Comparative politics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Comparative politics is a field in political science characterized either by the use of the comparative method or other empirical methods to explore politics within (as opposed to between) countries. Substantively, this can include questions relating to political institutions, political behavior, conflict, and the causes and consequences of economic development. When applied to specific fields of study, comparative politics may be referred to by other names, such as comparative government (the comparative study of forms of government).


Comparative politics is the systematic study and comparison of the diverse political systems in the world. It is comparative in searching to explain why different political systems have similarities or differences and how developmental changes came to be between them. It is systematic in that it looks for trends, patterns, and regularities among these political systems.[1] The research field takes into account political systems throughout the globe, focusing on themes such as democratization, globalization, and integration.[1] New theories and approaches have been used in political science in the last 40 years thanks to comparative politics. Some of these focus on political culture, dependency theory, developmentalism, corporatism, indigenous theories of change, comparative political economy, state-society relations, and new institutionalism.[1] Some examples of comparative politics are studying the differences between presidential and parliamentary systems, democracies and dictatorships, parliamentary systems in different countries, multi-party systems such as Canada and two-party systems such as the United States. Comparative politics must be conducted at a specific point in time, usually the present. A researcher cannot compare systems from different periods of time; it must be static.[1]

While historically the discipline explored broad questions in political science through between-country comparisons, contemporary comparative political science primarily uses subnational comparisons.[2] More recently, there has been a significant increase in the interest of subnational comparisons and the benefit it has on comparative politics. We would know far less about major credible issues within political science if it weren't for subnational research. Subnational research contributes important methodological, theoretical, and substantive ideas to the study of politics.[3] Important developments often obscured by a national-level focus are easier to decipher through subnational research. An example could be regions inside countries where the presence of state institutions have been reduced in effect or value.[3]

The name comparative politics refers to the discipline's historical association with the comparative method, described in detail below. Arend Lijphart argues that comparative politics does not have a substantive focus in itself, but rather a methodological one: it focuses on "the how but does not specify the what of the analysis."[4] Peter Mair and Richard Rose advance a slightly different definition, arguing that comparative politics is defined by a combination of a substantive focus on the study of countries' political systems and a method of identifying and explaining similarities and differences between these countries using common concepts.[5][6]

Sometimes, especially in the United States, the term "comparative politics" is used to refer to "the politics of foreign countries." This usage of the term is disputed.[7][8]

Comparative politics is significant because it helps people understand the nature and working of political frameworks around the world. There are many types of political systems worldwide according to the authentic, social, ethnic, racial, and social history. Indeed, even comparative constructions of political association shift starting with one country then onto the next. For instance, India and the United States are majority-rule nations; nonetheless, the U.S. has a liberal vote-based presidential system contrasted with the parliamentary system used in India. Even the political decision measure is more diverse in the United States when found in light of the Indian popular government. The United States has a president as their leader, while India has a prime minister. Relative legislative issues encourage us to comprehend these central contracts and how the two nations are altogether different regardless of being majority rule. This field of study is critical for the fields of international relations and conflict resolution. Near politics encourages international relations to clarify worldwide legislative issues and the present winning conditions worldwide. Although both are subfields of political science, comparative politics examines the causes of international strategy and the effect of worldwide approaches and frameworks on homegrown political conduct and working.


While the name of the subfield suggests one methodological approach (the comparative method), political scientists in comparative politics use the same diversity of social scientific methods as scientists elsewhere in the field, including experiments,[9] comparative historical analysis,[10] case studies,[11] survey methodology, and ethnography.[12] Researchers choose a methodological approach in comparative politics driven by two concerns: ontological orientation[13] and the type of question or phenomenon of interest.[14]

(Mill's) comparative method[edit]

  • Most Similar Systems Design/Mill's Method of Difference: This method consists in comparing very similar cases which only differ in the dependent variable, on the assumption that this would make it easier to find those independent variables which explain the presence/absence of the dependent variable.[15]
  • Most Different Systems Design/Mill's Method of Similarity: This method consists in comparing very different cases, all of which however have in common the same dependent variable, so that any other circumstance which is present in all the cases can be regarded as the independent variable.[15]

Substantive areas of research in comparative politics[edit]

By some definitions, comparative politics can be traced back to Greek philosophy, as Plato's Republic and Aristotle's The Politics.

As a modern sub-discipline, comparative politics is constituted by research across a range of substantive areas, including the study of:

While many researchers, research regimes, and research institutions are identified according to the above categories or foci, it is not uncommon to claim geographic or country specialization as the differentiating category.

Notable works[edit]

In their work, The Civic Culture, Almond and Verba embark on the first major cross-national survey of attitudes to determine the role of political culture in maintaining the stability of democratic regimes.
The Spirit of the Laws
In Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (1966) Moore compares revolutions in countries like England, Russia and Japan (among others). His thesis is that mass-led revolutions dispossess the landed elite and result in Communism, and that revolutions by the elite result in Fascism. It is thus only revolutions by the bourgeoisie that result in democratic governance. For the outlier case of India, practices of the Mogul Empire, British Imperial rule and the Caste System are cited.
The Art of Not Being Governed
Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the French Revolution
The Third Wave and Political Order in Changing Societies
Patterns of Democracy (1999), a comprehensive study of democracies around the world.
Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post Communist Europe
Political Man: The Social Basis of Politics (1960)
Critical Citizens (1999)
Making Democracy Work (1993), a major work assessing why some democratic governments work and other fail, based on the study of the Italian regional governments.
In States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China Theda Skocpol compares the major revolutions of France, Russia and China: three basically similar events which took place in three very different contexts. Skopcol's purpose is to find possible similarities which might help explain the phenomenon of political revolution. From this point of view, this work represents a good example of a research conducted according to the Most Different Systems Design.
Parties and Party Systems

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Wiarda, Howard (June 17, 2019). "New Directions in Comparative Politics". doi:10.4324/9780429494932. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ Clark, William; Golder, Matt; Golder, Sona (2019). Foundations of Comparative Politics. Thousand Oaks,CA: CQ Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-5063-6073-7.
  3. ^ a b Giraudy, Agustina (2019). "Subnational Research in Comparative Politics". doi:10.1017/9781108678384. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Lijphart, Arend (1971). "Comparative politics and the comparative method". American Political Science Review. 65 (3): 682–693. doi:10.2307/1955513. JSTOR 1955513. S2CID 55713809.
  5. ^ Mair, Peter (1996). "Comparative politics: An introduction to comparative.overview". In Goodin, Robert E.; Klingemann, Hans-Dieter (eds.). A New Handbook of Political Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 309–335. ISBN 0-19-829471-9. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2008-08-25.
  6. ^ Rose, Richard; MacKenzie, W. J. M. (1991). "Comparing forms of comparative analysis". Political Studies. 39 (3): 446–462. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.1991.tb01622.x. S2CID 145410195. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21.
  7. ^ Hopkin, J. [2002 (1995)] "Comparative Methods", in Marsh, D. and G. Stoker (ed.) Theory and Methods in Political Science, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 249–250
  8. ^ van Biezen, Ingrid; Caramani, Daniele (2006). "(Non)comparative politics in Britain". Politics. 26 (1): 29–37. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00248.x. S2CID 145654851. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05.
  9. ^ Gerber, Alan; Green, Donald (2012). Field Experiments: Design, Analysis, and Interpretation. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company. ISBN 978-0393979954.
  10. ^ Mahoney, James; Thelen, Kathleen, eds. (2015). Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis. Cambridge University Press.
  11. ^ Geddes, Barbara (2010). Paradigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics. Ann Arbor,MI: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-09835-4.
  12. ^ Simmons, Erica; Rush Smith, Nicholas (2017). "Comparison with an Ethnographic Sensibility". PS:Political Science & Politics. 50 (1): 126–130. doi:10.1017/S1049096516002286.
  13. ^ Hall, Peter (2003). "Aligning Ontology and Methodology in Comparative Politics". In Mahoney, James; Rueschemeyer, Dietrich (eds.). Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences. New York,NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81610-6.
  14. ^ King, Gary; Keohane, Robert; Verba, Sidney (1994). Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03470-2.
  15. ^ a b Anckar, Carsten. "On the Applicability of the Most Similar Systems Design and the Most Different Systems Design in Comparative Research." International Journal of Social Research Methodology 11.5 (2008): 389–401. Informaworld. Web. 20 June 2011.

External links[edit]