“Those who only know one country know no country.” – Seymour Martin Lipset.
The scholar Guy Swanson once said, “Thinking without comparison is unthinkable. And, in the absence of comparison, so is all scientific thought and scientific research.” (cited in Ragin, 1992). As such, comparison is necessary for the development of political science. The ‘art of comparing’ can be seen as what experimentation is to most sciences – the principal and most effective way to test theory. (Peters, 1998) This essay seeks to describe the different aspects of the ‘art of comparing’ and also to detail the reasons why the comparative method is a necessary tool in the belt of any political scientist.Comparative politics is one of three main subfields in political science, alongside political theory and international relations. While political theory deals with theoretical issues about democracy, justice et cetera, comparative politics deals with more empirical questions. To use an example cited by Daniele Caramani in ‘Comparative Politics’ (2011), comparative politics is not interested in whether or not participation is good for democracy. It is instead concerned with the way people participate, and why they participate in certain ways. As such, comparative politics can be viewed as empirical and ‘value-free.’ On the other hand, international relations – as the name suggests – looks at interactions between political systems, whereas comparative politics prefers to study interactions within political systems. Again according to Caramani (2011), comparative politics does not ignore external influences on internal structures, but its ultimate concern is power configurations within sovereign systems.
The ‘art of comparison’ is a necessary tool in any po…
…le Caramani, 2011. Comparative Politics. 2 Edition. Oxford University Press, USA.
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4. Guy B. Peters, 1998. Comparative Politics: Theory and Methods (Comparative Government and Politics). Edition. Palgrave Macmillan.
5. Peter Hall 2004 ‘Beyond the Comparative Method’ ASPA- Comparative Politics Newsletter, 15(2): 1-4
6. S.E. Finer, 1997. The History of Government from the Earliest Times: The Intermediate Ages v.2 (Vol 2). Edition. Oxford University Press.
7. Seymour Martin Lipset, 1996. American Exceptionalism : A Double-Edged Sword (AMERICAN HISTORY, POLITICAL THEORY). Edition. W. W. Norton & Company, Incorporated.
8. Todd Landman, 2000. Issues and Methods in Comparative Politics: An Introduction. 0 Edition. Routledge.