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  Exploring Causal Complexity in International Relations


   Department of Politics and International Relations

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

In recent decades, a rich and sophisticated literature has emerged, in International Relations and in the broader social sciences, demonstrating how a range of methods can be used to derive reasonably secure causal inferences. Rather less attention has been paid to the fact that, in the world around us, causal relations often fail to play out in a uniform fashion: outside of controlled conditions, even those causal relations in which we are most confident can and do have uneven results. To give a well-known example, there is no doubt that short circuits can and do cause house fires, but it does not follow from this that short circuits always or often cause house fires: usually, they do not. This illustrates the need, as part of our causal inquiries, to pay careful attention to the complexity of how even well-established causal relations unfold in real-world environments and to how changes in these environments can affect the outcomes that are observed. The University of Reading invites applications from prospective PhD students who wish to investigate varieties of causal complexity in world politics and to develop new knowledge of how causal processes in fact play out under real-world conditions. Applicants might, for example, be interested in the range of conditions under which a known causal process does or does not bring about the causally-anticipated outcome or in what interferes with the unfolding of a known causal process such that unanticipated outcomes are produced. Projects which explore causal complexity in relation to any substantive area of world politics are welcomed (eg, conflict, norms, diplomacy, international institutions), so long as it is possible to identify resonably well-established causal theories in those areas and there is more to discover about how the causal relations they describe unfold in practice. Applicants should have a solid knowledge of their preferred area of inquiry, an interest in careful, philosophically-informed thinking about causal complexity, and a willingness to undertake detailed, empirical investigation into the particularities of the real-world environments in which causal relations play out.


Philosophy (28) Politics & Government (30)

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