Comparative Method in the 1990s
American Political Science Association – Comparative, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 1-2, 4-5, Winter 1998
4 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2011
Date Written: 1998
The late 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the “comparative method” as a new, fundamental component of the comparative politics enterprise; a quarter century later, a new set of debates have emerged on this branch of methodology. The article addresses the debate on the role of the comparative method versus the statistical method, concluding that while there is some movement away from the comparative method toward the statistical method, there is also movement back to it – the statistical method may be complemented by subsequent comparative work, and vice versa. Another long-standing concern of the comparative method is that of careful work with concepts. In an attempt to extend theories and hypotheses to a larger number of cases, conceptual stretching and loss of validity may occur. The article addresses the need for a disciplined understanding of how to employ concepts, as well as how to organize them into worthwhile theoretical arguments. In addressing the evolution of the comparative method, the article analyzes the effects of both debates.
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