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Introduction to the course September 24, 2008 seminar comparative politics professor timothy c. lim / cal state los angeles

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Presentation on theme: "Introduction to the course September 24, 2008 seminar comparative politics professor timothy c. lim / cal state los angeles"— Presentation transcript:

1 introduction to the course September 24, 2008 seminar comparative politics professor timothy c. lim / cal state los angeles

2 a brief introduction to the study of comparative politics

3 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 Movement in the United States, emerge and why do some succeed, while others fail? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

4 more questions …  Is the Arab-Islamic world uniquely resistant to democracy?  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? what are your answers? discuss. introduction to course principles of comparative politics

5 one more point …  we all have “answers,” at least tentative ones, to the types of questions just posed  but this leads to another, more fundamental, question how do you know if you’re right? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

6 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 within which certain variables can controlled for in order to isolate others. experiments establish causality. test experimentation Chemists and other natural scientists rely on experimentation, also known as the scientific method. introduction to course principles of comparative politics

7 how do you know if you’re right? In the social sciences, “testing” is often done indirectly through comparative analysis or the comparative method introduction to course principles of comparative politics

8 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” introduction to course principles of comparative politics

9 food for thought “Thinking without comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research.” food for thought “Thinking without comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research.”

10 introduction to course principles of comparative politics basics of the comparative method  the comparative method is based on a clear logic (actually, there are several logics)  the comparative method involves several different, but often inter-related strategies or designs  the comparative method has different objectives we will discuss each aspect of the comparative method shortly, but first a brief aside …

11 introduction to course principles of comparative politics important principles in social science arguments  generally speaking, all social science arguments require the independent and dependent variables to be explicitly identified  in a social science argument, both variables need to be defined or operationalized as precisely as possible  social science arguments must explain the relationship between the independent and dependent variables with precision, clarity, and depth (vagueness is not a virtue)

12 introduction to course principles of comparative politics important principles in social science arguments as you develop your research projects, it is imperative that you pay careful attention to the identification and definitions of your independent and dependent variables, and that you specify the relationship between or among your variables with as much clarity, precision, and depth as possible failure to do so will result in a bad argument and a bad research paper!

13 introduction to course principles of comparative politics basics of the comparative method: logic  there are several “logics” or principles of comparative analysis, but perhaps the two simplest are these …  most similar systems (mss)  most different systems (mds)

14 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 them comparing two more systems that share a whole range of similarities, but also differ in at least a couple of important respects  differences are key! Albino twins. Two most similar systems? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

15 the mds design  the mds design is based on comparing two or more very different social systems …  more importantly, it’s based on finding two systems that differ in almost all respects, except with regard to the presumed independent and dependent variables. (the many differences are eliminated as potential explanatory variables)  similarites are key! introduction to course principles of comparative politics apples and oranges. are they comparable?

16 introduction to course principles of comparative politics basics of the comparative method: strategies there are a number of specific comparative strategies, including …  case study (in comparative perspective) > within-case comparison > analytical induction  binary or two-unit comparison  multi-unit (three or more) comparison  cross-national, statistical comparison  mixed design

17 introduction to course principles of comparative politics basics of the comparative method: objectives  not all comparative strategies have the same objective, but what a researcher intends to accomplish with a comparison is critical. here are three basic objectives …  compare to control  compare to understand  compare to explain

18 remember! comparing to control comparing to understand comparing to explain introduction to course principles of comparative politics goals of comparing: summary of the three purposes

19 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 introduction to course principles of comparative politics

20 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? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

21 what is politics? a 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 introduction to course principles of comparative politics

22 what is politics? the process-oriented definition three basic points a process-oriented definition 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, such as churches, factories, corporations, trade unions, political parties, social movements, ethnic groups and organizations, women’s groups, organized crime, etc. of course, government is still part of the equation introduction to course principles of comparative politics 1.

23 what is politics? the process-oriented definition three basic points a process-oriented definition tells us that politics is an ongoing process involving multiple actors, multiple forces, multiple struggles, and so on a process-oriented definition 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 introduction to course principles of comparative politics 2. 3.

24 theory in comparative politics some questions  what is theory?  is theory necessary?  how should we use theory? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

25 theory in comparative politics: key points when we theorize, we are …  making judgments about what it and is not relevant or important in terms of explaining some significant economic, social or political phenomenon  identifying a specific level or levels of analysis and making assumptions about power, structure, and agency  connecting certain facts with specific outcomes introduction to course principles of comparative politics

26 theory in comparative politics basic definition of theory a is a kind of simplifying device that allows you to decide which facts matter and which do not introduction to course principles of comparative politics

27 theory in comparative politics an amended definition of theory is a simplified representation of reality and a framework within which facts are not only selected, but also interpreted, organized, and fit together so that they create a coherent whole introduction to course principles of comparative politics

28 a couple of important points. there are many theories in comparative politics but, just as all social science arguments require specification of variables, so too do all social science arguments require theory

29 in comparative politics simple division? despite the large number of individual theories, there are several useful ways to divide or categorize theoretical approaches … one method is to consider the level of analysis introduction to course principles of comparative politics micro-level meso-level macro-level

30 theory in comparative politics simple division? we can also divide theories on the basis of three dominant research traditions … introduction to course principles of comparative politics

31 theory in comparative politics which hat do you wear? introduction to course principles of comparative politics

32 theory in comparative politics a practical exercise. let’s return to a question posed at the outset …

33 theory in comparative politics the arab-islamic world seems uniquely resistant to democratic change? why?


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