Quality & Quantity

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 213–225 | Cite as

What about theory? The consequences on a widened perspective of social theory

  • Gustav LidénEmail author


One of the leading debates in social sciences concerns research design. However, in comparative politics, the predominant way conducting research misses out crucial aspects that are central to social theory. This article shows how method and empirical research are highly dependent on the definition of theory. Arguing that theory should not only give an explanation of the social phenomena in question but should also show how this relationship is constructed, this article outlines the consequence of such a perspective, namely that the collection of data should reflect both macro and micro perspectives and the analyses of data should be carried out using mixed methods. In conclusion, such an integrated framework is the most appropriate way to give valuable theoretical feedback, either by examination and revision of already established theories or by a contribution to the construction of new theory in the social sciences. It is important, though, that such a framework is applied in a systematized way.


Social theory Comparative politics Research design Mixed methods 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Acemoglu D., Johnson S., Robinson J.A., Yared P.: Reevaluating the modernization hypothesis. J. Mon. Econ. 56, 1043–1058 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adcock R., Collier D.: Measurements validity: a shared standard for qualitative and quantitative research. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 95, 529–546 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Almond G.A., Verba S.: The Civic Culture. Little, Brown and Company, Boston (1965)Google Scholar
  4. Almond G.A., Powell G.B. Jr: Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach. Little, Brown and Company, Boston (1966)Google Scholar
  5. Alvarez, R.M., Katz, J.N. (eds.): Special issue: natural experiments in political science. Polit. Anal. 17 (2009)Google Scholar
  6. Archer M.S.: Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture in Social Theory. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1988)Google Scholar
  7. Aristotle: Politics. Dover Publications, Dover (2000)Google Scholar
  8. Aslaksen S.: Oil and democracy: more than a cross-country correlation?. J. Peace Res. 47, 421–431 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Aus J.P.: Conjunctural causation in comparative case-oriented research. Qual. Quant. 43, 173–183 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barro R.J.: Determinants of democracy. J. Polit. Econ. 107, 158–183 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bennet, A.: Beyond Hempel and back to Hume: causal mechanisms and causal explanation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia (2003)Google Scholar
  12. Boix C., Stokes S.C.: Endogenous democratization. World Polit. 55, 517–549 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bollen K.: World system position, dependency, and democracy: the cross-national evidence. Am. Sociol. Rev. 48, 468–479 (1983)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bollen K.A., Jackman R.W.: Political democracy and the size distribution of income. Am. Sociol. Rev. 50, 438–457 (1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bourdieu P.: Practical Reasons: On the Theory of Action. Stanford University Press, Stanford (1998)Google Scholar
  16. Brady, H.E., Collier, D. (eds): Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham (2004)Google Scholar
  17. Brannen J.: Mixing methods: the entry of qualitative and quantitative approaches into the research process. Int. J. Soc. Res. Methodol. 8, 173–184 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burkhart R.E., Lewis-Beck M.S.: Comparative democracy: the economic development thesis. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 88, 903–910 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chirot D.: Social Change in the Modern Era. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego (1986)Google Scholar
  20. Coleman J.: Social theory, social research, and a theory of action. Am. J. Sociol. 91, 1309–1335 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Collier D., Mahon J.E. Jr.: Conceptual ‘stretching’ revisited: adapting categories in comparative analysis. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 87, 845–855 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Coppedge M.: Thin concepts and theories: combining large N and small in comparative politics. Comp. Polit. 31, 465–476 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Coppedge, M.: Explaining democratic deterioration in Venezuela through nested induction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, 2–5 September (2001)Google Scholar
  24. Dahl R.A.: Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. Yale University Press, New Haven (1971)Google Scholar
  25. Denk T.: Comparative multilevel analysis: proposal for a methodology. Int. J. Soc. Res. Methodol. 13, 29–39 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Deutsch K.W.: The Nerves of Government: Models of Political Communication and Control. The Free Press, New York (1966)Google Scholar
  27. Diamond L.: Economic development and democracy reconsidered. Am. Behav. Sci. 35, 450–499 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Downs A.: An Economic Theory of Democracy. Harper and Row, New York (1957)Google Scholar
  29. Easton D.: Framework for Political Analysis. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River (1965)Google Scholar
  30. Edelman, M., Haugerud, A. (eds): The Anthropology of Development and Globalization: From Classical Political Economy to Contemporary. Blackwell, Malden (2005)Google Scholar
  31. Elster J.: Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Science. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Falleti T.G., Lynch J.F.: Context and causal mechanisms in political analysis. Comp. Polit. Stud. 42, 1143–1166 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gasiorowski M.J.: Economic dependence and political democracy: a cross-national study. Comp. Polit. Stud. 20, 489–515 (1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gerring J.: What is a case study and what is it good for?. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 98, 341–354 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gerring J.: Causation: a unified framework for the social sciences. J. Theor. Polit. 17, 163–198 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gerring J.: Review article: the mechanismic worldview: thinking inside the box. Br. J. Polit. Sci. 38, 161–179 (2007a)Google Scholar
  37. Gerring J.: Case Study and Research: Principles and Practices. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2007b)Google Scholar
  38. Gerring J.: Causal mechanisms: yes, but..... Comp. Polit. Stud. 43, 1499–1526 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Giddens A.: The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. University of California Press, Berkeley (1984)Google Scholar
  40. Gnosh B.N.: Dependency Theory Revisited. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham (2001)Google Scholar
  41. Goertz G.: Social Science Concepts: A User’s Guide. Princeton University Press, Princeton (2006)Google Scholar
  42. Hadenius A.: Democracy and Development. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Hanson B.: Wither qualitative/quantitative? Grounds for methodological convergence. Qual. Quant. 42, 97–111 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hedström P.: Dissecting the Social: On the Principles of Analytical Sociology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hedström, P., Bearman, P. (eds): The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2009)Google Scholar
  46. Hedström, P., Swedberg, R. (eds): Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. Cambridge University Press, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  47. Hedström P., Ylikoski P.: Causal mechanisms in the social sciences. Ann. Rev. Sociol 36, 49–67 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Hume D.: Om förståndet. Thales, Stockholm (2002)Google Scholar
  49. Inkeles A.: Participant citizenship in six developing. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 63, 1120–1141 (1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kaufman R.R., Chernotsky H.I., Geller D.S.: A preliminary test of the theory of dependency. Comp. Polit. 7, 303–330 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. King G., Keohane R.O., Verba S.: Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton University Press, Princeton (1994)Google Scholar
  52. Kuhn T.: The Structures of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1970)Google Scholar
  53. Leech N.L., Onwuegbuzie A.J.: A typology of mixed methods research designs. Qual. Quant. 43, 265–275 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lerner D.: The Passing of Traditional Society. The Free Press of Glencoe, New York (1958)Google Scholar
  55. Lieberman E.S.: Nested analysis as a mixed-method strategy for comparative research. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 99, 435–452 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Lidén G.: Från demokrati till e-demokrati: En jämförande studie av demokratiutveckling i det moderna samhället. Doctoral dissertation, Mid Sweden University, SundsvallGoogle Scholar
  57. Lijphart A.: Comparative politics and the comparative method. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 65, 682–693 (1971)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lipset S.M.: Some social requisites of democracy. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 53, 69–105 (1959)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lipset S.M.: Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. Doubleday & Company, Garden City (1960)Google Scholar
  60. Liska A.E.: The significance of aggregate dependent variables and contextual independent variables for linking macro and micro theories. Soc. Psychol. Q. 53, 292–301 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Luhmann N.: Social Systems. Stanford University Press, Stanford (1995)Google Scholar
  62. Mahoney J.: Beyond correlational analysis: recent innovations in theory and method. Sociol. For. 16, 575–593 (2001)Google Scholar
  63. Mahoney J.: Qualitative methodology and comparative politics. Comp. Polit. Stud. 40, 122–144 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Mahoney J.: Toward a unified theory of causality. Comp. Polit. Stud. 41, 412–436 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Mahoney J.: After KKV: the new methodology of qualitative research. World Polit. 62, 120–147 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Mahoney J., Snyder R.: Rethinking agency and structure in the study of regime change. Stud. Comp. Int. Dev. 34, 3–32 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Mahoney J., Goertz G.: A tale of two cultures: contrasting quantitative and qualitative research. Polit. Anal. 14, 227–249 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Mayntz R.: Mechanisms in the analysis of social macro-phenomena. Philos. Soc. Sci. 34, 237–259 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Merton R.K.: Social Theory and Social Structure. Free Press, Glencoe (1957)Google Scholar
  70. Morgan D.L.: Paradigms lost and pragmatism regained: methodological implications of combining qualitative and quantitative methods. J. Mix. Methods Res. 1, 48–76 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Onwuegbuzie A.J., Leech N.L.: On becoming a pragmatic researcher: the importance of combining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Int. J. Soc. Res. Methodol. 8, 375–387 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Parsons T.: The professions and social structure. Soc. Forces 17, 456–467 (1939)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Peters B.G.: Comparative Politics: Theory and Methods. Palgrave, Houndmills (1998)Google Scholar
  74. Popper K.R.: The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge, London (1980)Google Scholar
  75. Przeworski A., Teune H.: The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry. Wiley–Interscience, New York (1970)Google Scholar
  76. Przeworski A., Alvarez M.E., Cheibub J.A., Limongi F.: Democracy and Development: Political Institutions and Well Being in the World, 1950–1990. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Ragin C.C.: The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies. University of Californa Press, Berkeley (1987)Google Scholar
  78. Ragin C.C.: Fuzzy-Set Social Science. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2000)Google Scholar
  79. Ritzer G.: Sociological Theory. McGraw-Hill, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  80. Ross M.L.: Does oil hinder democracy?. World Polit. 53, 325–361 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Sale J.E.M., Lohfeld L.H., Brazil K.: Revisiting the quantitative–qualitative debate: implications for mixed-method resarch. Qual. Quant. 36, 43–53 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Sartori G.: Concept misformation in comparative politics. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 64, 1033–1053 (1970)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Sartori G.: Social Science Concepts: A Systematic Analysis. Sage, Beverly Hills (1984)Google Scholar
  84. Seawright, J.: Qualitative comparative analysis vis-a-vis regression. Paper presented at the 2004 meetings of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, September (2004)Google Scholar
  85. Seawright J., Gerring J.: Case selection techniques in case study research. Polit. Res. Q. 61, 294–308 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Simon H.A.: Models of Man. Wiley, New York (1957)Google Scholar
  87. Simmel G.: The Metropolis and Mental Life: The Sociology of Georg Simmel. Free Press, New York (1976)Google Scholar
  88. Tarrow S.: Bridging the quantitative–qualitative divide. In: Brady, H.E., Collier, D. (eds) Rethinking Social Inquiry: Diverse Tools, Shared Standards, pp. 171–180. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham (2004)Google Scholar
  89. Wallerstein I.: The Modern World-System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. Academic, New York (1974)Google Scholar
  90. Weber M.: Max Weber on the Methodology of the Social Sciences. Free Press, Glencoe (1949)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesMid Sweden UniversitySundsvallSweden

Personalised recommendations