The Travelling problem in comparative politics. Alistair Cole. Introduction and context . Text an excerpt from Comparative Politics: theory and Methods, by Guy Peters, one of the leading US political scientists
PowerPoint Slideshow about 'The Travelling problem in comparative politics' - lotus
An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation
Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.
Researchers engaged in comparative research practice face the challenge of establishing the equivalence of both the theoretical concepts applied across a range of cases and the indicators or variables identified that relate to these concepts.
There are various conventions... that some, like Sartori, would see as rules.
Peters gives the example of Schmitter’s attempt to define a cross-national explanation of democracy.
This can be done either in terms of an ideal type (Weber: what features correspond to an ideal type of model); or by defining sub-types that each contain some element of the phenomenon, but differ in other respects.
Democracy? Schmitter and Mahon qualify the generic terms by the use of the adjective: Corporatist Democracy, Populist Democracy, Consociational Democracy, Electoralist democracy...
The concept of democracy is essentially contestable
Sartori’s (1970) ‘ladder of abstraction’ identified two complimentary strategies in tacking equivalence:
moving ‘down’ the ladder to generate further differentiation of concepts with more defined attributes applied to fewer cases
or alternatively moving ‘up’ the ladder to avoid ‘conceptual stretching’, whereby concepts have fewer defined attributes but can be applied to more cases.
Sartori’s analysis has provided a useful foundation for a range of contributions to the challenges of concept formation within the comparative context (see for example Collier & Mahon, 1993; Collier & Levitsky, 1997; Collier & Adcock, 1999).
The ladder of abstraction allows similar concepts to be applied to distinctive contexts.
Hence ‘corporate pluralism’ might make sense in Norway (bottom of the ladder)
but be more akin to Corporatism in Germany (i.e. iron triangle ) or to pluralism in the UK. (mid-way up the ladder)
In the higher level of abstraction, it might just refer to state-society relations. (top of the ladder)
However, comparing policy contexts across national boundaries continues to present conceptual challenges, with some responses to the development of conceptual equivalence critiqued for potentially generating too many concepts or sub-types, leading to confusion and stifling comparison (Collier & Levitsky, 1997)
The other approach is to adopt more interpretative frames; not literally to measure/falsify, but to understand and interpret.
Literally, the Sartori model is too limiting.
Collier and Mahon prefer the idea of sharing some attributes, or radial categories.
A case has either a family resemblance (sharing most categories of a concept), or shares one dominant characteristic (radial categories).
Hence, corporatism remains useful because it describes a dominant characteristic: though it might be defined in different ways in distinct countries, it refers to organised patterns of state-society relations
The key point about the ladder of abstraction is this is a continuum, or a spectrum; there are ways of positioning oneself depending upon where one is situated along the spectrum.
A single case study will allow a high degree of ‘intension’ - which might be appropriate for a single or binary case study. But a quantitative mass survey needs ‘extension’ – a concept that can travel, hence is relatively simple, with few characteristics.