Comparative Politics: Field State and Development
Comparative politics underwent periods of reconstruction starting from the civil liberties period to the apogee of the cold war and its ramifications, to the de-colonization era. Comparative politics was affected by political culture and modernized the areas of comparative work to include not only states or governments, but also social classes, ideologies, economic analyses and mobilizing forces like culture and religion. (Blyth, 2006) Comparative politics is a key disciple in political science. It has rebuilt itself from past challenges around the latest theories of the day (functionalism, modernization theory, and political culture) to meet modern expectations. (Ibid) Examples of past and current challenges contributing to the shaping of modern comparative politics can explain the accomplishments of this discipline and the importance of its current state.
Macridis stated that for up to the 1950s “Comparative study has been comparative in name only”. He then went on to say that what he regarded as the traditional approach was 'non-comparative', 'essentially descriptive', 'parochial' (based on Western states only), 'static', and 'monographic'.(Blondel, 1999). It is greater than a challenge to have a sub-discipline in name only and not in its actual academic value. Perhaps some scholars overstated the challenge. Others reduced comparative politics to simply a methodology. In their work on the methodology of comparative research in the 70s, Holt and Turner said that comparison was essentially an approach and therefore should not be given any special status.(Blondel 2005, 184)
Almond argued that the application of sociological and anthropological concept facilitates systematic comparison between systems around the world. (Almond 1956). We can draw three types of past challenges from Almond‘s suggestion. The first is the limitation and narrowness of the cases. The second is absence of sociological and anthropological concepts in the approach of comparative politics. Another challenge pointed out by Almond in comparative politics (mainly in cases of states) is classification. His point is valid in a sense that comparing the comparable is much easier to control in a broad spectrum of variables. Almond suggests the use of a four-fold classification: Anglo-American including common wealth countries, continental European, The pre-industrial or partly industrial political systems and the totalitarian political systems. (Ibid)
Comparative politics did not only earn its name, but also its place as a sub-discipline in political science besides political theory and international relations. It has facilitated a better exploration of different systems peculiarities in different countries, institutions and practices.(Blondel 1999) The accomplishments go as far as declaring comparative politics to be the key sub-discipline, because – as Blondel states- comparative politics provides the key to the understanding of institutions. (Blondel 2005, 186) It is because comparisons are central to the study of politics: only through them can real world generalizations emerge. Otherwise, models are either based on purely theoretical assertions or extrapolations based on a single-country experience. (Blondel 2005, 190)
We may conclude that comparative politics started as a methodology that incorporated different social sciences in it, underwent developments where it was impacted by political culture and world events and merged as a key sub-discipline in political science – if not the most important sub-discipline.
- Almond, Gabriel A. 1956. “Comparative Political Systems.” Journal of Politics 18 (August), 391-409.
- Blondel, Jean.1999. “Then and Now: Comparative Politics.” Political Studies 47(1): 152-161.
- Blondel, Jean. 2005. "The Central Role of Comparative Politics in Political Analysis." Scandinavian Political Studies 28(2): 183-191.
- Blyth, Mark. 2006. “Great Punctuations: Prediction, Randomness, and the Evolution of Comparative Political Science.” American Political Science Review 100(4): 493-498.