theauthors argue that both qualitative and quantitative styles can bescientific and systematic (king, keohane and verba 4). Although bothkinds of researches are basically the same, their styles differ.Economic, social and political behavior patterns are based onquantitative analysis, instead of qualitative analysis which meansobtaining ideas from individuals or their leaders (king, keohane andverba 5). Understanding of the speedily modifying social worldrequires the employment of both researches. This means that there isno one research that is better as compared to the other. Consideringthe rules of quantitative research would make qualitative researchesto generate more consistent outcomes.

Althoughthe authors have not portrayed any of the two research styles to bemore scientific as compared to the other, they have provided variousfeatures of scientific research which should be followed. Theseinclude inference, public procedures, uncertain conclusions, andmethod as content. Science calls for descriptive or casual inferencesas these cannot be directly observed (king, keohane and verba 7).What distinguishes the two methods is the objective of makinginferences which surpasses the observations obtained. It has beenillustrated that scientific research employs codified, explicit, aswell as public techniques in the production and analyzing of datawhose consistency may be evaluated (king, keohane and verba 8).Unlike, quantitative research, qualitative style doe not meet thesefeatures. It follows less defined rules of inference or researchprocedure. The method is deemed to be founded on the private setting.In improving the quality of the data in quantitative research, therecording of the procedure of data generation necessitates theacknowledgement of the exact technique employed to draw the sample,as well as the particular queries asked (king, keohane and verba 22).On the other hand, qualitative study necessitates the reporting ofthe specific rules employed in selecting the cases used for analysis(king, keohane and verba 23).

Comparisonbetween Wolin’s and King, Keohane and Verba Readings

Byreading the two texts, it is clear that there are some respectiveaccounts in which the authors differ in the distinctions. To startwith, Wolin portrays and emphasizes methodism approach to the studyof politics as more superior as compared to tacit knowledge approach.This is evidenced by the fact that Wolin terms tacit knowledge astheoretical truth that offers what is politically suitable instead ofwhat is believed to be scientifically operational (1072). Besides, itis illuminative and indicative, and does not rely on search,attentive of reason, contradictoriness, and incoherence. Methodism onthe other hand has been portrayed as being a mind shaping proposalconsidering the aspect of research techniques as tools used toobserve the world and make daily judgments (Wolin 1073). It has beenillustrated as being determinate and explicit. On the other hand,while providing the distinction between qualitative and quantitativeresearches, king, keohane and verba have not focused on terming onestyle as superior to the other. In fact, the authors have put forththat both qualitative and quantitative styles can be scientific andsystematic and both styles can be used in understanding the speedilymodifying social world (5). As depicted in the key aim of their book,the authors put forth that qualitative and quantitative techniquesdiffer, but these differences are merely stylistic (king, keohane andverba 4). Besides, the differences are considerably and practicallyinsignificant. To them good research draws from similar basic logicof deduction. In short, both researches are not different apart fromtheir styles.

Whileillustrating the distinction between qualitative and quantitativeresearches, King, Keohane and Verba have endeavored at providing waysin which qualitative research can be improved to meet the objectivesof scientific research. For instance, the authors have argued that byfollowing and adapting the rules of quantitative style, qualitativeresearchers can be able to improve the reliability of their research.On the other, hand, Wolin has portrayed methodism as purelyscientific and should be adapted in the contemporary world, and hehas illustrated tacit knowledge as depending on past knowledge andusing theory (1072). However, no explanation of the improvement oftacit theory has been offered. It is worth noting that, anyscientific research is founded on pointing out the challenge andproviding recommendations and solutions to the challenges. This haswell been accomplished by King, Keohane and Verba in their analyseswho have offered the weaknesses of qualitative research and how thesame can be overcome to meet scientific standards. In a nutshell, theanalysis and distinctions provided by King and his colleagues can besaid to be more superior and scientific as compared to Wolin’sdistinction.

Theapproaches in which the authors have taken in offering distinctionbetween the various concepts illustrated in their readings alsodiffer. For instance, King, Keohane and Verba have offered astep-by-step distinction of qualitative and quantitative researches,while at the same time providing ways in which qualitative researchcan be improved. They have provided the key elements of researchdesign which includes theory, research questions, data, as well asapplication of data (king, keohane and verba 13). In these sections,the authors have provided an explanation concerning the two researchtechniques, with respect to each concept. They have gone forth toprovide ways of developing qualitative research in order to meet theobjectives of scientific research. For example, it has been indicatedthat qualitative researchers usually employ verbal models which arerestrictive in nature. These models are believed to be lessrealistic. In this case, the authors have endeavored at applyingunrestrictive models, such as algebraic models, with the aim ofimproving verbal models used by qualitative researchers (king,keohane and verba 50). The models are considered as practicalabstractions in the application of research to both qualitative andquantitative styles (king, keohane and verba 50). Other aspectsprovided are themes used to develop research designs and descriptiveinference of qualitative and quantitative research.

Onthe contrary, the approach taken by Wolin in providing distinctionbetween methodism and tactic knowledge is totally different. Wolin’sapproach focuses at illustrating the differences between the twoconcepts, depicting methodism as more superior as compared to tacticknowledge. At some point, he argues that methodistic truth is rootedon scientific methods while theoretical truth is rooted on tacitknowledge (p. 1071). Wolin’s argues that what should be used totest theoretical models is the correctness of their prediction,instead of the authenticity offered by their suppositions (p. 1072).

King,Keohane and Verba have also shown that qualitative and quantitativeresearches influence each other. In their distinction, the authorsargue that qualitative and quantitative researchers aim at reachingtwo goals explicating and illustrating. Both of these aspects aresignificant in social science. Constructing imperative explanationsrequires good descriptions. This means that the association betweenexplanation and depiction interrelate. On the contrary, there is noone point in which Wolin has shown methodism and tactic knowledge toinfluence each other. Instead, his main aim has been elaborating howthe two aspects differ from each other.


King,G., Keohane, P. &amp Verba, S. (1994). Designingsocial inquiry.Princeton: Princeton University Press. Pp. 3-55.

Wolin,S. S. (1969). Political theory as a vocation. AmericanPolitical Science Review,63 (4): 1062-1083.