philosophy of science and logic of inquiry that can
provide the framework for more informed choices about
these methodological alternatives.
In this way, the foundation can be laid for an
eclectic practice of small-N analysis that takes advantage
of opportunities that present themselves on both sides of
what could otherwise be a major intellectual divide.
This is a revised and expanded version of an article earlier
published in Dankwart A. Rustow and
Kenneth Paul Erickson, eds., Comparative Political Dynamics: Global Research Perspectives ( New
York: Harper Collins, 1991). Permission to reprint granted by Harper
Collins. Ruth Berins Collier, Kenneth Paul Erickson, Leonardo
Morlina, Elizabeth Busbee, and Carol A. Medlin made particularly
useful suggestions on earlier drafts. I also acknowledge comments from Christopher Achen, Stephen Collier, James Fearon, David Freedman, Deborah Norden, Robert Powell, Merrill Shanks, and Laura Stoker. Ada Finifter and two anonymous reviewers likewise made helpful
comments. This research has been supported by a Guggenheim
Fellowship, the Social Science Research Council, and the Institute of
Governmental Studies at Berkeley. Finally, I would like to note a very
promising manuscript ( King,
Keohane 1992) that
unfortunately came to my attention too late to be discussed in this
"N" is used to refer to the number of cases analyzed in
any given study.
References to representative works of comparative
historical analysis are presented below.
In his comparison of these methods, Lijphart
acknowledges his debt to Smelser ( 1968)
excellent analysis that
employed a parallel framework. See also Smelser ( 1976)
5. Skocpol and
Somers ( 1980, 181-87)
refer to this as
"macro-causal" analysis. Yet small-N studies that generate and test
hypotheses can have both a macro and a micro focus, and it does not
seem productive to exclude from this category those with a micro focus.
Hence, this alternative label is used.
Although Przeworski and Teune are centrally concerned
with issues that arise when additional cases are added to an analysis, the
problems they discuss are also more likely to occur if one is dealing
with a larger N to begin with.
For example, instead of referring to " Venezuela," one
would refer to a country in which, due to the impact of massive oil
revenues, a particular causal relationship assumes a distinct form.
"Thick description" is sometimes mistakenly understood
to refer simply to "detailed description," which is not what Geertz
Given that these studies often focus on long periods of
time within each case, it might be argued that the number of cases could
be greatly increased through comparison over time, thereby making
them something other than small-N studies. However, since the goal of
many studies in this tradition is to explain overall configurations of
national outcomes as they are manifested over long periods, these
outcomes often cannot be disaggregated into a series of longitudinal
observations. Hence, the number of cases cannot realistically be
increased through the use of comparison over time.
The most similar and most different systems designs
correspond, respectively, to John Stuart Mill ( 1974) method of
difference and method of agreement. Whereas Przeworski and Teune's
labels of "similar" and "different" refer to whether the cases are
matched, as opposed to contrasting, on a series of background variables,
Mill's labels of "difference" and "agreement" refer to whether the cases
are contrasting, as opposed to matched, on the dependent variable.
Personal communication from Adam Przeworski.
Christopher Achen, personal communication, has long
insisted on this point.
For a discussion of strategic choice models (a closely
related type of model) that have been applied to the analysis of political
reform, democratization, and democratic consolidation in Latin
America, and that likewise offer fruitful simplifications of complex
phenomena, see Collier and
Norden ( 1992)
The reprinting of this article in a reader on social
science methodology ( Tufte 1970
) made it widely available to political
scientists, and its influence has been substantial.
Personal communication from Arend Lijphart.
Although pattern matching within the same case
introduces the possibility of falsifying the hypothesis, it does not
overcome all of the problems of ex post facto hypotheses. Thus,
pattern matching will probably not overcome a problem of
unrepresentativeness which may arise due to selection bias or to the
chance selection of an atypical case.
See, for example, the debate on interest mediation and
corporatism in Western Europe, including Wilensky (1976), Hibbs
(1978), Schmitter (1981), and Cameron (1984). The debate started by
Lange and Garrett (1985) is a continuation of this line of analysis.
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Achen, Christopher H., and
Duncan Snidal. 1989. "Rational
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Stephen J. Genco. 1977. "Clouds, Clocks,
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