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What Is Comparative Political Theory?

The Review of Politics, Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 531–565, Fall 2009

35 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008 Last revised: 19 Nov 2009

Andrew F. March

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University

Date Written: September 3, 2008

Abstract

This paper examines what is involved in using comparative methods within political theory and whether there should be such a sub-field as "comparative political theory." It argues that "political theory" consists of multiple kinds of activities which are either primarily "scholarly" or "engaged." It is easy to imagine how scholarly forms of political theory can, and have been, comparative. The paper critiques, however, existing calls for the creation of "comparative political theory" (CPT) sub-field focused on the study of "non-Western" texts. CPT needs to explain why it is not merely "expanding the canon" to include non-Western texts and why a certain non-Western text is "alien," thus justifying the moniker "comparative." I argue, systematically though 10 discrete theses, that the strongest warrant for an "engaged" comparative political theory is the first-order evaluation of the implication of the contestations of norms, values and principles between distinct and coherent doctrines of thought.

Keywords: comparative political theory, religion, religious political thought, Islam, Islamic political thought

Suggested Citation

March, Andrew F., What Is Comparative Political Theory? (September 3, 2008). The Review of Politics, Vol. 71, No. 4, pp. 531–565, Fall 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1262832

Andrew F. March (Contact Author)

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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