Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 17:55:34 -0400 Subject: BHA: Realist MethodsI had been too bogged down to respond to this topic of realist methods before, but as I have been contemplating a paper on this subject for the realist conference, I am grateful to Andy for another opportunity to jump in. Andy, I agree with almost everything you say on methods except your ruling out simple correlations and regressions. Actually, there is no real ontological difference between what is presupposed by, say, chi-square on the one hand and zero-order regression or correlation on the other. Each is measuring covariation between two variables -- event regularities. Thus, if regression is to be ruled out on that basis, so, too, should chi-square. I think, however, that realists have no reason to reject any such statistical techniques. What makes realist use of statistics distinct is our interpretation of what we are doing when we use them. Certainly, we are not looking to uncover invariate social laws or even statistical laws. Thus, we would not attempt to identify contextless generalizations, say between size and differentiation. The crucial difference between our use of correlations and positivism's is that for us, the statistical relations are just evidence for an explanation and not the explanation itself. For us, a zero-order regression or correlation is a first piece of evidence that a particular mechanism is operative in a particular context. It is, of course, as all here seem to agree, not conclusive evidence. We still would like to see if the covariation remains after controlling for the operation of other mechanisms. And the statistical verification that a mechanism is operating in one socio-historical context does not license the lifting of that correlation out of context and making it into the kind of generalization that would support the covering law model of explanation. With that caveat, however, even mere correlation is often a good, first piece of evidence as to whether, for example, banks are redlining, whether people who have lost welfare coverage are doing worse, or whether international inequality is a consequence of capitalist penetration. Another consequence of realism, as, I think, some have already said, is that statistical analysis becomes deprivileged as just one of multiple methodologies, all of which have their appropriate place. These, at any rate, are my thoughts on the subject. (A copy of Sayer is finally on its way to me from Routledge so I have no idea whether I have just repeated what has already been said. If so, sorry.) Note to Caroline: Re this surprise virtual reappearance, I had no idea i would be able to de-lurk so soon. doug doug porpora dept of psych and sociology drexel university phila pa 19104 USA porporad-AT-duvm.ocs.drexel.edu --- from list bhaskar-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---