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POLI 227 Lecture Notes - Political Psychology, World Politics, Comparative Politics

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 227
Rex Brynen

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January 13, 2012: Approaches to the Study of Third World Politics
What does (most/much of) the developing world have in common?
Colonial experience which shaped institutions they have
Socio-economic challenges, including lower levels of industrialization, poorer social
conditions, and imperatives of economic growth (and redistribution)
Weaker state structures which cause less effective institutions, political instability,
problems of national integration and imperatives of state-building
Lack of (international) power and leverage, as well as subordinate integration in
global economy
Political science is analytical, and about theorizing and systematically-related
What is a theory? A simplification of reality, due to the complexity of reality.
Experimental method: is rarely used in political science (generally for social and
political psychology).
Statistical method: large number of data points, but there are problems with data and
relevance (it doesn’t tell us about causation, and it needs a lot of data that might not be
there or reliable for a number of reasons, for example, the opinion of people about the
government which is likely inaccurate in authoritarian countries).
Comparative method: is qualitative, compares a small number of cases, and there are
interpretive conclusions (not mathematical), it is historical, not statistical. It is less
generalizable, and creates problems because small data groups are not necessarily
reliable or an accurate reflection.
Single case study is the least generalizable, and more reliable because you can put larger
amounts of resources into understanding that one case. They are also more difficult to
compare because each single study often focuses on different things or uses different
Comparative politics is about commonality and diversity, using case studies and
comparison to tease out the causal relationship between variables.
It can be used to analyze similar systems: A and B are otherwise similar, except for X.
What effect does this have? (Ex. Both the PLO and Hezbollah fought Israel in south
Lebanon. Why did the latter do so much better? )
It can also be used to analyze different systems: A and B are very different in many
ways, but they both do Y. What common variable(s) account for this? (ex. In almost all
developing countries, female education correlates with improved child health).
Theoretical approaches
There are a variety of major sets of theoretical approaches to the study of comparative
politics: Modernization or developmental approaches, dependency or
underdevelopment approaches, institutionalism approaches, political culture
Vague and overlapping boundaries, considerable eclecticism, paradigms are much less
clearly defined than in other disciplines like International Relations.
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