The Main Models of Comparative Politics Essay

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Currently in the field of comparative politics, there are three main models that researchers tend to adhere to. These three are termed “rationalist”, “structuralist”, and “culturalist.” Each model has a quite distinct approach toward analysis of political phenomena. Simplified, they are as follows: the structuralist model examines the behavior of people based on the groups they belong to; the culturalist model takes careful note of the details surrounding particular events with respect to the distinguishing characteristics of the environment (or culture) that contained them; the rationalist model is based on logical explanations and predictions of behavior from the fundamental assumption of rational, self-interested individuals. Each model…show more content…
Mancur Olson, in his influential book The Logic of Collective Action, uses the rationalist model to argue that many of the prevailing attitudes regarding group behavior are flawed. Olson starts with the description of a large group of rational, self-interested individuals who all share a common goal. His assertion is that the traditional view of these groups would have them acting as a simple extension of a self-interested individual – meaning that the group would act in accordance to further the shared goal. There are several problems with this assumption. One is that a single individual has little incentive to contribute if the goal is that which will benefit the public. The cost to act for an individual is rarely worth the effort required to achieve the results, so rational individuals will see that the cost / benefit analysis of action will not be as compelling as the cost / benefit of non-action. The result of Olson's observations regarding group behavior is that for a given desired result, there must be an incentive for group members to act. This can be simply in the form of ensuring the rewards the group seeks are to be enjoyed exclusively by the members of the group who act to bring it about. I believe some problems with this model can be found by analyzing its base criteria. An important distinction between economic theories and the rationalist model is that the individual, when discussing economics, is acting to maximize their personal wealth (typically).
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