Political Science: The State of the Discipline II

By Ada W. Finifter | Go to book overview

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, Verba, and Keohane 1992) that unfortunately came to my attention too late to be discussed in this chapter.

"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).
This perspective has been elaborated by Skocpol ( 1984, chap. 11), and a parallel formulation is found in Charles Tilly ( 1984, chap. 4).
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 intends.
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.
This problem is routinely discussed in introductory methodology texts, e.g., Babbie ( 1992, 24-25, 427).
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.


Achen, Christopher H. 1986. The Statistical Analysis of Quasi- Experiments. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Achen, Christopher H., and Duncan Snidal. 1989. "Rational Deterrence Theory and Comparative Case Studies." World Politics 41:143-69.

Almond, Gabriel A., and Stephen J. Genco. 1977. "Clouds, Clocks, and the Study of Politics." World Politics 29:489-522.

Armer, Michael, and Allen Grimshaw, eds. 1973. Comparative Social Research. New York: John Wiley.

Babbie, Earl. 1992. The Practice of Social Research, 6th edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bendix, Reinhard. 1964. Nation-Building and Citizenship: Studies of Our Changing Social Order. New York: John Wiley.

Bendix, Reinhard. 1978. Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Bergquist, Charles. 1986. Labor in Latin America: Comparative Essays on Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Bollen, Kenneth A., and Robert W. Jackman. 1985. "Regression Diagnostics: An Expository Treatment of Outliers and Influential Cases." Sociological Methods and Research 13:510-42.

Burger, Thomas. 1976. Max Weber's Theory of Concept Formation: History, Laws, and Ideal Types. Durham: Duke University.


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Political Science: The State of the Discipline II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Theory and Method 1
  • 1: Texts and Canons: The Status of the "Great Books" in Political Theory 3
  • Conclusion 21
  • Notes 22
  • Bibliography 23
  • 2: Political Theory in the 1980s: Perplexity Amidst Diversity 27
  • Notes 43
  • Bibliography 43
  • Additional Bibliography 46
  • 3: Feminist Challenges to Political Science 55
  • Notes 72
  • Bibliography 73
  • 4: Formal Rational Choice Theory: A Cumulative Science of Politics 77
  • Concluding Comments 97
  • Notes 98
  • Bibliography 101
  • 5: The Comparative Method 105
  • Conclusion 116
  • Notes 117
  • Bibliography 117
  • 6: The State of Quantitative Political Methodology 121
  • Conclusion 148
  • Notes 148
  • Bibliography 150
  • Political Processes and Individual Political Behavior 161
  • 7: Comparative Political Parties: Research and Theory 163
  • Conclusion 183
  • Notes 184
  • Bibliography 185
  • 8: The Not So Simple Act of Voting 193
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 214
  • 9: The New Look in Public Opinion Research 219
  • Notes 240
  • Bibliography 240
  • 10: Expanding Disciplinary Boundaries 247
  • Conclusion 269
  • Notes 271
  • Bibliography 271
  • 11: Citizens, Contexts, and Politics 281
  • Conclusion: Putting the Puzzle Back Together 299
  • Bibliography 300
  • 12: Political Communication 305
  • Conclusions 323
  • Bibliography 324
  • Political Institutions of the State 333
  • 13: Legislatures: Individual Purpose and Institutional Performance 335
  • Conclusions: Behavior, Institutions, and Theory 354
  • Notes 357
  • Bibliography 357
  • 14: Public Law and Judicial Politics 365
  • 15: Political Executives and Their Officials 383
  • Conclusion 402
  • Bibliography 403
  • 16: Public Administration: The State of the Field 407
  • Notes 423
  • Bibliography 424
  • Nations and Their Relationships 429
  • 17: Comparative Politics 431
  • Conclusion 443
  • Notes 444
  • Bibliography 446
  • 18: Global Political Economy 451
  • Conclusion 474
  • Notes 476
  • Bibliography 477
  • Conclusions 483
  • Conclusions 503
  • Notes 504
  • Bibliography 505
  • Appendix 511
  • Contributors 513
  • Index of Cited Authors 517


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