Comparative Politics Essay

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“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
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The first strand can be summed up in this Rudyard Kipling quote: “What should they know of England, that only England know?” The art of comparison is necessary because it allows exploration, which is the starting point of all political analysis. To find out about others is to find out about oneself. Comparison allows political scientists to recognise difference, which is essential to understanding these differences. One good example of this comparative exploration is MacAuley’s 1967 ‘Sandino Affair’ (cited in Landman, 2000). This is an account of Sandino’s guerrilla attempt to oust US marines from Nicaragua after a presidential succession crisis, and while it accounts in great detail the events that happened, it is an example of ‘evidence without inference’ (Almond 1996, cited in Landman, 2000) – the author tells the story, but makes no attempt to make sweeping generalisations about the results of US imperialism.
The second strand is classification. The art of comparing allows political scientists to group cases into distinct categories with shared, identifiable characteristics, allowing us to identify patterns that will help to understand interactions both between and within political systems. This classification goes back to the work of Aristotle in 350 BC, when the famous philosopher grouped regime types
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