Class 1 - Why do we study Comparative Politics.docx

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14 Apr 2012

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Why do we study Comparative Politics/Government?
September 11: understand “foreign” systems, behaviour, beliefs
Why comparative politics?
a) Intellectual excitement
b) Understand their systems (history and politics)
c) How societies tackle crises: flu, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, forest fire
Learn positive or negative lessons from comparison (within-case, cross-case)
Effective comparisons: describe, explain similarities and differences
Understand cultural and behaviour differences
Clash of Civilizations? (Islamic vs. Western
The Discipline of Comparative Politics
Past: Many political scientists focused on European countries/English speaking world
Recently, more interested in new nation-states (Timor, Ukraine), NGO’s
Past: “interest groups” focus, but not applicable to developing world
Approaches to Study Comparative Politics
Gabriel Almond: “fragmentation” of theories
1. System theory: political activities as a black box with inputs and outputs from groups/individuals, with
feedback (David Easton).
Input and Output: Interests groups, parties, media put in their requests (input) and they are
presented to the legislature/elites/government/political system and then the government responds
and gives feedback (output) and there is an equilibrium.
Critics say this is: biological, mechanical, ahistorical, ignoring external forces
1. System Approach (by Gabriel Almond)
System model assumes an equilibrium from input and output
System may have inherent tensions and crisis (class contradictions, revolts, social unrests).
System model develops into “structural functionalism”. SF: within each structure they have their
own functions.
o Systems have functions: legislature, judiciary, executive, parties, interest groups
Political scientists focus on these functions
Can they work in non-Western world?
Guy Peters: said that in this system there are 6 I’s
o Institutions
o Interests
o Individuals (leaders, etc.)
o Ideas
o International environment
o Interactions (interacts between the civil service, elites, legislature, etc.)
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