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ASU / Humanities / HUM 350 / what is the difference between MSS and MDS?

what is the difference between MSS and MDS?

what is the difference between MSS and MDS?


School: Arizona State University
Department: Humanities
Course: Comparative Politics
Professor: Koehler
Term: Fall 2016
Tags: Politics, Global Comparative Politics, comparative, Comparative Politics, POS350, ASU, notes, definitions, study, guide, Study Guide, Studyguide, Exam 1, exam, review, Important terms, important, comparative methods, Rules, advantages, and disadvantages
Cost: 50
Name: POS 350 Exam 1 Study guide
Description: This is the Exam 1 study guide that covers everything we have gone over since the beginning of the semester. It includes all of the important terms and their definitions, comparative methods, rules, advantages and disadvantages.
Uploaded: 09/14/2016
9 Pages 12 Views 12 Unlocks

POS 350 Tuesday, September 13th [Week 5 Notes 7] ***EXAM REVIEW DAY*** STUDY GUIDE

what is the difference between MSS and MDS?



Fundamentally, politics is viewed as being concerned with issues that are  primarily collective as opposed to simply interpersonal and that involve  interaction in the public arena that is, in the government or state or between  the public arena and social actors or institutions.

The process-oriented definition of politics:

∙ Takes politics out of just the arena of government and puts it into  almost all domains of life

∙ Tells us that politics is an ongoing, open-ended process involving  multiple actors and multiple factors or forces

∙ Tells us that politics (as a struggle for power over the creation and  distribution of resources, life chances, etc.)

∙ Politics as s part and parcel of a larger social process

∙ Politics is about the uneven distribution of power in society, how the  struggle over power is conducted, and its impact on the creation and  distribution of resources, life chances and well being

what are the Rules for Comparative Case Studies?

(therefore is impossible to solely view an issue as political)

Comparative method: 

∙ qualitative in nature

∙ Comparativists usually look at cases as "wholes"

∙ Showing how historical events, issues, processes, or practices impact  and shape contemporary issues and cases

∙ Demonstrating continuity between the past and present     Most Similar Systems (    MSS) Design: 

­ This strategy is based on:

­ Finding two or more very similar cases or social systems

­ Generally looking at countries, but we can apply this to other, lower level  units of analysis as well If you want to learn more check out • What does this have to do with Oprah Winfrey?

­ We want to match up and compare two or more cases that share a whole  range of similarities (political, social, demographic, economic, cultural  etc.).

­ Although we are looking for very similar cases, they need to differ in a  couple of key aspects (differences are key!)

what are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Case Studies?

­ They should differ in terms of their independent variables (causes or  affects something else­ the factor that is manipulated in experimental  research) and their dependent variables (what we’re trying to explain:  something that is affected or caused by something else) If you want to learn more check out What is the proper heating rate used to determine a compound’s melting point range?
We also discuss several other topics like What do we mean by mindless reading?

­ The similarities allow us to isolate the independent and dependent  variables and to control for all of the similarities 

­ Explanations are not always clear cut, and can depend on many different  variables

­ No comparison between just two cases can prove anything (may or may  not be coincidental) so we need to be able to replicate our findings

Limitations of an MSS design:

­ Even with highly similar cases, no two are exactly alike

­ The closer we look, the more differences we will find

­ Similarity is a relative term

­ We need to be aware that no matter how similar two cases are, there will  always be a number of differences. 

­ We can’t ever say for certain that the one key difference we identify is  necessarily the most important or the only difference that matters 

­ MSS designs can still be very effective, we just need to be aware of the  limitations and be open and honest about them. 

­ It cannot definitively eliminate all other possible causes of explanation­ so  be cautious about exaggerating your results Don't forget about the age old question of What is the definition of an Arrhenius acid and base?

    Most Different Systems (    MDS) Design: 

­ The MDS design is the opposite of the MSS design

­ The goal is to find two or more cases that are different in almost every  regard except for a few key similarities (similarities are key!)

­ We can adopt a MDS design and look for a key similarity to explain their  specific case

­ The vast sea of differences allows us to isolate the similarities and to  control for all those differences 

Limitations of an MDS design:

­ As with the MSS design, the MDS design cannot prove causal  relationships

­ There may be another variable or factor that is different of each of the  cases

­ We shouldn’t assume some issue or phenomenon is the product of a  single cause

Exercise the the three Cs regarding our research and our findings: ∙ Caution

∙ Care

∙ Constraint 

Example: Terrorism 


- There could be two highly similar states, but one has higher levels of  terrorism than the other (the difference is the Dependent Variable) - We need to find another key difference- the independent variable- that  explains the Dependent Variable


- An MSS design requires that we find two highly different states but with similar levels of terrorism  

- We would examine the cases to find another key similarity- the  independent variable- that explains the similarity of the Dependent  Variable

Comparative Case Studies: 

- In-depth study or examination of a specific country or case - Not always countries If you want to learn more check out Why is crystallized intelligence important?
We also discuss several other topics like What do they tell us about how Pavlovian cues can affect motivation and choice?

- We can also examine other unites of analysis such as provinces or  states within a country, towns, cities, institutions, social movements,  individuals, etc.

- Case studies don’t exist in a vacuum- we need some insights from  other cases in the world

- Even when we’re conducting single case studies, they’re still  comparative to some degree

- We need to generally know and be aware of other cases related to the  topic we’re studying

- Especially to help us understand if we’re on the right track in  identifying independent variables we think might explain some political phenomena  

- Researchers conducting single case studies are often trying to make a  connection between their single case and broader, more general  theories or explanations of some political phenomenon.  

Rules for Comparative Case Studies:

1. Seeing your case in relation to other cases (even if you don’t explicitly  incorporate them into your comparative analysis)

2. Case studies aim at generalization (fit case studies into a bigger,  theoretical picture)

Advantages/Disadvantages of Case Studies:

- Allow researchers to study a subject or case in great detail and develop  a high level of understanding of that single case (can’t be matched)

- However, this comes at the expense of broader explanatory power  

Bigger N Studies: 

- Larger N studies (N referring to number of cases or our sample size) - Including more cases should give us more “control” in assessing our  variables and also allow us greater ability to make generalizations - As the number of cases increases, our level of detail and in-depth  understanding usually decreases

- There are practical limits on how many cases we can include in our  qualitative research

Mixed Research Design: 

- Researchers can incorporate both MSS and MDS designs into one  research study.

- This typically leads to much stronger research studies and higher  levels of generalizability

Within-Case comparison: 

- Treats one case as two cases often using a MSS design

- There is usually some difference over time or some key event that  causes a change within the cases, allowing us to treat it as two  separate cases

State: A legal concept based on a number of conditions such as a  permanent population, defined by territory, and a national government that  is capable of maintaining effective control over its territory >> states needs  to have a monopoly over the legitimate use of physical force within its  territory

Nations: Defined as a group of people who recognize each other as sharing  a common identity, typically based on things like language, religion, culture  etc. and not necessarily based upon territory and can transcend borders

Nation-States: Would exist if almost all of the inhabitants of a given  territory identified with the same nation but most scholars argue that no true nation-states exist

National States: states with a common identity based upon Nationalism - Ex. US is home to diverse languages, religions, cultures etc. yet most  of the population refers to themselves as American thus the US  serves as an example of a National State

Country: A distinct political system of people sharing common values and  occupies a relatively fixed geographic area. Often used interchangeably with  State.  

Government: Refers to the agency through which a body exercises  authority and performs its functions. Governments can exist at various  levels: state, national, or locally within public or private entities

∙ Early comparativists thought the US had little to learn from most of the rest of the world outside of a few major European powers- this began  to change with the end of WWII when US policymakers started to  recognize the need for "Area Specialists" which were used within the  US government and military.

∙ WWII also demonstrated the importance of focusing a broader range of issues within CP which included things such as fascism and  communism. A transition was made towards analytic, theoretic and  comparative methods of study.

∙ Never assume a discipline or individual research studies are completely objective or unbiased.

Theory: A simplified representation of reality and a framework within which  facts are not only selected but also interpreted, organized and fitted together so that they create a coherent whole.

- Absolutely essential in the social sciences

- And within Comparative Politics (Rationality/Structure/Culture) Theory is not:

- Unsubstantiated, subjective, opinion bases, unrelated to the real world, or separate from “fact” or “truth”

Theory is:

- Inextricably connected

- For Positivists: explains how “reality” works

- PostPositivists view theory and reality as mutually constitutive ie. How we think about the world can actually construct/shape the  world or construct reality

- Cultural theorists in CP often adopt this view

- Postmodernists and Constructivists often hold this view too Good Theory:

- Self-aware, self-critical, examine what informs our views, ask ourselves  why we have our views or theories we do in the first place, never  assume our views or theories are self-evident or beyond criticism


- The power of human beings to make choices and impose those choices on the world

- Our lives are primarily of our own making


- An overarching framework or context within which choices are made - See our choices as highly constrained and shaped by these structures

Rational Choice Approach: 

- We should focus on the behavior of human beings themselves (ie.  Focused on the individual level of analysis)

- Fundamental assumption

- People are rational maximizers of self-interest (seeking better  outcomes over lesser outcomes)

- People engage in Cost-benefit analysis in making decisions which is  called strategic calculation by Rationalists

Strategic Calculation: 

- Weighing the costs and benefits of a decision

Strategic Interaction: 

- Most decisions aren’t made in isolation

- The involve more than one “player” or actor

- Decisions influence, and are influenced by the decisions of others Information and Uncertainty: 

- People don’t have perfect or complete access to information or know  how others will react to their decisions

- This lack of information can lead to what we might consider “bad  decisions”

- The decisions aren’t necessarily irrational

- They were rational based on the information available to the actor in  question

Structural Approach: 

- Structuralists think that structure shape our lives

- Human actions and decisions are partly, even largely, determined by  underlying, sometimes invisible forces over which they have little or no control

- Relationships exist within a broader framework or system of action - We can’t just look at individual attributes or behavior

- Human behavior is fundamentally shaped by the larger environment

Key assumptions in the (Historical) Structural Approach:

- Structures are enduring, but not necessarily permanent - Structures contain their own logic and dynamic

- Structures create particular relationships

- The fate of individuals, groups, and societies are largely determined by their position within a structure

- Structures are more important than individual decision making  because structures influence, shape, and constrain the behavior of  actors in a given system

Cultural Approach: 

- Meso theoretical approach

- Sits in the middle of the Agent – Structure continuum  

- Can fit “into” the Rational and Structural approaches

- Rationalist view

- Structuralist view

- Culturalists view culture as a distinct factor and one of primary importance  *(more of a method of study)

- Culture and the Cultural approach may seem intuitive but are rather complex Bad Cultural Arguments:

- Typically, bad cultural arguments assume the culture is fixed, monolithic, and  one-directional

- Fixed: cultures don’t ever change

- Monolithic: Within a culture, there is but a single, unchallenged and  unquestioned “voice”

- One-directional: Culture is either an obstacle to change, or it’s not; it is either  progressive or regressive, but not both

Good Cultural Arguments:

- Good cultural Arguments begin with the assumption that the culture is highly  malleable, multi-vocal, and multidirectional

- Malleable: Cultures can and do change, both quickly and slowly - Multi-vocal: People of a “single” culture can and do disagree, sometimes in a  fundamental manner

- Multidirectional: Culture can have contradictory and complex effects; in  different contexts, at different times, culture may block change or it may be a source of change

Culture (definition): 

- A worldview that explains why and how individuals and groups behave as  they do, and includes both cognitive and affective (ie. Emotional) beliefs  about social reality and assumptions about when., where and how people in  one’s culture and those in other cultures are likely to act in particular ways

- More simply: Culture is a shared, learned, and symbolic system of values,  ideas, beliefs, and practices that shapes and influences our perceptions and  behavior

- Culture is subjective and inter-subjective

- Never completely fixed or absolute

- It is constantly learned and constantly reproduced by the individuals within  that culture

- Though culture is subjective, it has “objective” effects, and it influences and  shapes behavior at both individual and collective levels

- Culture has power not only to shape perceptions and behavior but to mobilize societies and individuals

- Culture can be a political resource and used to achieve political, social, or  economic goals

- There are many aspects to culture; it is not monolithic and can be both cause  and effect

- This is particularly tricky from a scientific perspective

- Culture can be the product of certain social forces, but can also take on a life  of its own and influence behavior


- A “hybrid” theoretical approach to Comparative Politics research - There can be issues in taking a combined or hybrid theoretical approach - Theories often have different underlying assumptions or different theoretical  foundations that aren’t necessarily compatible

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