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The future in comparative politics


This article is based upon a key speech that Professor Robert Bates gave at the 13th Annual Conference of the Association of Chinese Political Studies (ACPS) held in Bethesda, Maryland between October 17–18, 1998. Professor Bates observes that there is a sense of crisis among comparative political scientists and central to their concerns is an apparent loss of diversity. Professor Bates believes that homogenization presents an opportunity for comparatists to redirect their comparative social inquiries. He argues that comparative politics is a field that is based upon method; that the presumed homogenization of politics, globally, and the existence of large-scale collections of data, highlight the utility of returning to large-N, cross-national research; and that the subfields of political economy and development are best positioned to secure rapid advances from their redirection. He also emphasizes that we need to blend cross-national statistical research with in-depth case studies, arguing that the two are not substitutes but rather complements, and should be pursued in tandem. Professor Bates further argues that there is an “over supply” of theory in comparative politics and debates over theory should be based on assessments of the theory’s capacity to account for outcomes. In this sense, questions of theory cannot and should not be separated from questions of method. A good theory, in practice, provides a powerful engine of empirical discovery.

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Bates, R.H. The future in comparative politics. J OF CHIN POLIT SCI 4, 1–17 (1998).

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  • Ivory Coast
  • Analytic Narrative
  • Comparative Politics
  • CHINESE Political Science
  • Game Theoretic Model