Comparative-Historical Analysis: Where Do We Stand?
Newsletter of the American Political Science Association Organized Section in Comparative Politics. Vol. 9, No. 2, Summer 1998
4 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2011
Date Written: June 1, 1998
The enterprise of comparative-historical analysis has gained an important place in comparative politics. This body of scholarship is heterogeneous, and work in this tradition can be understood as involving, in varying combinations: (1) a substantial time frame and unfolding of causal processes over time; (2) a sustained focus on a well-defined set of national cases; and (3) systematic comparison. Along with the rising significance of this approach, important questions have been raised. These focus on the possible narrowing of research topics and, with the shift to a younger generation of scholars, what may be a failure to remain at the center of scholarly debate in comparative politics; the limiting effects of reliance on J.S. Mill’s “methods of agreement and difference” as a tool of causal inference; and the value of primary versus secondary sources – along with the filtering of information and the particular interpretations that may be built into these alternative sources. This article addresses these questions and points to two priorities for work in this area: integrating the substantive findings of comparative-historical work and strengthening the framing of key concepts, such as path dependence.
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