Comparing America: Reflections on Democracy Across Subfields

24 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2018 Last revised: 12 Sep 2018

Date Written: August 30, 2018


Is America in a period of democratic decline? This essay argues that there is an urgent need to consider the United States in comparative perspective, and that doing so is necessary to contextualize and explain problems with American democracy. It describes two approaches to comparing the United States: the first shows how the United States stacks up to other countries, while the second uses the theories and tools of comparative politics to explain democratic outcomes in the United States. It then draws on research in three literatures -- clientelism and corruption, capitalism and redistribution, and race and ethnic politics and American Political Development -- to lay out a research agenda for closing the gap between the subfields of American and comparative politics. In doing so, it also argues for richer engagement between academics and the public sphere, as opportunities expand for political scientists to provide commentary and analysis about contemporary politics.

Keywords: Democracy; United States; Comparative Politics; American Politics; Capitalism; Inequality; Corruption; Race and Ethnic Politics; Development

Suggested Citation

Kuo, Didi, Comparing America: Reflections on Democracy Across Subfields (August 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Didi Kuo (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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