Answer the following question in 2-3 double-spaced pages (at least 650 words count). You should reference at least 2 readings or videos from this section of the course.In Chapter 3 of the textbook,…Hendrik Spruyt and John Meyer (et al) both try to explain the fact that most polities in today’s world are nation-states. What do their explanations have in common, and in what respects do they differ? Which do you find most compelling and why?Textbook link:Resource 1: ( read chapter 3)…Resource 2:Resource 3, see attached file.


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Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method
Author(s): Arend Lijphart
Source: The American Political Science Review, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Sep., 1971), pp. 682-693
Published by: American Political Science Association
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Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method*
University of Leiden
Among the several fields or subdisciplines
into which the discipline of political science is
usually divided, comparative politics is the only
one that carries a methodological instead of a
substantive label. The term “comparative politics” indicates the how but does not specify the
In the literature of comparative politics,
a wide variety of meanings is attached to
the terms “comparison” and “comparative
method.” The comparative method is defined
here as one of the basic methods-the others
being the experimental, statistical, and case
study methods-of establishing general empirical propositions. It is, in the first place, definitely a method, not just “a convenient term
vaguely symbolizing the focus of one’s research
what of the analysis. The label is somewhat
misleading because both explicit methodological concern and implicit methodological awareness among students of comparative politics
interests.”3 Nor is it a special set of substantive
have generally not been very high.1 Indeed, too
many students of the field have been what
concerns in the sense of Shmuel N. Eisenstadt’s
definition of the comparative approach in social
Giovanni Sartori calls “unconscious thinkers”
research; he states that the term does not
-unaware of and not guided by the logic and
“properly designate a specific method. .., but
methods of empirical science, although perhaps
well versed in quantitative research techniques.
rather a special focus on cross-societal, instituOne reason for this unconscious thinking is untional, or macrosocietal aspects of societies and
social analysis.”4
doubtedly that the comparative method is such
Second, the comparative method is here dea basic, and basically simple, approach, that a
methodology of comparative political analysis
fined as one of the basic scientific methods, not
does not really exist. As Sartori points out, the
the scientific method. It is, therefore, narrower
other extreme-that of the “overconscious
in scope than what Harold D. Lasswell has in
thinkers,” whose “standards of method andmind
the- when he argues that “for anyone with a
ory are drawn from the physical paradigmatic
scientific approach to political phenomena the
sciences” -is equally unsound.2 The purpose of
idea of an independent comparative method
this paper is to contribute to “conscious thinkseems redundant,” because the scientific aping” in comparative politics by focusing on
proach is “unavoidably comparative.”5 Likecomparison as a method of political inquiry.
wise, the definition used here differs from the
The paper will attempt to analyze not only the
very similar broad interpretation given by Gainevitable weaknesses and limitations of the
briel A. Almond, who also equates the comparcomparative method but also its great strengths ative with the scientific method: “It makes no
and potentialities.
sense to speak of a comparative politics in political science since if it is a science, it goes
* This article is a revised version of a paper pre- without saying that it is comparative in its apsented to the Round Table Conference on Comparaproach.”6
tive Politics of the International Political Science
Association, held in Turin, Italy, September 10-14,
“Arthur L. Kalleberg, “The Logic of Comparison:
1969. I am very grateful to David E. Apter, Donald
A Methodological Note on the Comparative Study of
T. Campbell, Robert A. Dahl, Giuseppe Di Palma,
Harry Eckstein, Lewis J. Edinger, Samuel E. Finer, Political Systems,” World Politics, 19 (October 1966),
Galen A. Irwin, Jean Laponce, Juan J. Linz, Stefanop. 72.
Passigli, Austin Ranney, Stein Rokkan, Dankwart A.4Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, “Social Institutions: Comparative Study,” in David L. Sills, ed., International
Rustow, and Kurt Sontheimer for their comments and
Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (New York:
suggestions on earlier drafts of the paper, which were
very helpful in the preparation of the revision.
Macmillan & Free Press, 1968), Vol. 14, p. 423. See
1 The reverse applies to the relatively new field ofalso Eisenstadt, “Problems in the Comparative Analy-
sis of Total Societies,” Transactions of the Sixth
“political behavior”: its name indicates a substantive
World Congress of Sociology (Evian: International
field of inquiry, but especially the derivative “behaviorism” has come to stand for a general approach Sociological Association, 1966), Vol. 1, esp. p. 188.
“Harold D. Lasswell, “The Future of the Comor set of methods. See Robert A. Dahl, “The BeMethod,” Comparative Politics, 1 (October,
havioral Approach in Political Science: Epitaph for parative
Monument to a Successful Protest,” American Politi-1968), p. 3.
cal Science Review, 55 (December, 1961), pp. 7636 Gabriel A. Almond, “Political Theory and Po-
litical Science,” American Political Science Review,
2 Giovanni Sartori, “Concept Misformation in Com-60 (December, 1966), pp. 877-78. Almond also arparative Politics,” American Political Science Review,gues that comparative politics is a “movement” in
64 (December, 1970), p. 1033.
political science rather than a subdiscipline. See his
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1971 Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method 683
trasted with the two other fundamental strateThird, the comparative method is here regarded as a method of discovering empirical re- gies of research; these will be referred to,
following Neil J. Smelser’s example, as the exlationships among variables, not as a method of
measurement. These two kinds of methods
perimental and the statistical methods.” All
should be clearly distinguished. It is the latter
that Kalleberg has in mind when he discusses
three methods (as well as certain forms of the
the “logic of comparison.” He defines the comparative method as “a form of measurement”;
comparison means “nonmetrical ordering,” or
tion, which consists of two basic elements: (1)
the establishment of general empirical relation-
in other words, ordinal measurement.7 Similarly, Sartori is thinking in terms of measure-
all other variables are controlled, that is, held
constant. These two elements are inseparable:
one cannot be sure that a relationship is a true
one unless the influence of other variables is
case study method’2) aim at scientific explana-
ships among two or more variables,’3 while (2)
ment on nominal, ordinal (or comparative),
and cardinal scales when he describes the conscious thinker as “the man that realizes the limcontrolled. The ceteris paribus condition is vital
to empirical generalizations.
itations of not having a thermometer and still
The experimental method, in its simplest
manages to say a great deal simply by saying
form, uses two equivalent groups, one of which
hot and cold, warmer and cooler.”8 This impor(the experimental group) is exposed to a stimtant step of measuring variables is logically
ulus while the other (the control group) is not.
prior to the step of finding relationships among
The two groups are then compared, and any
them. It is the second of these steps to which
difference can be attributed to the stimulus.
the term “comparative method” refers in this
Thus one knows the relationship between two
variables-with the important assurance that
Finally, a clear distinction should be made
no other variables were involved, because in all
between method and technique. The comparative
respects but one the two groups were alike.
method is a broad-gauge, general method, not a
Equivalence-that is, the condition that the
narrow, specialized technique. In this vein,
cetera are indeed paria-can be achieved by a
Gunnar Heckscher cautiously refers to “the
process of deliberate randomization. The expermethod (or at least the procedure) of compariimental method is the most nearly ideal method
son,”9 and Walter Goldschmidt prefers the
for scientific explanation, but unfortunately it
term comparative approach, because “it lacks
the preciseness to call it a method.”‘0 The comu For the idea of discussing the comparative methparative method may also be thought of as a
od in relation to these other basic methods, I am inbasic research strategy, in contrast with a mere
debted to Neil J. Smelser’s outstanding and most entactical aid to research. This will become clear
lightening article “Notes on the Methodology of
in the discussion that follows.
Comparative Analysis of Economic Activity,” Transactions of the Sixth World Congress of Sociology
The Experimental, Statistical, and
(Evian: International Sociological Association, 1966),
Vol. 2, pp. 101-17. For other general discussions of
Comparative Methods
the comparative method, see LUo Moulin, “La MothThe nature of the comparative method can
ode comparative en Science Politique,” Revue Interbe understood best if it is compared and connationale d’Histoire Politique et Constitutionelle, 7
(January-June, 1957), pp. 57-71; S. F. Nadel, The
“Comparative Politics,” in International EncyclopediaFoundations of Social Anthropology (London: Cohen
of the Social Sciences, Vol. 12, pp. 331-36.
and West, 1951), pp. 222-55; Maurice Duverger,
TKalleberg, op. cit., pp. 72-73; see also pp. 75-78. MAthodes des Sciences Sociales (3rd ed., Paris:
“Sartori, op. cit., p. 1033. See also Paul F. Lazars- Presses Universitaires de France, 1964), pp. 375-99;
feld and Allen H. Barton, “Qualitative Measurement John W. M. Whiting, “The Cross-Cultural Method,”
in the Social Sciences: Classification, Typologies, and in Gardner Lindzey, ed., Handbook of Social PsyIndices,” in Daniel Lerner and Harold D. Lasswell,
chology (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1954), Vol.
eds., The Policy Sciences: Recent Developments in
1, pp. 523-31; Frank W. Moore, ed., Readings in
Scope and Method (Stanford: Stanford UniversityCross-Cultural Methodology (New Haven, Conn.:
Press, 1951), pp. 155-92.
HRAF Press, 1961); Adam Przeworski and Henry
9Gunnar Heckscher, The Study of Comparative
Teune, The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry
Government and Politics (London: Allen and Un(New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1970); and Robert T.
win, 1957), p. 68 (italics added).
Holt and John E. Turner, “The Methodology of Com”Walter Goldschmidt, Comparative Functionalism:parative Research,” in Holt and Turner, eds., The
An Essay in Anthropological Theory (Berkeley: UniMethodology of Comparative Research (New York:
versity of California Press, 1966), p. 4. Oscar LewisFree Press, 1970), pp. 1-20.
argues that “there is no distinctive ‘comparative meth13 The case study method will be discussed below.
od’ in anthropology,” and that he therefore prefers to
” Eugene J. Meehan, The Theory and Method of
discuss “comparisons in anthropology rather than Political
Analysis (Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press,
comparative method.” See his “Comparisons in Cul1965). He expresses this idea in three short sentences:
tural Anthropology” in William L. Thomas, Jr., ed.,
“Science seeks to establish relationships” (p. 35);
Current Anthropology (Chicago: University of Chi”Science . . . is empirical” (p. 37); “Science is a
cago Press, 1956), p. 259.
generalizing activity” (p. 43).
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684 The American Political Science Review Vol. 65
the experimental
method does
not handle
can only rarely be used in
bethe problem
of control perfectly, because the
cause of practical and ethical
investigator can never
be completelyis
sure that
An alternative to the experimental
groups are the
alike in every respect.16
the statistical method. It his
But experimental
design provides obthe closest
(mathematical) manipulation
of empiricially
to this ideal. The
served data-which cannot approximation
be manipulated
in turn, is an approximation-not
uationally as in experimental
equivalent-of the experimental
method. Conto discover controlled relationships
among vari-
versely, oneof
can also
argue, as Lazarsfeld
ables. It handles the problem
by does,
that the experimental
method constitutes a spemeans of partial correlations.
For instance,
form ofthe
the statistical
method, but only if
when one wants to inquirecialinto
between political participation
eduone adds that
it islevel
an especially
cation attained, one should The
in- is, in
logic of the for
fluence of age because younger
have exaccordance
with the general standard
received more education than older generapounded by Nagel, also the same as the logic of
tions. This can be done by partialing-dividing the experimental method. The comparative
the sample into a number of different age
method resembles the statistical method in all
groups and looking at the correlations betweenrespects except one. The crucial difference is
participation and education within each sepa- that the number of cases it deals with is too
rate age group. Paul F. Lazarsfeld states that
small to permit systematic control by means of
this is such a basic research procedure that it partial correlations. This problem occurs in sta-
“is applied almost automatically in empirical tistical operations, too; especially when one
research. Whenever an investigator finds him- wants to control simultaneously for many vari-
self faced with the relationship between two ables, one quickly “runs out of cases.” The comvariables, he immediately starts to ‘cross-tabu- parative method should be resorted to when the
late,’ i.e., to consider the role of further vari- number of cases available for analysis is so
small that cross-tabulating them further in order to establish credible controls is not feasible.
therefore, as an approximation of the experi- There is, consequently, no clear dividing line
mental method. As Ernest Nagel emphasizes, between the statistical and comparative meth-
The statistical method can be regarded,
“every branch of inquiry aiming at reliable gen- ods; the difference depends entirely on the
eral laws concerning empirical subject matter number of cases.’8 It follows that in many re-
must employ a procedure that, if it is not
strictly controlled experimentation, has the es-
16 For instance, if the groups are made equivalent
sential logical functions of experiment in in- by
quiry.”15 The statistical method does have these
essential logical functions, but it is not as
strong a method as experimentation because it
cannot handle the problem of control as well. It
cannot control for all other variables, merely
for the other key variables that are known or
suspected to exert influence. Strictly speaking,
means of deliberate randomization, the investigator
knows that they are alike with a very high degree of
probability, but not with absolute certainty. Moreover, as Hubert M. Blalock, Jr., states, so-called
“forcing variables” cannot be controlled by randomization. See his Causal Inferences in Nonexperimental
Research (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1964), pp. 23-26. In general, Blalock emphasizes “the underlying similarity between the logic of
making causal inferences on the basis of experimental
and nonexperimental designs” (p. 26).
14 Paul F. Lazarsfeld, “Interpretation of Statistical 17Lazarsfeld, “Interpretation of Statistical Relations
Relations as a Research Operation,” in Lazarsfeld and as a Research Operation,” p. 119. Talcott Parsons
Morris Rosenberg, eds., The Language of Social Re- makes a similar statement with regard to the comsearch: A Reader in the Methodology of Social Re- parative method: “Experiment is . . . nothing but the
search (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1955), p. 115. How- comparative method where the cases to be compared
ever, control by means of partial correlations does not are produced to order and under controlled condiallow for the effects of measurement error or unique tions.” See his The Structure of Social Action (2nd
factor components; see Marilynn B. Brewer, William ed., New York: Free Press, 1949), p. 743. Another
D. Crano and Donald T. Campbell, “Testing a Single- advantage of the experimental method is that the time
Factor Model as an Alternative to the Misuse of Par- variable is controlled, which is especially important if
tial Correlations in Hypothesis-Testing Research, Soci- one seeks to establish causal relationships. In statistical
ometry, 33 (March, 1970), pp. 1-11. Moreover, par- design, this control can be approximated by means of
tial correlations do not resolve the problem of the the panel method.
codiffusion of characteristics, known in anthropology
18In order to highlight the special problems arising
as “Galton’s problem”; see Raoul Naroll, “Two So-
from the availability of only a small number of cases,
lutions to Galton’s Problem,” Philosophy of Science, the comparative method is discussed as a distinct
28 (January, 1961), pp. 15-39, and Przeworski and method. Of course, it can be argued with equal justice
Teune, op. cit., pp. 51-53.
that the comparative and statistical methods should be
16 Ernest Nagel, The Structure of Science (New regarded as two aspects of a single method. Many
York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1961), pp. 452f. authors use the term “comparative method” in the
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1971 Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method 685
search situations, with an intermediate number
of cases, a combination of the statistical and
comparative methods is appropriate. Where the
cases are national political systems, as they often are in the field of comparative politics, the
number of cases is necessarily so restricted that
the comparative method has to be used.
From the vantage point of the general aims
and the alternative methods of scientific inquiry, one can consider the comparative
method in proper perspective and answer such
questions as the following, raised by Samuel H.
Beer and by Harry Eckstein: Can comparison
The Comparative Method: Weaknesses
and Strengths
The principal problems facing the comparative method can be succinctly stated as: many
variables, small number of cases. These two
problems are closely interrelated. The former is
common to virtually all social science research
regardless of the particular method applied to
it; the latter is peculiar to the comparative
method and renders the problem of handling
many variables more difficult to solve.
Before turning to a discussion of specific su …
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