American Trade Politics and the Triumph of Globalism: Methodological Insights


It has long been recognized that one of the foremost methodological problems confronting students of society is its immense complexity. An exhaustive causal investigation of any concrete phenomenon in its full reality is not possible. How, then, are we to decide what aspects of a phenomenon to study; and how to study it? In this case study, I share with you how I answered these questions in researching and writing a book on postwar American trade politics. Toward this end, I focus on three aspects of my research process: the construction of a descriptive problem to study, the construction of a theory to explain the problem, and the application of the theory to the history of trade politics through the construction of empirically grounded case studies. The theme throughout is that problems, theories, and case studies do not exist ready-made; rather, they are constructed by the researcher. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the researcher to be aware of the process of construction; most importantly, the analytical choices to be made throughout the research process. The goal of this case is to help you understand this process in the case of a book.

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