Introduction to Comparative Politics
Our world is diverse in many ways. Every state prides itself on its own political, social, economic, and religious unique. However, there are many situations where we all have something in common. Politics, in particular, is the primary determinant of the face of the world. It determines the state of nations, their economic development, internal and international affairs. This, of the essence, means global systems vary in many ways from select countries. Every nation has political systems that establish and determines where the nation is heading. As you may already know, one of the major factors determining how developed a state is, comes from its political stability. Hence, the study and application of political ideas are essential for societal growth.
When studying international relations and political sciences, one of the main areas to cover is comparative politics. It is the type of political study that extends beyond the boundaries of one nation-state to compare systematically. There are two main approaches to comparative politics: the cross-national approach and area studies approach.
- Cross-national. In this case, there is the involvement of a large number of nation-states. It seeks to address specific theoretical questions, especially concerning broad applicability. The tools involved in this process are usually quantitative analysis or empirical data. This approach aims to look at different states of a selected region all at once, analyzing different political scenarios for a specified objective.
- The Area-of-Study Approach. This method comes down to a specific country or nation to offer in-depth political analysis. It focuses on a select society by immersion into the language and culture of the select geographical region. In other words, it puts greater emphasis on particular features of a specified country rather than combining several states into one. It aims to understand the politics of the region base on shared norms and beliefs.
Importance of Studying Comparative Politics
In many cases, a department faculty seeks experts in politics from different countries to teach comparative politics. This means it is essential that the instructor knows the geographical region. The cause deals with political experiences and the orientation of the said nation. Hence, students will be exposed to understanding the histories and development of politics from different regions.
Comparative Politics seeks to compare different nation-states, their politics, cultures, and social lives. Hence, it is not only about political prowess. Politics, as stated above, extends to other aspects of life, including religion and the economy. Students in this field, therefore, become familiar with broad-ranging literature in this subject. Using its methods and tools of research combined with massive data sources from a wide range of countries, students become sharper and more receptive to diversity.
A student may choose to focus on specific topical areas like comparative government institutions, relative political organizations, or comparative political economies. Within these broad areas are sub-subjects like executive cabinets, legislatures, decentralization, and democratization, which focus on an in-depth understanding of government operations. Such knowledge helps shape the future of nations, creating a more cohesive society. A student may have expertise in European or Latin American Politics.
In summary, comparative politics seeks to answer the following questions:
- Why are authoritarian states democratized?
- What brings about contours, dynamics, and nation-states?
- Why do civil wars and revolutions erupt?
- What is the significance of political parties in politics in modern democracies?
- Why is there patronage in some parties and policy programs in others?]
- What is the role of citizens and courts in politics?
There are many other issues that comparative politics solve, as stated in the “Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics” (Boix and Stokes 2007). Discovering comparative politics may take varying forms. It develops mostly through theory-based discoveries and innovation.
Comparative Politics and Political Science (Empirical)
There has been a significant change in comparative politics over the past few decades. The major ones include its objective inquiry, data gathering techniques/its test for empirical findings, and in the assumptions, it uses to contract theoretical prepositions. Because of this, comparative politics has sufficiently matured to become a significant contributor to empirical political inquiry; it is no longer based on normative or philosophical approaches. It is, therefore, likely to remain an independent subject of study in the US and other parts of the world. However, a closer look reveals that comparative politics (just like economic theory replaced national economies) is turning into real political science.
Earlier graduates in comparative politics (from 1960 to 1980) received instructions based on the area-of-study approach. At this time, comparative politics was all about studying the politics of an alien state rather than making a comparison. It comes hand in hand with the epistemological view. The researcher focused on a particular polity, presenting a deep understanding and detailed analysis of the select state. These meant, for a more comprehensive comparison, there was a need for experts from different polities to bring together their findings. Such descriptive work would then mean the theoretical ambitions that controlled may minds, including Aristotle, were void.
But then, development in the field has given birth to broader views, starting with epistemological. Most comparatists have focused on testing causal theoretical models in their approaches. The object of research has, therefore, changed, giving birth to many progenitors. One of the primary reasons for this change is in the limits of writing single case studies. Many researchers agree that there is a need for a broader, general proposition about politics. Comparative politics has thus changed, embracing the application of basic scientific practices invalidation and theories. In other words, possibilities in theory-building and theory-testing through standard scientific procedures have been accepted.
There is so much change in comparative politics today that it has become an independent subject, one with so much in-depth knowledge to uncover. The growing demand for emphasis on building widely acceptable theoretical propositions was the first transformation in the field. Together with the increasing acceptance of an individual’s roles and motives, they have positively impacted comparative politics, especially from a political science point of view. Therefore, there is a lot to learn from this field, owing to the changing times within the global political arena. It is one of the most important subjects of study in modern society.
Author: James Hamilton