The Level Analysis Meta-theoretical Problem: International Studies Assessment

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The process of studying political practices in the international system demonstrates recurrent structures of that system that have widened and have deepened the basic problematisation upon 'level of analysis problem’. This observation has an essential meaning both for political practices and for theory.

The analysis opens up with a discussion on the historiography of the level of analysis problem for international studies as one of methodological and conceptual primitive undertaking for the last fifty years. It is critically reflected on the origins of the methodological problem, its significance and how is been developed through questions and answers.

It demonstrates that the conventional understanding to the problem is connected with the question, which level of analysis should be selected (Waltz, 1959 ; Jervis, 1976). Then the analysis is moved to Singer (1961) realisation of a preliminary conceptual issue that should be resolved prior to any given research. Nuri Yurdusev (1993) has argued about a distinction of how to study methodologically the object and 'unit of analysis and what to study as two issues that cannot be separated each other because both are linked through the idea of the 'whole' (Barry Buzan, 1995 and 1996).

The argument of my analysis expands the view of mutually existence problematisation through the ontology of the agent-structure problem in IR. The validity of such understanding is encompassed to the words that 'every time the observer is always confronted with a system, its subsystem and their respective environment' (Singer, 1965). Tentatively the notion of social, political and cultural causality, however, stems from ideas about structure and agency. Finally, the analysis challenges the epistemological lens of positivist orthodoxy that has failed to incorporate critical elements of 'methodological relationalism'. Without analysis of the ontological conditions of separation of unit of analysis and levels of analysis, the analysis remains anchored to a commitment to a universalistic epistemology of inventing universal laws of application (Waltz, 1979). The agent-structure problem demonstrates a concern not only for political and social scientists, but the expansion of the agent-structure problem, as constituted part of the ontology of the social world towards a substantive critical voice of critical intellectual voice in international studies that at the end will question the feasibility of the ontological separation unit from the level of analysis.


Keywords: Structure, Agency, Level, Unit, Methodology
Stream: Politics, Public Policy and Law
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Level Analysis Meta-theoretical Problem, The


Achilleas Megas

Independent Scholar
Neo-Heraklion, Athens, Greece

Basic backgraound in Politics and Economics. Post-graduate qualification in
Economics, European Institutions and Diplomacy and International Studies.
Reserach interest in theory of International Studies, Cold War History and International security.
Research experience in Vocational training in Athens, in public sectors-mimistries and research training at Leeds University, department of Politics and International Studies.
Publications at ECPR web site and Conference papers, BISA, WISC.

Ref: I08P0559