Political valuation analysis and the legitimacy of international organizations.

Author:Schmidtke, Henning
 
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1 Introduction

Research methods dealing with textual data (Krippendorf 2004; Roberts 2000) enjoy increasing popularity in the field of political science research. Both the magnitude of quantitative (see for instance King/Lowe 2003; Klingemann et al. 2006; Laver et al. 2003) and qualitative methods (see for instance Fairclough 2003; Keller et al. 2008; Wodak/Krzyzanowski 2008; Wodak 2009) applied to the analysis of political text and their scope of application have been mounting in recent years. While this is especially the case with regard to the inquiry into political claims (claims analysis, Gerhards et al. 2007; Koopmans/Statham 2010a) and the deconstruction of interpretative frames (frame analysis, Gerhards et al. 1998; Snow/Benford 1992), the proposed contribution focuses on an aspect that has so far been rather neglected: That of political valuation analysis.

Political valuations play a significant role in politics. Wherever a state of societal affairs is subject of political debate we can witness valuing utterances. The issue at stake will be valuated as 'inacceptable', 'problematic', 'shocking', 'unsatisfactory' or as a 'big step towards a better society'. The situation is considered a result of 'ongoing injustice', 'a further political victory of the pharmaceutical industry', an outcome of 'corruption', or an expression of 'pure campaign strategy'. Valuations are a very familiar part of our everyday and political language. They function as the first step in the formulation of political claims, proposals, and programs. A specific situation is only likely to be subjected to political regulation if it is evaluated as 'problematic'. In light of such significance and universality of evaluative utterances in public life, political science has to be interested in a method which explicitly addresses political valuations in textual data. However, in the literature of political science methods, we find only very specific and restricted contributions to a systematic analysis of political valuations.

2 Why we do not have political valuation research

The philosopher Donald Davidson - who died in 2003 - included in his essay collection "Problems of Rationality" a lecture titled "Expressing Evaluations" (2004: 19-38). He picked the title to emphasize that evaluations do not constitute a speech act but are rather to be interpreted as an evaluative attitude. Although it is possible to express such attitudes linguistically, Davidson argued that the analysis of explicitly evaluative utterances does not yield meaningful insights into valuations and values. Until today, most empirical political science research is marked by this focus on attitudes and the concurrent contempt of evaluative language. Consequently, research on political regime support is predominantly characterized by survey-based public opinion research (most recently for Germany: Westle/Gabriel 2009). In this branch of research - developed and advanced by Almond and Verba (1963) and David Easton's theoretical considerations (1965; 1975) - data on public opinion is generated in a reactive way. Citizens' assessments activated and gauged by means of surveys are declared to depict public opinion on political regimes, the current government, or some particular policy (Dalton 2004; Kaase/Newton 1995; Westle 2007). Accordingly, public opinion is based on what citizens have put on record in representative surveys. This approach is, however, not only prone to systematic bias resulting from particular framings of survey items and nuances in the linguistic context (Thaler/Sunstein 2008) but also to the more fundamental issue of whether survey-based research can capture all dimensions of public opinion. This topic surfaces because private valuations covered by survey research do not become public until they are aggregated by the research method itself. Only if poll ratings are published in the mass media they can become part of public debates on political regimes. The validity of this approach may be disputed because it is by no means clear whether private valuations filtered through a survey match what is implied by the concept of public opinion (Habermas 2008: 164-166).

Consequently, Jurgen Habermas argues that survey-based research cannot be considered to be sufficient. In order to produce a comprehensive picture of public opinion, published contributions have to be taken into account as well. He notes that quality newspapers constitute a particularly rich source of information (Habermas 2008: 170/1; Thompson 2000) because they function as a transmission belt and gatekeeper between the political system and its citizens (Gerhards et al. 2007; Hallin/Mancini 2004; Hardy 2008; Wessler et al. 2008). Although we can certainly think of additional arenas of published opinion such as television, online platforms, blogs, and tabloid newspapers (McChesney 2007), it has to be noted that their analysis, too, necessitates the application of text analytical methods to published textual data instead of survey-based research (Richardson 2007). Consequently, we aim to offer a method which acknowledges the existence and relevance of various arenas of published opinion and is well equipped to travel easily across different sources of text.

In addition to the depreciation of linguistic representations of valuations in comparison to attitudes, a second philosophically grounded issue presents a significant barrier to the analysis of communicative and linguistic aspects of political valuations: Philosophical-metaethical debates focus on the basic terms of 'good' and 'just' and subsume the vast array of potential valuation criteria under the label of 'values'. This dominance of values over evaluative judgments implies that instead of referring to valuations, respective debates are still concerned with values. In this vein, ontological discussions on their particular existence in the world are still characterized by this premise. What is more, philosophical debates giving priority to evaluative judgments are either narrowed down to moral and ethical assessments - therewith excluding esthetical or instrumental considerations - (Scheffler 2010) or they aid and abet the positivization of ethics as the pure tenets explaining the human application of norms (see for instance Schlick 1984: 74). In the history of German social science, the appreciation of valuations as objects of empirical research was particularly limited due to the 'Werturteilsstreit'- a dispute which unfolded in the run-up to World War One (Albert 2010) - and the 'Positivismusstreit' of the 1960s (Ritsert 2010). Methodological questions of how to analyze valuations empirically were, consequently, suppressed by the debate on the legitimacy of theoretical evaluations.

Furthermore, following the Kantian tradition that characterized German philosophical thinking up to the critical theory of Jurgen Habermas, the term 'value' is clearly distinguished and normatively depreciated vis-a-vis the notion of 'norms'. The aim to find a universally compelling normativity contributes to the preference for a consistent set of moral norms over the incoherent and plural world of values.

Hence, the philosophical context cannot be considered to foster the emergence of a strong branch of research that emphasizes the analysis of valuations as an everyday component of societal and political communication. This might explain why even the advancement of content, text, and discourse analysis (Fairclough 2003; Keller 2007; Keller et al. 2008; Richardson 2007; Titscher et al. 1998) did not spark stronger interest in valuations as a core element of political text. The vast body of literature on interpretive policy analysis, ideational approaches to political science and qualitative research designs (see for instance: Blatter et al. 2007; Blyth 2002; Deitelhoff 2006; Gofas/Hay 2010; Hajer 2008; Hay 2002; Nonhoff 2006; Nullmeier et al. 2011; Stone 2002) focuses on ideas, concepts, narratives, story lines, frames, hegemonies and discourse coalitions - but not on valuations.

On the one hand, research following the ideas of Stephen E. Toulmin (2003) seized on approaches of new rhetoric and argumentation theory (see also Eemeren/Grootendorst 2004; Kopperschmidt 1989) and turned to the analysis of political argumentations (Kuhlmann 1999) or initiated an 'argumentative turn' in policy analysis (Fischer/Forester 1993). With reference to theories of deliberative democracy, for instance, these approaches aimed at gauging the deliberative quality of political debates (Steiner et al. 2004). On the other hand, we witnessed mounting interest in the long-term historical examinations of world views and figures of speech. A case in point is, for instance, provided by Luc Boltanski's and Laurent Thevenot's work "On Justification: Economies of Worth" (2006). More linguistically oriented studies of political language focused in a similar vein on catchwords, text genres and language cultures, especially of rightwing movements or totalitarian regimes (Wodak/Krzyzanowski 2008; Wodak 2009). While in most interpretative and ideational approaches to policy analysis that look for discursive formations we find traces pointing in the direction of political valuations, they are not taken into account systematically. A particular focus on components of political debates as we offer it with our approach of political valuation analysis is until today only provided by the political claims analysis methodology (Haunss 2007; Koopmans/Statham 2010b; Koopmans/Statham 1999).

However, neither political claims analysis nor argumentation analysis can adequately account for political valuations, as they focus on very different aspects of political communication. Argumentation analysis aims at capturing how inferences are drawn from data, observations or empirical conditions. Building on the work of Toulmin (2003), this approach utilizes the terminology of 'warrant' for an argument...

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