An interpretive approach to political science provides accounts of actions and practices that are interpretations of interpretations. It is distinctive because of the extent to which it privileges meanings as ways to grasp actions. This chapter develops this argument using the idea of ‘situated agency’. It focuses on eight criticisms of this approach: an interpretive approach is mere common sense; it focuses on beliefs or discourses, not actions or practices; it ignores concepts of social structure; it seeks to understand actions and practices, not explain them; it is concerned exclusively with qualitative techniques of data generation; it must accept actors’ own accounts of their beliefs; is insensitive to the ways in which power constitutes beliefs; and is incapable of producing policy relevant knowledge. It shows that the criticisms rest on misconceptions about an interpretive approach and misplaced beliefs in the false idols of hard data and rigorous methods.
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