RSS01.C7 Analytical Pragmatism: An Introduction to Relational Social Science

For various historical reasons, the social sciences - especially in the English-speaking world- have been dominated by neopositivism for decades. Indeed, neopositivism, with its commitment to the elucidation of nomothetic generalizations through a procedure of hypothesis-testing across multiple cases, is all too often mistaken for “the scientific method,” crowding out other approaches to knowledge production.

The epistemic interests of neopositivist research are then mistaken for the goals of science per se, despite the fact that neopositivism doesn’t capture the actual practice of physical sciences like physics terribly well. At the same time, the English-speaking social sciences are dominated by substantialism: the notion that properties of objects (including actors) considered in isolation from one another can sufficiently explain outcomes of interest.

The result of this methodological-and-ontological monoculture is that although we frequently have criticisms of both neopositivism and substantialism, we much less frequently have systematic explications of how to do empirical research that doesn’t conform more or less to neopositivist and substantialist strictures. Even rarer is such exploration that tries to retain key notions like causation and generality, but doesn’t treat those notions in the conventional manner.

This course will give you a grounding in precisely such an alternative: a non- neopositivist approach to social-scientific inquiry that emphasizes causal explanation and has a significant place for generality, which also prioritizes processes and relations rather than essences and substances.

Building on the work of Max Weber and the tradition of American pragmatism, the analytical pragmatist approach seeks to articulate and refine conceptual tools that can be used to produce relational, case-specific explanations of otherwise-puzzling outcomes.

We will begin with the philosophical foundations of an analytical pragmatist approach, and proceed to consider some examples of work that incorporates this sensibility, and how that sensibility might inform your own work.


19 June 2023 - 23 June 2023
Course Fee

Regular: €995
Students & PhD's: €645

Early Bird Regular: €895 (application deadline* April 1st) 
Early Bird Students & PhD's: €580,50 (application deadline* April 1st)

Scholarships and discounts Find more information here
Application deadline

May 1st

*Your application is only completed when the course fee has been paid

Course leader Patrick Thaddeus Jackson
Level of participant
  • Master
  • PhD
  • PostDoc
  • Professional
Admission requirements This course is designed to be taken without prior knowledge about relationalism or analytical pragmatism. It would help if participants came to the course with a genuine curiosity about modes of knowledge-production that do not conform to the rules they most likely have been taught in the past. Participants are also strongly advised to read the instructor’s book The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations before the course begins, so that we can start off on day one with a discussion of methodological pluralism.
Admission documents
  • To get the student/PhD discount you need to upload a copy of your Student card or other proof of registration
  • If you are not a student/PhD, you can upload an empty document under 'Student Card'.
Mode of Study On Campus
ECTS 2 or 4 Find more information here
Location Radboud University