Abhishek Chatterjee is an assistant professor of Political Science. His primary research interests are comparative and international political economy, particularly the origins of states and financial markets, and the philosophy of social sciences, especially the relationship between ontology and research methods.
He tends to write about himself in the third person and--unrelated to this latter proclivity--teaches such courses as political economy, state formation, and comparative politics/government (both introductory and graduate).
Ph.D., University of Virginia, 2010
Field of Study
Comparative Politics, Political Economy, State and Market Formation, Philosophy of the Social Sciences and Research Methods
Rulers and Capital in Historical Perspective: State Formation and Financial Development in India and the United States (Book manuscript based on dissertation)
Transitions and Redistribution: Examines the link between fiscal redistribution (or the possibility thereof) and the probability of regime change.
On theoretical generalizations
It is often contended that to be theoretical is to ‘generalize,’ and the social sciences should therefore properly seek theoretical knowledge. A contrary position—implicitly accepting these premises—claims that theoretical generalizations are not possible, or have not emerged, in the social sciences, and hence the field should relinquish its ambitions, or at least redefine them. The debate, as represented, however presumes a particular understanding of ‘generalization,’ and hence ‘theory.’ It often assumes that generalizations are of a statistical kind, i.e. they involve making statements that can be verified as being true on the average, where ‘average’ is an arithmetical abstraction that describes regularities. Yet there are other ways of generalizing that do not resort to this conceptualization. This ongoing project will defend the first sentence above in the context of some non-statistical understandings of the phrase ‘theoretical generalization.’ Furthermore, it will demonstrate that there is considerable agreement on what non-statistical generalizations are; moreover this understanding cuts across ontologies, and as such can be found in the interpretivist (in the work of Clifford Geertz, for instance) as well as analytical philosophy (e.g. in the work of the empiricist philosopher Nancy Cartwright) literature. Finally, the paper will argue that many controversies in political science, such as the relative merits of single case studies (interpretive or otherwise) in establishing theoretical knowledge, disappear once we realize that statistical generalization is only one kind of theoretical generalization, and hence all theoretical knowledge cannot be reduced to the knowledge of such generalizations.