Sunday, October 20, 2013

Paper 3 - Theoretical Approaches to Issues

The goal of Essay #3 is to take us one step closer to producing our final term paper by going a little bit deeper into an issue of interest to you. In the last essay, we produced an informative argument that attempted to clarify misconceptions and highlight the most important aspects of an issue. Basically, you created a framework to help an intelligent layperson first approach an issue in a general way. In this essay, we will focus less on explaining the broad outlines of a topic and instead provide a slightly more in-depth, less introductory account that presents one or several theoretical, critical, ideological, or ethical approaches to a particular issue. Your paper should pick both a specific theoretical approach or critical tradition and a specific issue, and it should make these as narrow and focused as possible. 

A theoretical paradigm is not the same thing as a stance. Rather, a paradigm represents a way of understanding an issue, one that informs one or several sets of underlying stances. The same stance or position can arise from very different theoretical approaches, and different stances or positions can arise from similar theoretical approaches. For example: if I were comparing different paradigms regarding the reform of Social Security using private accounts, I might argue the following: "This dispute arises from the theoretical tension between the neoliberal and the social democratic understanding of what Social Security, and the welfare state more generally, are and should be. Whereas neoliberal proponents of private accounts see Social Security as akin to an individual investment, and thus have no problem with the system leading to radically different payouts to beneficiaries depending on the performance of those accounts, social democratic proponents of changing merely the financing of Social Security see the program as part of the safety net designed to provide a minimum standard of retirement income regardless of how much an individual may have paid into the system before retirement." 

As you can see, once again it is best to focus on an aspect of an issue, and a paradigm or paradigms related thereto, that are as specific as possible. You are free to explore the implication of one theoretical approach, or you can compare and contrast many approaches. You could explore, for example, the Austrian approach to monetary policy, or you could compare that with the Keynesian approach. You could explore how modern philosophers in the tradition of Smith and Hutcheson approach a moral issue, or you could contrast the modern and the original approaches. You could also, for example, examine the Marxist take on the recent financial crisis. If you compare different perspectives, they need not be from radically different ideological camps. It would be perfectly acceptable to demonstrate how the same ideology can also lead to different policy prescriptions as a result of subtler differences.

Bring a rough draft of the paper to class on Thursday, October 24th. The final paper will be due Wednesday, October 30th by 12pm. The final draft should be 4-6 pages in 12 point Times New Roman Font with 1 inch margins. Use MLA to cite your sources, and use at least 3 peer-reviewed sources. Make sure that you use parenthetical citation to indicate whenever you are using information from one of your sources, and do not cite a source in the works cited unless you refer to it in the body of the essay. 

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