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Deliberating or quarrelling? Final draft of my thesis. November 7, 2010

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, My master thesis, Political Theory , add a comment

After a long and arduous process, the work on my master’s thesis is finally nearing the end. Here is a slightly adapted version of the introduction, and a link to the  print ready version (PDF).

Some of the inspiration for my thesis comes from an article in the student newspaper in Trondheim, Under Dusken, and similar comments over the following years. Political science professor Anders Todal Jenssen insisted that the student democracy in Trondheim lacked legitimacy because of the low voter turnout and that the introduction of political parties would be the solution to this problem. Binding platforms would make student politicians accountable to the voters and increase support for democracy. As a student representative myself at the time, I was provoked. We were proud of the lack of polarization within the student democracy and, although I didn’t know the term at the time, the level of deliberation. This started me on the quest for an alternative to Professor Todal Jenssen’s strong belief in the salience of political parties.

Democracy does of course seem unthinkable without political parties. Almost every democracy is dominated by a system of organized factions that structure, educate and drive the political process forwards. The necessity for such a system is no longer seriously questioned in political science. I do not believe, however, that any institution should be beyond question. Even if we have no intention to get rid of political parties, we should strive to understand the effect they have on democracy. As I will show in this thesis, one such effect may be reducing open and free deliberation among decision-makers. This may be a cost we are willing to pay, but not a cost we should pay without knowing its size. (more…)

Does lack of rhetorical skills make you less deliberative? November 20, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, My master thesis, Uncategorized , 3comments

I’m working on a master thesis about political deliberation, and I’m interested in finding a good method for measuring and evaluating the level of deliberation in a discussion. Two current methods I’ve been looking into, the Discourse Quality Index and pragma-dialectics, both seem to share the same validity problem: They register low rhetorical or logical skills for a lack of deliberative attitude.

Put simply, deliberation is a term that is used about discussion when people engage in a rational dialogue about something in which they are dedicated to the “forceless force of the better argument”. According to Jürgen Habermas, its most famous theoretician, it should be characterized by sincerity, inclusiveness, equality, reasoned critique, reflexivity, respect and be free from the influence of money and coercive power1 . In the more realistic conceptions of the term, we are willing to consider a discussion as more or less deliberative, realizing that a few real world discussions are likely to be perfect.

As I mentioned, I’ve been looking for methods to analyse discussion in order to determine how deliberative it really is. I’ve been trying to find a method that satisfies the criteria of:

  1. Significance – Must be a method we can expect a large portion of empirically oriented political science to accept.
  2. Usefulness – Must be a method that is suitable for comparative study of cases, preferably on a large scale and with a multitude of institutional arrangements.
  3. Completeness – Must be a method that is theoretically consistent with established theory of deliberation, for example Habermas’ discourse ethics.

(more…)

  1. My rewrite of the rules presented in his book discourse ethics []

Experiment on election prediction markets August 5, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, Political behavior , add a comment

I’ve recently become involved (as a participant) in an interesting experiment performed by PhD student Sveinung Arnesen at the University of Bergen in which we are asked to predict the election result through a market model, buying and selling fictive “shares” in the outcome based on our own evaluations. This is based on prior experiments like Iowa Electronic Markets experiments by the University of Iowa in connection with American Presidential Elections, and the work of Robin Hanson.

Participants have been recruited through the political party organizations (at least I was), and appear to only have the option of buying or selling “stock” in our own party and/or government coalition. I assume part of the reason why we are restricted to our own party is the need for keeping the results secret to avoid incentives for strategic attempts at driving up the predicted value.

(more…)

No Hawthorne effect at Hawthorne? June 9, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science , add a comment

Is nothing holy? Must I throw out my introduction textbook in methods now?  The guys over at the Freakonomics blog have dug up and reexamined the original Hawthorne data and concluded that there actually was no Hawthorne effect in the original Hawthorne study! I’m disappointed right to the very core of my post-graduate student soul. What should i believe in now?

Picking apart a quantitative analysis October 3, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Methods in political science, Political behavior , 1 comment so far

Kai Arzheimer posted on his blog a not yet published paper he wrote along with Elizabeth Carter of Keele University. The paper picks apart another paper on effects that contribute and don’t contribute to the electoral support of Le Pen’s Front Nationale in France, especially the volume of immigration.

My interest in the paper is not so much the substantial content as the nice reminder it was to me as an aspiring political scientist to still keep a critical eye towards papers that at first eyesight appear to have a thorough empirical basis. I don’t think I’d have noticed the flaws these two scientists did.

The paper is well worth a read for anyone interested in quantitative methods.

Read Kai Arzheimer’s post and both papers here.