The Comparative Approach
Comparative politics has no monopoly on the comparative method. Indeed comparison is the foundation of any systematic branch of knowledge. Scientists cannot work out how quickly smoking kills people just by looking at the life expectancy of smokers. They have to compare this with the life expectancy for an otherwise similar group of non-smokers (the difference, by the way, is about four years). As the American political scientist James Coleman used to tell his students, ‘You can’t be scientific if you’re not comparing.’
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- Dogan, M. and Pelassy, G. (1984) How to Compare Nations (Chatham, N.J.: Chatham House). Short, stimulating but difficult.Google Scholar
- Evans, P., Rueschemeyer, D. and Skocpol T. (eds) (1985) Bringing The State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). An important and influential statement of the centrality of the state to comparative politics.Google Scholar
- Macridis, R. and Brown, B. (eds) (1990) Comparative Politics: Notes and Readings (Belmont, Calif.: Brooks/Cole). An excellent selection of readings, including several on the comparative method.Google Scholar
- Rustow, D. and Erickson, K. (eds) (1991) Comparative Political Dynamics: Global Research Perspectives (New York: HarperCollins). Essential reading, not least for Collier’s overview of the comparative method.Google Scholar