Constructivism, fuzzy sets and (very) small-N: Revisiting the conditions for communicative action


Fuzzy set techniques, both as a methodological and theoretical tool, can engage in a fruitful liaison with constructivist research. Several important properties of fuzzy set analysis overlap with constructivist theorizing and research practice. In particular, fuzzy set methods are compatible with and support research based on a holistic ontology and on detailed qualitative comparisons of cases. To demonstrate the usefulness of the approach, a comparative case study [Niemann A. Between Communicative Action and Strategic Action: The Article 113 Committee and the Negotiations on the WTO Basic Telecommunications Services Agreement. J Eur Public Policy 2004;11(3):379–407.] investigating the conditions for communicative action using fuzzy sets is replicated and re-interpreted. The result of the replication is an improvement of the informational content, the precision, and the validity of the conclusions drawn from the empirical analysis. Furthermore, the re-interpretation points to theoretical and conceptual issues that need more consideration in future research. From a methodological point of view, the article shows that fuzzy set techniques are useful research tools even in instances where the number of studied cases is very small.

Journal of Business Research 60(5): 512-521
Frank M. Häge
Frank M. Häge
Political Scientist

Senior Lecturer at the University of Limerick. Interested in Legislative Politics, European Union Politics, and Historical Political Economy.