Singer's Levels of Analysis

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Singer's Levels of Analysis
J. David Singer weighs the merits and limitations of the state and system levels of analysis in his essay "The Level-of-Analysis Problem in International Relations." He assesses these levels on their effectiveness in describing, explaining, and predicting phenomena. Below is a brief summary of his basic views on each level:

International System Level of Analysis

* the most comprehensive level of analysis -- "encompassing the totality of interactions which take place within the system and environment" * more holistic analysis * more deterministic in nature * Effectiveness in describing: * primary advantages lie in its comprehensiveness * disadvantages lie in its lack of detail * Effectiveness in explaining: * disadvantage: exaggerates the impact of the system upon the actors and discounts the impact of the actors upon the system * disadvantage: requires that "we postulate a high degree of uniformity in the foreign political operational codes of our national actors" → thus we assume that all national actors "think and act in terms of interest defined as power"; however, nations may differ to a large extent in the nature and substance of their national interests → creation of "black box" concept of national actors * advantage: adequate for making not causal but correlative statements based on general system level trends * advantage: "singularly manageable model" * Effectiveness in predicting: * advantage: "reasonably satisfactory as a basis for prediction" * disadvantage: predictions can only be made in gross and general terms

National State Level of Analysis

* traditional focus of western students * Effectiveness in describing: * advantage: does not attribute great similarity to all actors and allows for differentiation → thus greater detail and less…...

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