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introduction to the course
seminar comparative politics!
professor timothy c. lim / cal state los angeles
[email protected]
a brief introduction to the study of comparative politics
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
let’s begin with some questions …"
  Are some countries and regions of the world uniquely "
resistant to democracy?
  How do revolutionary movements emerge? Why are some
successful while others fail?   Why are some countries rich and others poor? introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
one more point …"
  we all have “answers,” at least tentative ones, to the "
types of questions just posed"
  but this leads to another, more fundamental, question
how do you know if you’re right?
introduction to course "
principles of comparative politics
how do you know if you’re right?"
test the argument in
  short answer: We have to be able to ______
some manner"
  In the natural sciences, this testing is often (though not
experimentation
always) done through ____________________,
that is, the
creation of carefully controlled conditions within which
certain variables can controlled for in order to isolate others. experiments establish causality.
Chemists and other natural scientists rely
on experimentation, also known as the
scientific method.
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principles of comparative politics
how do you know if you’re right?"
In the social sciences, “testing” is often done "
indirectly through comparative analysis "
or the comparative method
introduction to course "
principles of comparative politics
how do you know if you’re right?"
  the experimental method and the
comparative method are two different
types of methods (there are others,
including the statistical method)"
  in the sciences--social or natural-method (and the theory and
evidence that underlies it) is crucial:
without it, science isn’t science
this figure illustrates the scientific method in
the natural sciences; in the social sciences,
the procedure is similar, except that
comparative analysis or another type of
method is used in place of “experimentation”
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
food for thought"
“Thinking without comparison is unthinkable. And,
in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific
thought and scientific research.”
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principles of comparative politics
basics of the comparative method
  the comparative method is based on a clear logic (actually,
there are several logics)
  the comparative method involves several different, but often
inter-related strategies or designs
  the comparative method has different objectives
we will discuss each aspect of the
comparative method shortly, but
first a brief aside …
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
important principles in social science arguments
  generally speaking, all social science arguments require the
independent and dependent variables to be "
explicitly identified
  in a social science argument, both variables need "
to be defined or operationalized as precisely "
as possible
  social science arguments must explain "
the relationship between the independent "
and dependent variables with precision, "
clarity, and depth (vagueness is not a virtue)
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
important principles in social science arguments
as you develop your research projects, it is imperative that you"
pay careful attention to the identification and definitions"
of your independent and dependent variables, and "
that you specify the relationship between or among "
your variables with as much clarity, precision, "
and depth as possible
failure to do so will result in a bad argument "
and a bad research paper!
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
basics of the comparative method: logic
  there are several “logics” or principles of comparative
analysis, but perhaps the two simplest are these …
  most similar systems (mss)
  most different systems (mds)
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principles of comparative politics
the mss design"
  the mss design is based on comparing two or more very
similar social systems …
  more importantly, it’s based on "
matching up and them comparing "
two more systems that share a "
whole range of similarities, but "
also differ in at least a couple of "
important respects"
  differences are key!
Albino twins. Two most
similar systems?
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principles of comparative politics
the mds design"
  the mds design is based on comparing two or more very
different social systems …
  more importantly, it’s based on finding two systems that
differ in almost all respects, except with regard to the
presumed independent and dependent variables. (the many
differences are eliminated as"
potential explanatory variables)"
  similarites are key!
apples and oranges.
are they comparable?
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principles of comparative politics
basics of the comparative method: strategies
there are a number of specific comparative strategies, including …
  case study (in comparative perspective)
> within-case comparison
> analytical induction
  binary or two-unit comparison
  multi-unit (three or more) comparison
  cross-national, statistical comparison
  mixed design
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
basics of the comparative method: objectives
  not all comparative strategies have the same objective, but
what a researcher intends to accomplish with a comparison
is critical. here are three basic objectives …
  compare to control
  compare to understand
  compare to explain
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
comparative politics is more than method"
  The comparative method is an integral part of
comparative politics, but comparative politics is not
merely a method of study, it is also a subject of study"
  As a subject of study, comparative politics "
may be said to focus on the many different "
societies, types of institutions, political "
systems, and countries that make "
up the world"
in discussing comparative politics, we must
also consider issues of theory
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
some questions
  what is theory?
  is theory necessary?
  how should we use theory?
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principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics: key points
when we theorize, we are …"
  making judgments about what it and is not relevant or
important in terms of explaining some "
significant economic, social or "
political phenomenon
  identifying a specific level or levels "
of analysis and making assumptions "
about power, structure, and agency
  connecting certain facts with "
specific outcomes
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
basic definition of theory "
a theory is a kind of simplifying device that allows
you to decide which facts matter and which "
do not
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
an amended definition of theory
theory is a simplified representation of reality and a framework
within which facts are not only selected, but also interpreted,
organized, and fit together so that they create a coherent whole
a couple of important points."
there are many theories in comparative politics
but, just as all social science arguments require
specification of variables, so too do all social science
arguments require theory
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principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
simple division?
despite the large number of individual theories, there are several
useful ways to divide or categorize theoretical approaches …
one method is to consider the level of analysis
macro-level
meso-level
micro-level
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
simple division?
we can also divide theories on the basis of three dominant
research traditions …
introduction to course"
principles of comparative politics
theory in comparative politics
which hat do you wear?
theory in comparative politics
a practical exercise. let’s return to a question posed at the outset …
theory in comparative politics
let’s return to one of our earlier questions …
are some countries and regions "
of the world uniquely resistant "
to democracy?