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Important note l.jpg
Important Note

WARNING! These slides are formatted specifically for Mac computers. Due to formatting incompatibilities some slides may be unreadable on Windows-based PCs; other slides may have minor formatting problems. Sorry for the inconvenience.


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POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics

Topic: Introduction to Comparative Politics and Comparative Analysis

Lecture Date: January 7 and 9, 2008

Professor Timothy Lim

California State University, Los Angeles


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

Let’s Begin with Some Questions …

  • Why are there so many homicides in the United States?

  • Why do so many peoples and countries around the world remained mired in poverty and economic misery?

  • Conversely, how have some peoples and countries been able to become “rich” and prosperous in only a generation or two?

    • How do social movements, such as the Civil Rights Movements in the United States, emerge and why do some succeed, while others fail?

More questions on next slide


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

More Questions …

  • Can the United States successfully impose democracy on Iraq or other countries? Or, are all such efforts doomed to failure?

  • What are the causes of “terrorism” and other forms of political violence? Is anyone capable of becoming a terrorist?

    • What are the reasons for the relatively poor math and science skills of American teenagers?

So, what are your answers?

(Refer to p. 3 in the book for the list of the questions)


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

One More Point …

  • We all have “answers,” at least tentative ones, but this leads to another, more fundamental question …

How do you know if you’re right?

Discuss


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

How Do You Know If You’re Right?

  • Short answer: We have to be able to ______ the argument in some manner

    • In the natural sciences, this testing is often (though not always) done through ____________________ , that is, the creation of carefully controlled conditions in which certain variables can controlled for in order to isolate others. Experiments establish causality.

      • In the social sciences, “testing” is often done indirectly through comparative analysis or the comparative method

test

experimentation

Chemists and other natural scientists rely on experimentation, also known as the scientific method.

more


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

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”


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

How Do You Know if You’re Right?

To better understand the significance and utility of methodology, and the comparative method in particular, consider, again, the argumentadvanced by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine

Key point: Moore explicitlyand effectively used the comparative method (albeit,not perfectly)


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

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

    NOTE: Traditionally, the United States has been excluded from the field of comparative politics , but, in principle, there no good reason for doing so …

    Why not?


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

Comparative Politics is More Than Method

  • Saying that comparative politics is both a subject of study and a method of study is STILL not enough to

  • As a field of study, comparative politics also focuses on the politics of a given country, state or society, which raises one very important question …

What is politics?

Discuss


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

What is Politics?

  • Here’s a traditional or formal definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary …

    (1) Politics is the art or science of government; (2) it is the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy; or (3) it is the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

In this (three-fold) definition, where is politics “located”; that is, where does it occur? Who are the political “actors”? What is the “objective” of politics?

QUESTIONS


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

What is Politics?

  • An alternative, process-oriented, definition of politics …

    “Politics is about more than what governments chose to do or not do; it is about the uneven distribution of power in society, how the struggle over power is conducted, and its impact on the creation and distribution of resources, life chances and well-being”

~ Adrian Leftwich

How does this definition differ from the traditional definition? Is the difference significant? How so?


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

What is Significant about the Process-Oriented Definition of Politics?

  • First, it clearly takes politics out the governmental arena and puts it into almost all domains of life

    These other domains include virtually all social and civil institutions and actors, such as churches, factories, corporations, trade unions, political parties, think tanks, ethnic groups and organizations, women’s groups, organized crime, etc.

  • Second, it tells us that politics is an ongoing process involving multiple actors, multiple forces, multiple struggles, and so on

  • Third, it tells us that politics--as a struggle for power over the creation and distribution of resources, life chances and well-being--cannot be confined to a single place or territory: politics transcends borders

Process: a set or course of actions and events that lead to a particular outcome; a process is a movement


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Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction

Comparative Politics and a Process-Oriented Definition of Politics

  • In our course, the “politics” in comparative politics will be considered from processual perspective: in practice, this is how most (albeit not all) comparativists define politics

  • This leads to an amended definition of comparative politics …

Comparative politics, as a subject of study, examines the interplay of domestic and external forces on the politics of a given country, nation-state or society.


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