POLS 373 Foundations of Comparative Politics Topic: Introduction to Comparative Politics and Comparative Analysis Lecture Date: April 3 and 5, 2007 Professor Timothy Lim California State University, Los Angeles
Studying Comparative PoliticsAn Introduction Bowling for Columbine and Comparative Politics • Bowling for Columbine helps illustrate thepoint that comparative politics, as a field ofstudy, has relevance in unexpected places • Comparative politics provides us with a ready array of conceptual and analytical tools that we can use to address and answer a wide range of questions--from the mundane tothe sublime--about the world
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 • Traditionally, the United States was excluded, but, in principle, no good reason for doing so ?
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, however, is still not enough: comparative politics is more than just studying different countries comparatively • As a field of study, comparative politics also focuses on the politics of a given country, state or society, which raises one more question … What is politics? Discuss
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?
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?
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 and open-ended process involving multiple actors, multiple forces, multiple struggles, etc. • 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, short, transcends borders Process: a set or course of actions and events that lead to a particular outcome; process implies movement; and open-ended process suggests that outcomes are uncertain
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.
Back to the Comparative Method What is the Comparative Method?
The Basics of ComparingThe First Lesson “Thinking without comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research.” This quote tells us that we cannot escape the process of comparing. It’s part and parcel of thinking in general, and it’s integral to the scientific enterprise.
The Basics of ComparingThe First Lesson Is Comparative Politics a Distinct Field? • If we all compare, if all science is based on comparison, then what separates comparative politics from other fields of study? In principle, comparative politics (CP) is no different from other fields; in practice, however, one thing that sets CP apart from other fields is the explicit and direct focus on the comparative method--as opposed to simply “comparing” (more on this later)
The Basics of ComparingAnother Basic Question Why Compare? What is/are the Purpose(s) of Comparing? • In the book … 3 general purposes of comparing are discussed Comparing to _______________ Comparing to _______________ Comparing to _______________ control understand explain
The Basics of ComparingWhy Compare: To Control Consider these arguments or claims: • Ineffective and corrupt governments are the main obstacle to economic growth • Authoritarian political systems are more conducive to high levels of economic growth than democracies • Islamic culture is fundamentally incompatible with democracy • The relatively poor math and science skills of American students are due to overcrowded and poorly-funded schools How do we know or how can we know if any of these claims is right, wrong, or something else?
The Basics of ComparingWhy Compare: To Control Another Example: Possible causes of America’s high rate of gun violence • Violent video games and entertainment • Anti-social rock music and/or Marilyn Manson • Too many guns • Too much poverty • Too much ethnic/racial diversity • History of violence in the United States
The Basics of ComparingWhy Compare: To Control Comparing to Control and Comparative Checking Through comparative checking, many possible causes of gun violence can be eliminated or problematized • Violent video games and entertainment:Plenty of violent games and entertainment in Japan, Germany, Canada, and so on • Anti-social rock music and/or Marilyn Manson:Germany is home to “Goth Rock,” yet has low rate of gun violence • Too many guns: Several countries have very high rates of gun ownership, but low rates of gun violence X X X
The Basics of ComparingWhy Compare: To Control (Continued) Through comparative checking, many possible causes of gun violence can be eliminated or problematized • Too much poverty:Plenty of poor countries that have much less gun violence than US • Too much ethnic/racial diversity:Plenty of ethnically diverse countries with low rates of gun violence • History of Violence:Many societies have far more violent pasts than the U.S. X X X
The Basics of Comparing:Why Compare: To Understand and Explain Click on links for fuller definition Comparing to Understand Focus on a specific place and time; idiographic (definition: “of or relating to the study or discovery of particular scientific facts and processes, as distinct from general law”): researchers interested in understanding, use comparisons to better understand a single case Comparing to Explain Focus on theory or general principles; nomothetic (definition: “of or relating to the study or discovery of general scientific laws”): researchers interested in explanation, use comparisons to build general explanations or theories that apply across a range of specific cases Be sure to remember the distinction between comparing to control, to understand and to explain
Basics of Comparing: A Summary of the Three Purposes Comparing to Control Comparing to Understand Comparing to Explain This table is on p. 23 of the textbook
The Basics of Comparing:More Questions What is Comparable? What Can We Compare? Can apples and oranges be compare?
The Basics of ComparingSome Questions What is Comparable? What Can We Compare? • If apples and oranges can be compared, can Haiti and the United also be compared? • Is such a comparison reasonable? Why or why not?
The Basics of ComparingSome Questions What is Comparable? What Can We Compare? • Key point: The question--“What is comparable?”-- does not have a fixed answer • The answer always depends on the purposes of the researcher and the research question
The Basics of ComparingSome Questions • What is Comparable? Another Answer Scientifically speaking, we can compare “entities whose attributes are in part shared (similar) and in part non-shared” Translation: Subjects of comparison must have something (significant) in common, but they cannot be exactly the same
The Basics of Comparing What is Comparable? In principle, then … • The United States and Haiti can be compared because they have something (significant) in common, but they are not exactly alike • Apples and oranges can be compared because they have something (significant) common--they’re both fruits--but they are not exactly alike But what about the following … • Identical twins? • The US in 1940 and the US in 2007? Short answer is “yes.” Identical twins may be biologically identical, but they cannot have the exact same experiences growing up; a country changes over time, so the US in 1940 is different from the US in 2007
The Basics of Comparing One Last Point on “What is Comparable?” Comparisons need not be limited to countries or societies: • Events (like a war or revolution) are comparable • Political or social institutions are comparable (e.g. the executive branch, the military, economic agencies) • Policies are comparable (e.g. health care, aid to the poor, official development assistance)
The Basics of ComparingAdvantages of Comparing Two General Advantages of Comparative Analysis • Ability to deal with complex causality • Ability to get inside the “black box” of explanation
The Basics of ComparingAdvantages of Comparing Complex causality--An Example: • To say that a “culture of fear” is the reason for the high rate of gun homicides in the United States is simplistic • The statement fails, for example, to recognize complex causality • Moore’s argument, however, can be refined to show a greater appreciation for complex causality, as indicated in the figure
The Basics of ComparingAdvantages of Comparing Statistical or quantitative analysis does a very good job of showing a correlation between X and Y, but typically does not explain why this correlation exists in the first place. Getting inside the black box of explanation may be possible with statistical analysis, but qualitative analysis is usually much better suited for this task.
The Basics of Comparing The Logic of Comparative Analysis • To do comparative analysis properly, one absolutely, positively must have a grasp of the general logic of comparing
The Basics of Comparing The Logic of Comparative Analysis • In the dictionary, logic is defined in the following ways: • Reasoning conducted or assessed according to strict principles of validity; a particular system or codification of the principles of proof and inference; the systematic use of symbolic and mathematical techniques to determine the forms of valid deductive argument • A system or set of principles underlying the arrangements of elements in a computer or electronic device so as to perform a specified task logical operations collectively
The Basics of Comparing The Logic of Comparative Analysis • In the context of comparative analysis, logic refers … to the basic principles upon which most (and most types of) comparisons are based • These principles have to do with the justification or rationale underlying all comparisons in the most general sense • For our purposes, the two “logics” we need to know are the most ______________ systems and the most _______________ systems designs similar different
Logic of Comparative AnalysisThe Most Similar Systems Design 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 then comparing two more systems that share a whole range of similarities, but also __________ in at least a couple of important respects differ
Logic of Comparative AnalysisThe Most Similar Systems Design The MSS Design • To Repeat: In the MSS design, differences are key!
Logic of Comparative AnalysisThe Most Similar Systems Design The MSS Design • If differences are key, what needs to differ? A: _____________________ B: _____________________ Independent Variable Dependent Variable
Logic of Comparative AnalysisDependent and Independent Variables Definitions • Independent variables can be defined simply as those which act on or affect something • Dependent variables are those that are being affected or acted on • Put more simply: independent variables are the cause of a certain outcome, while the dependent variable is the outcome or effect itself Click on links for fuller definition
Logic of Comparative AnalysisDependent and Independent Variables Consider the Following Example … • American students do relatively poorly in math and science because schools in the United States are overcrowded and poorly funded. The dependent variable is ___________________________ The independent variable(s) is/are ________________________________________________ poor math and science scores overcrowded and poorly funded schools
Logic of Comparative AnalysisDependent and Independent Variables Other Important Points about Variables First, all social science arguments require an independent and dependent variable Second, in a social science argument, both variables need to be defined as precisely as possible Third, you need to be able to specify the relationship between the independent and dependent variables
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Similar Systems Design MSS in BFC (Bowling for Columbine) • To better understand the basic logic of MSS, let’s consider the case of gun violence in the US and Canada • Did Michael Moore use an MSS design? • What were his(unstated)comparative assumptions? Yeah, I did use an MSS design* See the next slide … * But maybe I didn’t know I did
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Similar Systems Design MSS in BFC (Bowling for Columbine) Key Assumptions • First, Moore assumed that the “units” or cases shared an extremely wide range of similarities • Second, he assumed that, once he controlled for all of the similarities, that there would be at least a few significant differences between his two cases • Third, he assumed that, for the comparison to make sense, the dependent variable between the cases had to “vary”(called variance on the dependent variable)
Logic of Comparative Analysis The “Rubber Ducky” Example The task when comparing two very similar systems is to find the key differences in a sea of similarities. Each “plain” rubber ducky represents a similarity between two systems, A and B.
Logic of Comparative Analysis The “Rubber Ducky” Example Once the similarities are identified, the researcher can “eliminate”(or control for) for these; this is represented by the “x.” This done, the researcher can then focus on finding the key differences between the two systems
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Similar Systems Design: A Bad Example A Flawed MSS Design This (hypothetical) design is based on the argument that both Taiwan and Korea have a “developmental state” (independent variable, x), and both cases experienced a “very high rate of economic growth” (dependent variable, y). Therefore, x is the cause of y But, how do we know that x is the key independent variable, or even a significant independent variable? What about: Culture-----> y or Skilled workforce -----> y? KEY: in this “MSS” design, there are simply no differences between the two cases. This ain’t good! This table is on p. 40 of the text
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Different Systems Design Contrasting the MSS and the MDS designs MSS:In a vast sea of similarities, find the _____________ between two very similar systems MDS:In a vast sea of differences, find _____________ between very dissimilar systems differences similarities
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Different Systems Design Implications of MDS logic • Unlike the MSS design, you don’t need, nor do you want variance on the dependent variable • In other words, the dependent variable should be the same for all the units in an MDS design, and so should the independent variable How does it make sense to compare two things with a whole bunch of differences? What’s the point?
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Different Systems Design MDS logic: An an MDS design, the researcher considers differences largely irrelevant if, among the “most different systems” there are significant similarities. Consider a (hypothetical) comparison of suicide rates in Soviet Russia, Sweden and the Zuni …
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Different Systems Design MDS Logic: Basic Explanation Soviet Russia, Sweden, and the Zuni differed in almost everyrespect … • different economic systems, different political systems, different climates, different levels of economic wealth, different social structures, different ethnic makeup, different cultures, etc. … (hypothetically) they had one significant thing in common, namely, a high rate of suicide BUT To comparativists, the similar rate of suicide raises the question: despite all their differences, is there a common element (independent variable) in each “case” that could explain the high rate of suicide? The task in an MDS design is to find the common independent variable.
Logic of Comparative AnalysisMost Different Systems Design In Theda Skocpol’s research, she used three “most different systems” (Russia, France, and China) to find the cause of social revolution The logic is based on finding key similarities among all three units Differences can be eliminated