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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 - Introduction to the Comparative Method

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Political Science
Modeste Mba Talla

Jan. 23, 2014 Introduction to the Comparative Method: How do we compare? 1- Introduction  Questions and issues relating to what to compare, why we compare, and how to compare are the major concern of comparisons.  We study politics in several different ways: o First stage (descriptive): description - we describe it o Second stage (analytic): ability to predict based on an explanation – we seek to explain it and sometimes try to predict it 2- The Past in Comparative Politics  Historical evidence:Aristotle was the first comparativist twenty-five hundred years ago  The Greek Plato and Roman Cicero also used a comparative approach  Montesquieu (French vs. British), Machiavelli,Adam Smith, and Karl Marx (capitalism vs. Marxism)  In the nineteenth century: Best early studies –Alexis de Tocqueville (French- European vs.American) and James Bryce (British vs.American) -first 2 men to study public opinion as a modern concept  “Without comparisons to make, the mind does not know how to proceed” -Alexis de Tocqueville, 1945  he compared more countries/political systems  By the 1920s and 30s, comparative politics had developed as one of the major fields within political science Past comparative politics:  The comparative politics field was strongly influenced by refugees from Europe during the 1930s and 1940s  Until the 1950s, the main focus of comparative politics was the countries of Western Europe -more emphasis on the Western state, government, laws -Morgenthau  Comparative politics mainly studied the formal legal…  Merely descriptive rather than analytic (this shifts in the 50s)  Formalistic rather than concentrating on dynamic processes (something that actually changes) Ex: Globalization, Communism (collapse of the Soviet Union), the Black Market (difficult to analyze)  Too parochial (too simplistic – easy to predict), developmentalist (universal and irreversible) approach  There was little attention to more other aspects such as: -political parties (no attention) -the state (attention) -public opinion (no attention) -the opinion of the leaders (attention) -high politics (no attention)  Roy Macridis “The Study of Comparative Government” -move away from legal institutions -move away from the formal – difficulty understanding the complexity of the state  First away from old fashioned study of formal-legal institutions and toward more dynamic factors -Donald Rumsfeld – pay more attention to the public opinion (ex: war in Vietnam)  Second: away from the older focus on Europe and towards the Third World -independence of Third World countries -their role in comparative politics – new school of thought in political economy -Ex: development in Latin America – unfair economic circumstances  Non-parochial, non-formalistic, non-legalistic analytic  Functional approach to politics rather than an institutional one  The rise of the modern comparative politics: in the early to mid-1950s, a revolution occurred in the comparative politics field and in political science -more analytic 3- The Present in Comparative Politics  Two perspectives: 1- The traditional perspective – based on the variances (elements) that you can ‘easily control’– elements that are constant. Ex: borders, population, a country's resources, etc. 2- The modern perspective – based on variances that are difficult to control – something that is not constant. Ex: public opinion, immigration, regime, etc.  One of the sub-fields within the academic discipline of political science as well as an approach to the study of politics and development across countries. -Gender – previously, women belonged in low politics Ex: the mothers of Soviet Union soldiers who didn’t want them to go to war in Afghanistan. So the soldiers didn’t go and the Soviet Union slowly collapsed. Ex: women on the Plaza de Mayo -Argentina  As a field of study, comparative politics focuses on understanding and explaining political phenomena. -change in perspective  By drawing on the comparative method, comparative politics attempts to provide a systematic study of the world’s polities  Comparative politics draws a better understanding of how politics work (not as it is) as well as rules about politics – critical study of politics  McCormick refers to comparative polit
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