Joshua Foa Dienstag
Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method offers a distinctive account of the human relationship to language and history. The book had a transformative effect on many fields, including political theory. It offers a persuasive hermeneutic theory of what the obstacles to and possibilities for textual interpretation actually are and thus forms an account of the proper practice of political theory that is superior to the rival claims of historicism, Straussianism, or post-modernism. Simultaneously, it offers an account of the relationship of individuals to language-communities that recognizes their significance for cultures and persons without reifying their moral or political value. Gadamer’s account of language points toward openness and democracy rather than identity politics or nationalism.
Many of the most important constructs in public opinion research are abstract, latent quantities that cannot be directly observed from individual questions on surveys. Examples include ideology, political knowledge, racial prejudice, and consumer confidence. In each of these examples, individual survey questions are merely noisy indicators of the theoretical quantities that scholars are interested in measuring. This chapter describes a number of approaches for measuring latent constructs such as these at both the individual and group levels. It also discusses a number of substantive applications of latent constructs in public opinion research. Finally, it discusses methodological frontiers in the measurement of latent constructs.
This preface to the methodological part discusses how normative theories of deliberation can be studied empirically. Despite major advances in deliberative methodology, the preface identifies two challenges: on the one hand, quantitative work on deliberative processes still struggles with the challenge of causality, requiring the development and application of more sophisticated quantitative designs; on the other hand, there is an urgent need for better understanding the variegated meaning of deliberative acts, requiring more qualitative approaches. The chapter calls for a “problem-based” approach to studying deliberation empirically, combining advanced quantitative and qualitative designs, and suggests that new methodological tools may need to be developed or borrowed from other disciplines.
Sijia Yang and Sandra González-Bailón
Semantic networks represent and model messages and discourse as a relational structure, emphasizing patterns of interdependence among semantic units or actors-concepts. This chapter traces the epistemological roots of semantic networks, then illustrates with examples how this approach can contribute to the study of political rhetoric or opinions. It focuses on three levels of analysis: cognitive mapping at the individual level, discourse analysis at the interpersonal level, and framing and salience at the collective level. Drawing from the rich literature on natural language processing and machine learning, the chapter introduces readers to essential methodological considerations when extracting and building up semantic networks from textual data. It also offers a discussion on the relevance of semantic networks to analyzing public opinion, especially as it manifests in discursive and deliberative theories of democracy.
This chapter explores the relationship between environmental thought and geographic spatial theory. Both lines of thought problematize the role of non-humans in political and ethical life. Although both environmental and spatial thinkers argue for a dynamic exchange between humans and nature, the environment, the built environment, or their non-human surroundings, they tend to focus on different elements of those non-human surroundings and deploy different conceptual frameworks to analyze them. Additionally, environmental thinkers attend more to the ability of the non-human world to thwart, interfere with, or otherwise constitute social action, a trend that, when combined with spatial thinkers’ broad understanding of non-humans and developed conceptual categories, such as place and scale, can produce richer, fuller accounts of how non-humans figure into political life.