RPP 1 – motivations

Because my project examines democratization, the most immediately obvious of the questions presented for this post is whether it, or I, assume that democracy is normatively good. As far as I can see, my research does not. It does recognize that democracy is something that some people pursue, and it evaluates how effective they are in one facet of that pursuit, but it does not tread on whether they should be pursuing democracy. As a personal matter, I think that democracy and its pursuit are both normatively good, but my research question and design don’t include my opinion on the matter. With a research design in the same vane as my current one, I could also study the effectiveness of people pursuing illiberal and undemocratic governance. In that case, even though my research design flipped, my own opinion of democracy’s normative value would not.

There is also a normative question of whether my research, or I, believe that the United States should pursue the policies I am studying, as my research is related to specific US foreign policy programs. It is not reasonable to answer that question until I complete my research. If it happens that the US policy was inconsequential, the policy evaluation changes.

I am researching this topic because it combines two broad areas of international studies that I am most interested in: comparative politics and US foreign policy. Within comparative politics, I am particularly interested in democratization. It could be the case that these areas interest me because of my normative/political interest in international liberalism. Being the least objective observer possible when discussing the source of my personal interests, it is hard for me to say whether this is the case. If it is the case, my normative/political values are secondary motivators, more removed from the research itself. My attraction to this topic is informed by my interest in the issues it touches, and that interest may or may not in turn be caused by my personal views.

My main methodological choice so far has been slightly influenced by my personal interests as well. This is my selection of revolts in Ukraine and Belarus as my main cases. Over the past year or so, I have taken more interest in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Within my degree program, Europe and Eurasia is my regional focus, and I began studying the Russian language in the past academic year.