Breakfast Seminar with Patrick T. Jackson
Interpretive Explanation in International Studies
The category "interpretive explanation" is often unclear, defined negatively as the rejection of the pursuit of nomothetic generalizations that is thought to constitute the "mainstream" of the social sciences (including international studies). I argue that this stems from two conceptual errors: the reduction of "explanation" to its neopositivist variant, and the conflation of "interpretive" as a methodological stance with a theoretical emphasis on meanings-in-use. Undoing these errors permits a clearer account of "interpretive explanation" as involving the disclosure of rules for "going on" in a social situation, an epistemic agenda parallel to but not reducible to causal explanation -- but equally, if differently, explanatory.