In the article “Emergency Powers in democratic States: Introducing the Democratic Emergency Powers dataset”, Rooney discusses the causes of democratic powers during emergencies in democratic states and the content of such powers. To develop a clear perspective into the subject and to draw essential conclusions, Rooney introduces the concept of the democratic emergency power dataset. The datasets provide codified details of institutional change during emergency periods in democratic institutions. The use of data from emergency periods is be important because of changes that occur in democratic political systems following emergencies, and which are often aimed at ensuring a smooth transition from the emergency situation back to a normal situation. The author further discusses the process of data collection and describes the latent strengths of each of the emergency provisions.
The article also explores the factors that determine the strength of emergency power in democracies. The author focuses on the domestic determinants as they influence the instruments that are used by the state during emergencies. The key findings of the study are that there is a conflict between the past and current experiences in emergency power provision as well as in the strength of emergency power. The study also confirms that domestic determinants influence the nature of instruments that are institutionalized during emergencies in different states. As such, states with similar government structures and polity ratings during peaceful times are most likely to exhibit differences in government responses during emergency times.
Research Questions, Hypotheses and Methods
The research aim can be deduced from the explanation of the contributions of the paper to literature. Specifically, the research aims at exploring the causes and content of emergency powers in democracies. There is however no clear statement of the research hypothesis. The author instead describes a series of assumptions that have previously been made regarding emergency power. The assumptions are based on the differences in polity scores among countries; first, there is the assumption that countries would have the same strength of democracy in crisis as they have in normal times. The second assumption is that polity scores indicate authority regimes and are static across peaceful and emergency periods. Since Rooney clearly makes an effort to disprove these assumptions and makes his intention clear, it can be deduced that his own assumption is that democracies and authority regimes are both transient between peaceful and emergency periods.
The mixed research design used in achieving the research objectives is clearly described. First, the democratic emergency power dataset is developed by extracting the details of countries with polity scores of 6 or higher over the years 1800 and 2012 from the Polity2 Scores history. This gave a total of 113 states that had been democratic for at least one year during the same period, with a total of 147 institutions and 500 potentially relevant amendments of those constitutions during the same period. From document analysis, it was determined that the countries had 172 unique emergency provisions over the same period. A coding procedure was then applied to each provision depending on the dominant causes of variation. To do this the first step was to determine the point at which an emergency can be formally declared based on each document by considering whether the affected state had constitutional provisions for a state of exception or there were government entities or non-governmental organizations responsible for declaring a state of emergency. The second step was to code the indicators that determine different states of emergency and based on which the respective state governments would declare an emergency. Different indicators were established for different circumstances such as an external attack, natural disasters, civil unrest or upheaval or even foreign aggression depending on whether the state declared an emergency following such an incident of each. The changes to the conventional institutional characteristics during emergencies were then documented to indicate the levels of power transferred during emergencies. The ability of the elected leaders to make use of the additional powers during emergencies was then coded, and lastly the measures indicating both retrospective and prospective checks on the actions of leaders in relation to additional powers during emergencies were coded. Bayesian factor analysis was then used to analyse the series of factors identified through the different codes. The analysis helped to derive the measures of the latent strength of emergency powers corresponding to each of the chosen articles. From the description of the methods as given by Rooney, it is possible to replicate the process followed. The method also seems straight forward and focused on the research objective. The only challenge that could potentially result in different outcomes upon a repetition of the research method is that the specific codes used are not provided in the article and are left to the readers’ discretion.
Ontological and Epistemological Basis of Research
The research is based on an interpretive paradigm or its ontology and epistemology. To establish this basis, various questions were considered. In relation to ontology, the first consideration was on the existence of a social reality. The research by Rooney is characterized by relativism (whereby social reality does not exist in the form of an objective fact but is rather constructed) and the existence of reality is relatively in the mind of each individual (Schwartz-Shea and Yanow 131). The basic assumption that Rooney intends to dispel relates to the consideration of polity scores as a theoretical basis for describing the government style in nations and the similarity in the characteristics of leadership practices between the peaceful times and the emergency period. The implied assumption in the research is an indication that the author believes that no theory can predict national leadership behaviours during emergencies. The powers and practices of national leadership depend on several factors and thus can only be described as a construction of the circumstances surrounding the practice of leadership. The reality in such an incidence remains in the minds of the participants to be implemented during emergencies depending on the situation at hand and the powers dispelled to the leader at that time. These characteristics are aligned to the interpretive paradigm in social research.
To establish the epistemological basis of the study, the question asked pertained to whether the existing reality was known. The article exhibits the characteristics of non-dualism, focus on understanding a phenomenon (the content and causative factors for democratic power during emergencies), and a challenge to the conventional approach to developing some laws or theories on the sources and content of democratic powers (Schwartz-Shea and Yanow 132). By emphasising that the sources and causes of powers during emergencies are different from those during peaceful times, Rooney seems to suggest that it is impossible for any generalized laws of democratic power to be relevant at all times and in all places. These characteristics therefore confirm the article to have been grounded on an interpretive paradigm, which emphasises the need for finding reality and the perception of reality based on the constructivist approach.
The last question on the ontology and epistemology relates to the methodology. The key characteristics of the interpretive approach as described by Schwartz-Shea and Yanow include the emphasis on interpreting the observed results such as the process followed by Rooney, inductiveness (starting from the reality of the polity scores to generating a theoretical perspective on the causes and content of democratic power during emergencies, focusing on qualitative methods and aiming at understanding the actions of the different actors in relation to a particular phenomenon (132). These are contrary to other epistemological basis such as positivism, which starts from a theory and ends with generalization. The assumptions of previous researchers on the relationship between polity scores and leadership styles form the epistemological basis for the study by Rooney. These assumptions are that the institutions depicted through different polity scores are static in crisis and that states that are stronger in democracy during peaceful times are also likely to be more democratic during conflicts or emergencies. Unlike other researchers, Rooney challenges these assumptions and focuses on the data obtained from the 172 articles to develop theories from the reality of the data.
The epistemological basis of the research has no constraints on the process of research completing. The interpretive research paradigm is aimed at explaining causality from a contextual basis, by determining how specific subjects or individuals make decisions within particular contexts in which they appear. This implies that contrary to the positivist perspective which explains causality from a ‘for granted’ perspective, interpretivism emphasizes the role of context. Therefore, the research objectives can still be attained within the interpretive research paradigm on condition that the subjects and the context are maintained. Similarly, the research problem does not limit the research design that could have been used to address the problem. Specifically, the study presents a complex phenomenon, and the interpretive paradigm provides the best framework for obtaining reliable results within the intended context. Different research approaches could be used to achieve the same information albeit with variable reliability.
In the article, Rooney uses a mixed approach in which he uses conducts a Bayesian analysis of the polity scores as well as a frequency count based on coded data. However, purely qualitative approaches to research based on data collection methods such as interviews and surveys could also be used to attain the same objective while maintaining the same context. Interpretive research paradigm most commonly uses qualitative research although it can support both qualitative and quantitative research designs and even mixed method research designs such as that in the article. This implies that the research paradigm and the research questions have no limitations on the research methods that can be used. It should however be noted that interpretive research paradigm results in clearer and more precise data when used with a quantitative research design. Additionally, there have been concerns around using qualitative research in which content is coded as frequencies without further statistical analysis of the abstracted content due to the low probability of attaining clearer and more objective results. The alternative choice of method would be to use purely quantitative research in evaluating the leadership styles in the different countries and narrative research to get contextual information on leadership responses and authority during emergencies.
In the research article, there are no notable ethical issues as the researcher did not work with any human participants. However, various considerations would have been made when working with secondary data. Ethical issues in secondary data collection include concerns on the use of authorized content, recognition of the sources of information used and maintaining confidentiality in handling sensitive information pertaining to a the leadership of the different democracies. In the article, it can be concluded that these concerns have been addressed effectively through proper citation and referencing of content from other sources. When using other methods in a similar research however, various ethical considerations have to be made especially when there are human participants. The proposed narrative research would require participants to give accounts of their experiences with national leadership during emergencies in democracies. Some of the most important issues include ensuring that participants give their informed consent, respecting the dignity of the participants and practicing beneficence towards the participants, and respecting privacy and confidentiality when working with participant information (Roth and von Unger par. 4-5). Adherence to research ethics can create the difference between reliable, credible research and unacceptable one.
The main limitation of this research is methodological. Besides the polity scores, the use of content coding as a means of obtaining contextual information on the democratic emergency power provisions seems to be inadequate at giving a complete range of information that would be necessary to determine the causes and content of power during national emergencies. Specifically, alternative approaches to research such using surveys and interviews could give a better perspective on the democratic power during emergencies. The best approach would be to conduct primary data collection during or immediately after the emergencies, use primary sources such as interviews and news articles to explore the key themes of power and decision making during emergencies, and to use the same data thematically to develop scores for different countries during emergencies. The research epistemology also poses a minor limitation that could be addressed through redefining the research assumptions. The current epistemological basis for the research is weak, and since the epistemology determines the research approach, key themes and potentially findings, modifying the epistemological foundation for the research would have resulted in deeper and more meaningful information.
The article by Rooney presents a well-structured study into the causality and content of democratic power during emergencies. While the article does not state the research questions explicitly, the background information and the research methods clearly create a sense of direction. Based on an interpretive research paradigm, the author gives a clear perspective into the assumptions that are countered in the study. The assumptions are about the static nature of the polity score and the relevance of leadership patterns in economies observed during peace periods for the periods of emergency. The basis for the argument is confirmed through content analysis of previous literature on the reactions of different democratic powers during emergencies. The choices of research paradigm and research methodology are also commendable because of their reliability in determining causality within a contextual framework. It is however recommended that the described methodological should be epistemological concerns are addressed in future studies on the same subject.
Rooney, Bryan. “Emergency Powers in Democratic States: Introducing the Democratic Emergency Powers Dataset.” Research and Politics, Oct-Dec 2019, 1-7.
Roth, Wolff-Michael and Hella von Unger. “Current perspectives on Research Ethics in Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Social Research Forum, vol. 19, no. 3, article 33, Sep 2018. http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/3155/4305. Accessed 22 June 2020.
Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine and Dvora Yanow. Interpretive research design: Concepts and Processes, 1st Ed. Routledge, 2011.