A New Handbook of Political Science

By Robert E. Goodin; Hans-Dieter Klingemann | Go to book overview

Chapter 15
Comparative Politics, Old and New

David E. Apter


I Introduction

FROM the start, comparing has been a particular way of connecting ideas derived from political philosophy and theory to empirical events and phenomena. The primary emphasis is on power. The purpose is to determine what difference differences make between the ways power can be deployed--not power in general, of course, but as organized in political systems and generated at national and sub-national levels. Interpreting the significance of differences in the uses and allocations of power by different political systems is the common enterprise underlying various alternative approaches to comparative politics.

Before discussing how comparative politics has evolved, some clarifying definitions are in order. When we speak of political "system" we mean that its components are interdependent, a change in one involving changes in others. Political systems, at a minimum, have as a primary responsibility (one might call it their original function) the maintenance of order over defined jurisdictions, for which they have a monopology of coercive force. Sovereign jurisdictions we call the state ( Poggi 1990). "Government" is the chief instrumentality through which the political system works. "Civil society" refers to those networks of society (such as voluntary organizations, non-governmental organization, private educational and religious facilities, etc.) which are outside of government or state control but perform public functions (schools, etc.). How it intervenes, and the way its power is delimited defines the type or character of the state (democratic, authoritarian, etc.). "Democracy;' following Schumpeter ( 1947: 269), can be defined as "that institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in

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