In his book "Kausale Mechanismen und Process Tracing - Perspektiven der qualitativen Politikforschung" (Causal Mechanisms and Process Tracing - Perspectives on Qualitative Political Research), Frank Nullmeier shows how political research can be systematically approached by means of process tracing and how political processes can be better understood and explained in detail by means of causal mechanisms. Nullmeier first examines the history and theoretical foundations of the concept of causal mechanisms and, building on this, presents a refinement to a theory of causal mechanisms. Furthermore, he explains how mechanisms already identified in the social science literature can be used to explain political developments. Finally, the book offers a guideline on how to proceed with process tracing, which researchers and students can use to analyse independent political processes.
Ulf Tranow, sociologist and Akademischer Oberrat at the Institute for Social Sciences at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, has read Nullmeier's book and written a detailed review for Soziopolis. Tranow summarises the chapters concisely, contextualises them within the literature and praises Nullmeier's integration of theory and empiricism: "It is worth reading both for those who want to familiarise themselves with the theoretical foundations of the mechanism concept and for those who are looking for a more application-oriented approach to mechanism-based individual case research."
Tranow has only one critical remark about Nullmeier's book: "... hardly any complex mechanisms are presented and discussed in the book", although these are necessary for explaining individual events in the social sciences. According to Tranow, Nullmeier is sceptical that a comprehensive compilation of complex mechanisms is possible on the basis of the current state of research. However, Tranow disagrees: "[N]ot only empirical research, but above all social theory lends itself to using it to compile complex mechanisms for a practical research toolbox ... The reappraisal of social theories by transferring their underlying causal models into the systematics and terminology of the mechanisms approach could be a big step towards making this explanatory programme attractive for empirical research."
Ulf Tranow: "To explain why by explaining how". Rezension zu "Kausale Mechanismen und Process Tracing. Perspektiven der qualitativen Politikforschung" von Frank Nullmeier. In: Soziopolis – Gesellschaft beobachten. 10.10.2022, https://www.soziopolis.de/to-explain-why-by-explaining-how.html
Johannes Nagel from the Department Global- und Verflechtungsgeschichte at Bielefeld University has read "Kausale Mechanismen und Process Tracing" from a historian's perspective and reviewed it for H-Soz-Kult. Nagel recommends reading the book to historians "... who are open to theory-based explanation and do not limit themselves to loosely commenting on source material with borrowed social science terminology, but want to proceed in a methodologically consistent manner". He praises the section on the history of theory as a "... concise overview of debates in bordering disciplines that one would otherwise have to read up on via various literature". Nullmeier's systematisation of causal mechanisms is very valuable for empirical historical research, Nagel notes, as it is helpful for applying theory and operationalising one's own projects: "The methodological explanations encourage one to think about how working on the material and explaining in individual case analysis are connected."
Johannes Nagel: Rezension zu: Nullmeier, Frank: Kausale Mechanismen und Process Tracing. Perspektiven der qualitativen Politikforschung. Frankfurt am Main 2021: ISBN 9783593512075, , In: H-Soz-Kult, 10.10.2022, https://www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-128189
Prof. Dr. Frank Nullmeier
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy
Phone: +49 421 218-58576