Political Theory/Elements of Normative Theory

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When approaching normative theory, one must realize that different assumptions lead to conflicting theoretical approaches. To critically analyze any normative theory, one must be enlightened on what these assumptions are.

Ontological assumptions about the nature of the world for normative theory[edit | edit source]

  1. Epistemological Assumptions: Epistemological questions encompass the human understanding of how we know aspects of the world. For example Liberal theory and Realist theory both believe that humans derive objective information of the world through observations and methodologies like the “scientific method.” While there are other theories (variants of Critical Theories) feel that subjective bias distorts people’s observation process.
  2. Nature of Man: Is the nature of man good? Is it bad? Is it rational or irrational? Are there definitive differences in gender? These are all assumptions that have implications for any normative theory.
  3. View of History: The view of history is a very important assumption in normative theory. If one has linear view of history, then they assume that the world is progressing towards a more positive future. In opposition to linear views of history, an entropic view of history assumes that the world is descending into a negative future. Lastly, those with a cyclical view of history are those who believe that nothing changes except for who is on top and how they got there.
  4. Nature of World Order?:
    1. Key Actors? States? Civilization? (e.g. Muslim Caliphate), Non- Governmental Organizations or NGO's (e.g. MNCs, Amnesty International, Green Peace, etc)? Inter-governmental Organizations or IGOs (UN? WTO? EU? NATO? OPEC)? Transnational Social Movements? (TSMs) that are loose alliances of NGOs across countries and/or groups of people who identify with a particular group
    2. Predominant form of Collective Identity? What is the primary identity of a particular group of people? National Identity (e.g. Iraqi); Tribal Identity? Ethnic Identity? Religious Identity? Gender? There is often a close link between key actors and predominate form of collective identity.
    3. Key Level of Analysis and Factors Behind World Politics? e.g. realist belief that anarchy and struggle for power = fundamental reality and key factors include geography, natural resources, military and economic power.
    4. Tacit or Formal Rules that Regulate the Actions of Key Actors? If so, what are these?
  5. Why does War Occur?
    1. "Politics is war by other means." Humans are political animals. We naturally associate with each other, and this means conflict. Who will make decisions for a society, and who decides that?