POLB91H3- COMPARATIVE POLITICS
R.RICE 1/25/2012 10:56:00 AM
Comparative Politics: what is it?
It is a sub-field in political science and a method or approach to the study of
A.) SUB-FIELD: EX: Canadian Politics, US Politics
Opinions and attitudes in different political systems
Objective is to make a generalization of politics from comparing
Two Complete Schools of Thought:
o 1.) Behavioralists: scholars that emphasize statistical
analysis, universal theory, complex mathematics. They
examine a large number of cases or by using complex
mathematical equations. Quantitative School
Why countries go to war? Political, economic data to
prove questions, large scale quantitative analysis.
o 2.)Interpretivists: scholars that emphasize an in-depth
analysis of politics within a few cases paying attention to
specific country contents. They look at a few cases, specific
contexts, they are the qualitative school.
Trend is towards this type of school.
Area Studies within Comparative Politics
A detailed examination of politics within a specific geographical
setting not necessarily involving comparisons.
o Study their whole life in Mexico, they specialize in Mexico.
Quantitative school says how do you learn the world
from just looking at one country.
Global Trends, larger theories is more important.
*Is the field of area studies still relevant today? Comparative Politics?
Yes:need grounded, specialized info. Need to look how local
politics affect global politics. You cannot just rely on local
government statistics you need a reliable source from a person
who specializes in that geographical area. Diversity of the
experience in the global south.
No: Because those who specialize just are in their own box, they
don't really work together, as international forces to diffuse their
knowledge and hwo they affect each other. They just do their own
thing, and specialize only on what they know. They don't learn
anything else, or want to join with other thoughts. Contagion effect
only comes from diffusing and bringing information from diverse
areas together. You miss that if you specialize.
Ethnic conflict—if you want to understand this you would have to
step back and see the bigger picture. Historical background of
conflict (universal studies)
Specializing: You may not only have to know how to do statistics and various
other research methods, but you must know the culture and language.
METHOD OF COMPARATIVE POLITICS
1.) Most Similar System Designs: The study of differences across
similarities. You select two or more countries similar in all respects except
for the phenomenon being investigated. It gives you leverage.
Ex: Why do indigenous tribes arise?
Equador Bolivia Peru
o Similarities: Andes, large indigenous populations across, weak
party systems, all colonized by spain and economically
dependant, they are neighbours, same size, same history,
same geographic size.
o If Peru didn't have indigenous tribes arising, then we can
cross off all the similarities and study only the one factor. Its
because they have a strong Marxist tradition. Weak Marxist in
Bolivia and Equator. Peru people say they are peasants,
(classbased) they wont say they are a tribe. They like to be
grouped so that tells us why there are no tribes arising.
2.) Most Different Systems Approach: More Complicated. The study of
similarities across differences select 2 or more countries different in most
respects except for the phenomonen under investigation.
Popular uprising democratic transition (rare) top-down lived by
elites, some come from the power of the people.
Ex: El Savador and South Africa (democracy)
Lots of differences with each other. But one issue they have in common or
similar. What they had in common that led to uprise in democracy. They
isolate factors till they find one in common.
Statistics like to use those ideas and test them for their analysis. If there is
something similar with those factors they can try to enable international
peace and co-operation.
Harder to do. Why? Very expensive. Lots of time.
THEMES FOR COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
All themes make a nice framework
The big theme in comparative politics. Massive shift to democracy
in the 1970’s. Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Economic
development can only occur with democracy.
Rich countries will impose democratization, it increases their
advantage in the country. (lots of challenges)
What is the relationship between democracy and political stability?
o Look for the stabilizing and destabilizing consequences of
recent democratic transitions and the persistence of
o Change in the status quo? Tension between formal and
Role of the State
How important the role of the state is.
Why some states emerge the way theydo, pattern of development,
their institutions, why some states oppress their people, and some
Global South Countries have lots of pressure to reduce their role
from the IMF and WB so they can take control instead. They are
being shrunk from above, to tip the state over.