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Political valuation analysis and the legitimacy of international organizations

GPS, Vol. 7 No. 3, (2011)

Research methods dealing with textual data enjoy increasing popularity in
the field of political science research. Both the magnitude of quantitative
and qualitative methods applied to the analysis of political texts and their
scope of application are mounting in recent years. While this is especially
the case with regard to the inquiry into political claims (claims analysis) and
the reconstruction of interpretative frames (frames analysis), this paper focuses
on a so far rather neglected aspect: Valuation analysis. We argue that
political valuations and evaluations play a significant role in politics and
propose a newly developed qualitative approach that addresses explicitly the
particularities of political valuations in textual data. The basic structure of
the method makes use of the general linguistic structure of valuationstatements
and is, therefore, applicable to a broad range of research topics
such as the study of the legitimacy of political regimes, political authorities
– i.e. actors of the political process – and even policies. In general, the approach
builds on the idea that evaluative statements – our basic unit of observation
– are defined by three key variables: the valuation object that is
assessed, the evaluative (positive/negative) thrust of the valuation, and the
valuation pattern on which it is based. With the help these three variables
the method is not only in the position to capture the assessment of objects in
different communicative contexts in a very fine-grained manner, but it is
also able to provide information on the nexus of valuation object and criteria
and the development of these aspects over time. After presenting the theoretical
argument and methodology the remainder of the contribution illustrates
the applicability of valuation analysis. By presenting our findings on
the empirical legitimacy of the United Nations in four national publics
(Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States) we demonstrate
how the genuinely qualitative character of the method allows for linguistic
diversity and how its results can still be integrated into quantitative
studies that may even make use of interferential statistics.

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