Democracy and Dichotomies: A Pragmatic Approach to Choices About Concepts

Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 2, pp. 537-565, 1999

29 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2010 Last revised: 25 Mar 2016

David Collier

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science

Robert Adcock

American University - School of International Service

Date Written: 1999

Abstract

Prominent scholars engaged in comparative research on democratic regimes are in sharp disagreement over the choice between a dichotomous or graded approach to the distinction between democracy and nondemocracy. This choice is substantively important because it affects the findings of empirical research. It is methodologically important because it raises basic issues, faced by both qualitative and quantitative analysts, concerning appropriate standards for justifying choices about concepts. In our view, generic claims that the concept of democracy should inherently be treated as dichotomous or graded are incomplete. The burden of demonstration should instead reston more specific arguments linked to the goals of research. We thus take the pragmatic position that how scholars understand and operationalize a concept can and should depend in part on what they are going to do with it. We consider justifications focused on the conceptualization of democratization as an event, the conceptual requirements for analyzing subtypes of democracy, the empirical distribution of cases, normative evaluation, the idea of regimes as bounded wholes, and the goal of achieving sharper analytic differentiation.

Suggested Citation

Collier, David and Adcock, Robert, Democracy and Dichotomies: A Pragmatic Approach to Choices About Concepts (1999). Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 2, pp. 537-565, 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1540880

David Collier (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Robert Adcock

American University - School of International Service ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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