Understanding Black Africa: Data and Analysis of Social Change and Nation Building

Understanding Black Africa: Data and Analysis of Social Change and Nation Building

Understanding Black Africa: Data and Analysis of Social Change and Nation Building

Understanding Black Africa: Data and Analysis of Social Change and Nation Building

Excerpt

The nine chapters of Part III provide the reader with general introductions to the ecology, demography, cultural complexity, social change, economic and political development, and international relations of contemporary Black African states. These introductions attempt to generalize about the major problems and the outstanding characteristics of these countries. Verbal discussion in each chapter is supplemented by (1) annotated bibliographical information which it is hoped will guide the reader to the most helpful contemporary literature on these subjects, and (2) by 41 tables showing the rank order on each of these variables for each of forty-one Black African countries, and their individual values on a wide variety of variables selected and updated from the larger collection in Black Africa, second edition. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the methodology of cross-national research, and by so doing, to indicate some of the ways the generalizations stated in this and other books on Africa may be evaluated, and some of the ways data of the kind given in the following section may be used in such evaluations.

Cross-national research, in simple terms, may be defined as the application of scientific methodology for establishing generalizations about human experience on the basis of the systematic comparison of countries as units of analysis. While cross-national research is a somewhat esoteric intellectual activity, and one which may be legitimately criticized from a number of perspectives, as we shall discuss later, it is an appropriate and useful technique if used with adequate caution. We may think that the USA is more democratic than the USSR; we are told that democratic nations are more stable than non-democratic nations, that more economically developed nations are more democratic than underdeveloped nations, and that ideological differences between countries become less noticeable as they become more economically advanced, etc. Cross-national research is simply a systematic way of assessing the truth value of statements such as these.

Our brief introduction to the method consists of two parts. We first illustrate the method by examining one section of a published article by S. E. Finer and subjecting it to a careful critique. In this exercise we show how the steps of theory, operationalization or measurement, and testing are employed by Finer. We then show how to correct some of the weaknesses in Finer's analysis and use some of the data contained in the Black Africa book to retest his hypothesis and to refute Finer's conclusion about the relationship of one party regimes and political instability. The second part of this introduction to the method is a necessarily simplified step by step guide to doing a cross-national study using the kind of data contained in this book. Our expectation is that careful study of this introduction to cross-national analysis will sufficiently equip the novice to go ahead and use the data in this book to test some hypotheses of his or her own.

An Example of a Cross-National Study

In an article entitled The One-Party Regimes in Africa: Reconsiderations, Government and Opposition (1967), p. 491-508, S. E. Finer examines the question of whether or not the establishment of single or single-dominant po-

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