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Role of Theory in Comparative Politics

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Daniel Cowns

on 15 November 2012

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Transcript of Role of Theory in Comparative Politics

Individual and Societal Incentives Rational Choice Messy Eclectic Center But what about future outcomes? Plausible mechanism for explaining institutional change Strategic Theory and national security Move toward Political Economy Security Studies
Applying structural / rationalist explanations to conflict between states 1960s 1970s 1980s Cycles in Comparative and International Field Qualitative, state and institutions as main focus Rationalism, focusing on international regimes and institutions Thin institutionalism Thick Institutionalism New Institutionalism Derived from public choice theory and transaction-cost analysis
Uses institutions to explain coordination problems
Explains microfoundations of individual policy choices, but is weak at generalizing
Are all micro-level explanations weak at generalizing? Concerned with both states and social structures
Looks at Social sectors, political coalitions, political situations and ideological constraints
Difficulty of disaggregation
Do all macro-level have issues with disaggregation? The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A Symposium Atul Kohli, Peter Evans, Peter J. Katzenstein, Adam Przeworski, Suanna Hoeber Rudolph, James C. Scott, Theda Skocpol Article summarizes several scholars who were asked to do the following:
•Characterize their own approach to comparative politics
•Discuss why their approach may be preferable to other approaches
•Provide their views on where comparative politics as a subfield is headed and/or ought to head. “The Role of Theory in Comparative Politics: A Symposium”
Zuckerman & Lichbach: “Advancing Explanation in Comparative Politics” Week 13: Summary and Prospects Peter Evans What motivates us, as social scientists, to ask specific research questions? If personal interest, does that encroach on the idea of value-free research? “Eclectic messy center”
- Work that draws on general theories, but also cares deeply about particular historical outcomes Each situation must be examined differently
- Micro and macro analysis cannot explain the same phenomenon
- The center must encompass political economy (focus on how people get what they want), cultural approach (nature of preference) and origin and nature of preference = eclectic center Research should not be guided by prophets of the profession, but by blurring the lines and asking interesting questions.
“Comparative research is a focus on an analytical relationships among variables validated by social science, a focus that is modified by differences in the context in which we observe and measure those variables.” Peter J. Katzenstein Emphasizes state simplifications
States simplify societies they govern; scholars simply the societies they study
“…if you only see the world through your instruments, then it is likely to be a world that is hard to broaden and that may very well be poverty stricken.”
Half of reading must come from outside discipline, or run risk of recreating concepts/paradigms James C. Scott Taking from Scott's view of simplification in scholarship, is it important to embody all aspects-- similar to that of an Anthropologist-- in research? Deductive Inductive Micro Macro 1. Structural functionalism
Marxism 2. single or comparative case studies; political institutions and social groups as center 3. rational choice 4. anthropology-inspired local political studies; social structural or culture as center Conclusion: Is it important to the comparative politics field to have a prevailing theoretical perspective, if so, which one holds the most universally generalizable perspective? "Advancing Explanation in Comparative Politics"
Alan S. Zuckerman Social Mechanisms approach
- Rational choice renamed?
Endogeneity is inescapable; society acts reciprocally Individual's Behavior Behavior of others Elements of Culture Social Mechanisms Should the purpose of comparative politics be to draw parsimonious generalizations about political phenomenon, or is explaining one case satisfactory?
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