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Comparative Politics: Main Approaches

Comparative Politics: Main Approaches

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Comparative Politics: Main Approaches

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  1. Curtis Systems Theory Communication Theory Structural Functionalism Behavioralism Rational Choice Institutional Analysis Statistical Analysis Political Development Dependency Theory Political Culture Political Attitudes Political Cleavages Globalization Lane Behavioral Revolution Developmentalism/Dependency The Return of the State (Historical and Rational Choice) New Institutionalism Comparative Politics: Main Approaches They differ in the way of posing problems, the choice of relevant dimensions, and their methodological orientations

  2. Theory and the Art of Comparative Politics Ruth Lane Chapter 6

  3. What is a Theory in Comparative Politics? • (Common sense approach) one-dimensional position (organizing all theories along a scale in which my favorite approach ranks the best) • Lane: This approach to theory is egocentric and dogmatic

  4. (Instead) Two Strategies • Analysis of different forms of theory • Study of model building

  5. Forms of theory • Michel’s “iron law of oligarchy” (old, pre-behavioral form of theory) • Functionalism • Rational Choice “… a picture of a real theory is worth a thousand definitions” (Lane)

  6. 1. Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” • Michel’s theory has the form of a universal law • Theory of Oligarchy: All organizations are oligarchical • “every organ of the collectivity, brought into existence through the need for the division of labour, creates for itself as soon as it becomes consolidated, interests peculiar to itself” (Michel, qtd. by Lane 127) • The desire to dominate others is inherent to humankind

  7. Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” • Michel departs from understanding that there is a need for leadership among human beings, because the masses are not capable of governing themselves • Although we may be all equal in principle, there is no possibility to for us to exercise power directly (says Michel) and therefore we need to designate representatives, who specialize in governing us and tend to stay in office for a long time… • (Mass voting = Mass disempowerment) • Organizations generate oligarchies, yet disorganization carries even worse consequences • Change arises from competition between oligarchies and their (opportunistic) displacement • (not democracies but polyarchies)

  8. Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” • Michel connects observable variables with a logically consistent argument into a theory, or “a connected set of propositions that say something definite about the real world” (Lane 129) • His propositions are both of universal reach (parties, unions, the government, the state) and falsifiable (Can you find a case that contradicts the theory?) • As all theories, Michel’s explains specific aspects of reality

  9. 2. Functionalism • Functionalism/Structural Functionalism (developed within Behavioralism) • Almond, Parsons, Coleman, Easton • Main Assumption: Both social and political systems perform all of the functions that are needed by the survival of the system. • Ex: “adaptation,” “interest articulation,” “rule making” • Tautological structure? The argument tends to assume what it should be explained • Tendency to recognize functions to existent institutions

  10. Middle Range Functionalism: Robert Merton • Merton used functionalism as a tool of research. Instead of assuming that functions are performed, Merton explored, described, and analyzed them. • He argued that social functions should be inferred from objective phenomena that we can observe • Nuanced approach • Functions may be manifest or latent • Identification of both functions and dysfunctions • Functions arise from social needs (dysfunctions call for the elimination or change of the structures providing for them) • “Middle Range” theory builds up from empirical observation • Whenever people feel dissatisfied, there is a social need that sooner or later will create a “functional opportunity”

  11. 3. The Political Economy/Rational Choice Approach • Dominant in American politics and International Relations • Not so popular in Comparative Politics • Because of the complexity and diversity of problems we deal with • Rational choice theories are logical, consistent, and parsimonious • Yet they rely on very strong assumptions on the nature of individuals and humankind (= maximizer/economic beings)

  12. Whereas individualism, selfishness, and a maximizer’s rationality may be spread in market societies such as ours, comparative studies suggest that these characteristics are not species-like but historically (re)produced and circumscribed • Thus, the theory’s universal claims seem weak

  13. “Cultural” Rationalities • Rational choice scholars’ effort to expand the definition of “rationality” (to be rational, goals must not necessarily be individually or economically oriented. Goals defined by ethics, religion, altruism, can be “rational”) • Identification of patterns and “operating principles” from different cultures and societies • Achievement: Openness to include different forms of rationality • Risk: Is any single “reason” inspiring behavior rational?

  14. Methods of Theory Building • Lave and March (1975) • Theory ≈ Models • Theory is Practical • Basic Rule: Start with a fact and ask “how it might have come about.” • Answers = Hypotheses (need to be tested)

  15. Steps • Processes underlying events • Implications (logical connectors that make different political situations understandable) • Generalizability (arises not from statistics but from the common core of the political process. Clarifying a process at one level may illuminate other levels) • Quality of Explanation (test your explanation with an eight-year-old). Not only prediction, but exposition of the “logic of the causal connections.”

  16. The “Politics” Model • Neither “progress,” nor “democracy” nor “development” are seen as independent forces anymore… But just individuals and groups • Practical confrontation of individuals and groups using different resources

  17. The “Politics” Model • Identify major participants • Identify both individual and group ideas (political culture) • Assess the participants’ resources • Assess the structure of opportunities and constraints • Examine functional opportunities and alternatives

  18. Common Pattern • “Because of a given situation… then a certain situation arose, which changed the political situations of the participants, so that a new situation ensued and so on until one reaches the conclusion that this interlocked set of processes has provided an explanation.”(Lane 140)

  19. For the final exam, examine and discuss a problem in a comparative perspective. You will write on three (or more) countries, and will have to include the United States in your (comparative) analysis. Include also Mexico, China, India, Russia, or one of the countries of the Middle East. Compare the cases along one of the questions below (or use one of your own that is framed in similar terms). Restate the problem in the question, place each country in relation to the problem, present a clear argument and develop it with the support of a major source of data (it can be statistics, historical data, or people’s stories). Which theory or theories of those presented by Ruth Lane and Michael Curtis seem better suited to account for your problem? Which theories seem completely wrong instead? (How much) Can you generalize on your conclusions? How would you go ahead to put together an empirical research project on this question? Be selective in the use of data (use only the data that is relevant to answer to the question) and include the sources and references at the end of your essay (include sources at the end). *Discuss the relationships between globalization and democratization *Does democracy produce economic wealth, or it is instead wealth that promotes democracy? *In the last three decades, democratic regimes have expanded dramatically around the world. Whereas this trend is still celebrated, there are certain warnings on that democratization could be in danger. How can we tell whether democratization is receding or progressing? *Do political parties and party systems enhance or hinder democracy? *Do political stability and participation oppose to each other? *If political culture frames political institutions, how much can institutional reform transform (authoritarian) political culture? Should we try to intervene to make culture more democratic everywhere, or it would be more prudent to leave culture as it is to avoid unforeseen consequences? Why? *What kind of party systems are best suited to make democracy thrive? What signs to you would indicate the need for change when it comes to the party system? ¡Electoral systems “produce” different party systems. So far, we explored the most popular ones (Single Member District and Proportional Representation ) plus variants (the Japanese SNTV) and combinations of the main systems in different countries. Which system, or combination, do you find better expresses the ideals and preservation of a democracy? Why?