Comparitivism and its discontents

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  • Comparitivism and its discontents
    • Philosophical tradition of studying politics
      • Asks ethical and normative questions, i.e what should be and not what is.
      • Tends to ask questions of a more utopian nature.
        • What should a just society look like? Why should we obey rulers? How should resources be distributed? etc.
    • Scientific method of studying politics
      • Started with Machiavelli in the 16th century
      • Attempted to determine historical and scientific laws which would look at politics in a less utopian light.
      • Throughout the 20th century the scientific method began using data and statistics to predict the outcomes of elections and other political phenomena
      • Two precepts - 1. The world is knowable, 2. Knowledge is gained through enquiry (Empiricism).
      • Goal of generalisation
    • What is comparitivism?
      • The dominant methodology in political science
      • Comparisons allow us to draw meaningful conclusions about our cases which allow us to determine rules for the future.
    • Problems with the comparative method
      • Relies on detailed knowledge of a case before study
      • Often features too much description and not enough analysis
      • Has to be an A priori reason for comparing two cases in the first place.
      • Not interested in variations but in similarities between cases.
      • Possibility of concept stretching - When a concept becomes so abstract that a theory becomes invalid


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