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A spark for the political imagination

Smith, Lahra

Fred Schaffer’s deceptively slim volume on interpretive methodologies and conceptual analysis is a gem. It is exceptionally well written and concise, packed with interesting and wideranging examples from a variety of disciplines, historical and geographic spaces. Schaffer develops elucidation as an approach to apprehending social phenomena and contrasts it with positivist approaches (in particular, the idea of concept formation). Schaffer argues that rather than attempting to objectively contain a concept with positivist approaches to concept classification, we are better served by elucidating concepts. His elucidation techniques allow us to see the “meaning and use of concepts in lived practices” and to avoid precise but unrealistic, unlived concepts.

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