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Constitutional Level of Analysis: Problems and Prospects

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Ostrom, Vincent
Conference: 1979 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association
Location: Portland, OR
Conf. Date: March 22-24
Date: 1979
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/1678
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): Workshop
constitutional analysis
political theory
institutional analysis
Abstract: From p. 20: "The problems and prospects inherent in using the constitutional level of analysis to inform political inquiry are sufficiently great that they deserve careful consideration in laying the theoretical foundations for empirical investigations of political behavior and policy analyses. The theoretical analysis occurs at the constitutional level where inquiry is oriented to a consideration of alternative institutional arrangements. The conduct of empirical investigation occurs at the operational level within the constraints of given institutional structures. If empirical inquiry is to be informed by an appropriate theoretical analysis we need to proceed at both the constitutional and the operational levels of analysis. If we do so we may discover important links between political theory, political practice, and political science. We would then be in a position to test propositions about whether political structures do make a difference in the way that people are governed and live their lives in human societies. "Considering the nature of human artisanship we need to come to terms with conceptions of political structures as entailing more than words on paper. No one would expect a chemical formula to work by itself. Political institutions entail political artisans as well as political formulas. Then we learn how to treat artisans, and the conceptions they use, as informing conduct in relation to structures we may be in a position to determine the relationship of the structure of institutional arrangements to the consequences that flow for human societies. This requires more than the study of behavior per se. The constitutional level of analysis must accompany the operational level of analysis in the study of political phenomena not as natural phenomena, but as artifactual phenomena."

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