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Lecture 8

Political Science lecture 8a comparative.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

Political Science 1G06 2013 Lecture 8a Comparative Politics and the Comparative MethodCan Political Science be scientificHowIf finding objective laws of Politics is the goal of Political Science and not every Political Scientist agrees that this is the goal how do we achieve that goalThe type of experimental method used in the natural sciences simply cannot be replicated in the social sciencesWe can develop an hypothesisoA statement that one variable in combination with another will cause a particular outcome xyzHowever there is a problem with testing this hypothesisWe cannot simply isolate and combine variablesSocial variables are always parts of societies containing many other variablesHow can you be certain that x combined with y to produce z when variables aw are also presentAny one of the alternative variables or perhaps some combination of them could be responsible for the outcomeSo if we are interested in developing a science of politicsoHow do we find lawsoHow do we test our hypothesesOne possible answer there are others is to rely on either critical cases or the method of Comparative Politicsthey allow us to at least approach scientific adequacy in our analysis of the social worldHow to construct a Political ScienceStep 1CategorizationclassificationThe first step in designing a scientific approach to politics is in grouping the social world into parts that share similar characteristicsIn principle you can categorize along any line depending on what you are investigatingNote however that categorization is always a contestable processit smoothes out and therefore hides differences1
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