Volker von Prittwitz


Demands on Political Analysis


Let us consider analysis as model based scrutiny, usually with the intention to understand something better. Then obviously, two variables are decisive for the quality of analysis:

1. the quality of the used model (including the used terms and hypotheses)

2. the quality of the used methods to address respectively to test the model.

Theories and Models

An addressed model has to be that simple that it can be practically used, understood and implemented. On the other side, a model has to represent sufficient particular characteristics of the modelized object area. If a relatively scarce model is used, such as, if you' re not for us you' re against us, relatively simple results are to be expected from the analysis. A richer model, including a broader spectrum of variables and possible options, induces more differenciated results and, in the last end, more responsible recommendations. Before this background, political theories, the traditional basis of political philosophy and science, keep beeing relevant. This demand is also for normative statements. Any reduction of political analysis to empirical methods, hence, should be criticized and avoided. That is even in comparative politics, a scientific area that is often considered to be a pure methodical realm.

Specific models of issue areas often help to get more concrete insights than general theories. Therefore, general theories should be complemented by issue specific models, and the training of political analysis should obligatory include options of practical specialisation. A further advantage of those models is, they make analysis easier handable for influential policy networks. That's why area specific studies usually are very influential amongst experts.

On the other side, policy networks sometimes tend to exploit the public - see the German health sector. That's why besides area specific models general models should be taken into consideration.



Any medium of analysis includes a certain array of specific methods. In scientific analyses, qualitative as well as quantitative methods of empirical research are usable. The quality of a scientific analysis, hence, depends also on how quantitative and qualitative research methods are chosen, combined, and conducted. This constitutes regular methodical demands to scientific analysis of political structures, processes and behaving. Political speculation that avoids empirical testing should not longer be considered to be scientific.

Aside of science, finally, other media, such as journalistic print media, TV media, online media, and artificial media as caricatures, comics and political cabaret, use analytical methods (technics). Even in artificial areas, aesthetic aspects of how to analyze can completely dominate over aspects of what to analyze. Those analytical technics of journalistic and artificial media should be recognized as independent and worth to be specifically analyzed.

Analytical differenciation induces, first, tendencies to building independent subsystems of political analysis. By self-references to those subsystems and forms of self-setting - see for example the area of cabaretistic analysis - special technics get a better chance to develop and to spread. On the other side, a plenty of stimulations, emerging from different media and ways of thinking, fosters the vitality of any analysis. That's why communication between different theoretical and methodical areas makes political analysis richer.  


The author, Prof. Dr. Volker von Prittwitz (www.volkervonprittwitz.de),  Free University Berlin.

See on the issue: Vergleichende Politikanalyse, Stuttgart (Lucius&Lucius/UTB 2871) http://www.utb.de/katalog_suchen_detailseite.jsp?buchid=1686