POLI 211 Lecture Notes - Solipsism

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Poli 211
Sept.7.12
Lecture 1
Comparison is essential:
- Overcoming cultural solipsism
- Distinguish the appropriate type of government system to apply to a country
- Closest historians/political scientists can get to testing their own explanations
- Variations between political institutions
Types of comparison:
- Chronological
- Geographical (why things happen in different ways in different places? how did
states develop?)
Challenges with comparison:
- Empirical documentation: hard to locate (naturally destroyed, destroyed by
man, lost, not archived efficiently)
- From solipsism: nationalist history
How to avoid these problems:
o Understand the empirical bases of accounts
o Understand what the local narrative argues (get inside the debate,
translate language and culture)
- Deciding what is actually significant to compare and what is actually
comparable (compare whole societies or elements?
How to avoid these problems:
o Sherlock Holmes: concept of clues, deductive procedure, spyholes
o Max Weber (German sociologist): ideal types like bureaucracy,
conceptions
- Are we inferring correctly? There is no assurance that we can get to the truth
of assertion
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