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PSC 1001 Introduction to Comparative Politics

by: Caroline Jok

PSC 1001 Introduction to Comparative Politics PSC 1001

Marketplace > George Washington University > Political Science > PSC 1001 > PSC 1001 Introduction to Comparative Politics
Caroline Jok
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In-Class Notes, & Notes on Assigned Readings PSC 1001 Political Science Dr. Jessica Oetken Rome 206 Introduction to Comparative Politics The George Washington University
Introduction to Comparative Politics
Jennifer L. Oetken
Class Notes
political science, Comparative Politics, George Washington University, international affairs, Essentials, Science




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This 9 page Class Notes was uploaded by Caroline Jok on Thursday January 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSC 1001 at George Washington University taught by Jennifer L. Oetken in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 88 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Comparative Politics in Political Science at George Washington University.

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Date Created: 01/14/16
WEEK 1 NOTES introduction to comparative politics Professor Oetken Caroline E. Jok The George Washington University Class ~ can we study politics scientifically? What does it mean to study something scientifically? • What is Science & What does it mean to be scientific? o Accumulation and establishment of knowledge which has been systematized and formulated with reference to the discovery of general truths or the operation of general laws o Systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. • Scientific Method: *as outlined by Prof. Oetken o Ask a research Question • Identify and research a topic o Identify a Theory • Ideas that you can't necessarily measure (ex: Democratic Peace Theory) o Hypothesis o Test Hypothesis o Reject/Accept/Analyze/Evaluate • How do we demonstrate causality? o Qualitative • Interviews/Research/culture • Data is collected through interviews, field observations, archival research etc. o Quantitatively • Numerical Categorization • Can only be used If numerical and categorical data can be obtained for at least 50 cases o Randomized Controlled Trials • *Social Sciences aren't particularly an experimental science. • Hard to control all interdependent variables. o Observational Studies with statistical analysis • Sampling from the population and creating generalizations to the population • Random sample drawn from the population of interests • What is the probability of casual variables correlating with the outcomes • See STAT 1053 • Comparative Politics Issues o No controlled Trials o Endogeneity • Being unable to tell if a variable is a cause or effect. • Do weak institutions lead to corruption or does corruption lead to weak institutions? o Multicausality • Lots of variables effect a single outcome • Civil war (weak Government control + Socio Economic Injustice) o Random Selection and Selection Bias • Too few cases § Ex: 5 Communist regime countries. • Hard to make generalizations • The Great Political Science Debate Qualitative Quantitative Generalizability Less More Selection Bias More risk Less risk Establishing Greater Less Causation Theory Development Inductive Deductive Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning • Quantitative studies, typically deductive theories and hypotheses are tested. (supporting a theory) --> Deductive • Qualitative studies use observations to draw a hypothesis (more about theory development) --> Inductive • According to the book chapter, what makes research scientific? o Making and testing casual inferences o Making public the method of analysis (replicable by others) o Uncertainty about findings and conclusions o The content is the method of research not the subject matter • *** Next week: Is Comparative Politics a Scientific Study? Reading notes ~ Essentials of Comparative Politics Ch. 1 • Comparative politics: The study and comparison of domestic politics across countries • International relations concentrates on relations between countries • Globalization: blurs comparative politics and international relations • Institution: organizations or activities that are self-perpetuating and valued for their own sake. What is Comparative Politics • Politics: struggle in any group for power that will give one or more persons the ability to make decisions for the larger group o Competition for public power • Power: ability to influence others or impose ones will on them The Comparative Method • Comparative method: a way to compare cases and draw conclusions and generalizations • Inductive reasoning: means by which we go from studying a case to generating a hypothesis o Can be a foundation on which we build greater theories in comparative politics • Deductive reasoning: starting with a puzzle and from there generating some hypothesis about cause and effect to test against a number of cases. (hypothesis -> reasoning) • Challenges to examining political features across countries. o Political scientists have difficulty controlling the variables • Unable to make true comparisons because each case is different. o Can't control the interactions between the variables • Multicausality: Variables may be tied together to produce particular outcomes o Limits to our information and information gathering • Only <200 countries, some of which are very young o How we access the cases that exists • Language skills, time, resources etc. o Focus tends to be limited to a single geographic region • Area studies: regional focus o Bias • Harder to control for variable sand to select the right cases • How we select our cases. (Selection bias) o Search for cause or effect • Endogeneity: The inability to determine if a variable is a cause or an effect. Can we Make a Science of Comparative Politics? • Aristotle departs form traditional emphasis on political ideals to conduct comparative research on existing political systems (analyzed the constitutions of 158 Greek city-states) o Empirical: observable and verifiable • Philosophy: How Politics should be vs. How philosophy actually is. • Machiavelli: First modern political Scientist o Analyzed political systems around him and make generalization about the success and failure. • Cold war: Turning point in political science o Apply methods to studying human behavior o World wars raised questions about the ability of scholars to meaningfully contribute to an understanding of world affairs. o In the Cold war, comparative politics became a matter of survival o Post-war there is a wave of technological innovation that encourages looking at ideas scientifically • Modernization theory: as societies develop, they would become capitalist democracies, converging around a set of shared values and characteristics o Set of hypotheses about how countries develop • Behavioral revolution: the shift away from analyzing political institutions toward analyzing individual political behavior. o Hope: generalizations and theories that explain/predict political activity o Methods with which to approach politics o Promotes deductive, large-scale research • Both: attempts to study politics more scientifically What went wrong in predicting the paths of post-war countries? • Methodology: how to best gather and analyze data o Qualitative Methods: interviews, observations, archival/documentary research. Narrowly focused, deep investigations of one or a few cases • Inductive • Begin with case studies to generate a theory o Quantitative Method: wider use of cases unbound by area specialization, greater use of statistical analysis and mathematical models from economics • More likely to use deductive reasoning • Starts with a theory that can be tested. • Are the theoretical assumptions of human behavior accurate? o Rational Choice/Game Theory: used to study the rules and games by which politics is played and how human beings act on their preferences • Rational choice: quantitative methods § Concerns about cultural trends and associations. o Research in comparative politics remains descriptive and focused on a singular country • Political science has lost touch with real-world concerns, become inaccessible to laypersons, failed to speak to those who make decisions about policy • Comparative politics should be about how our research can reach people, empower them, and help them be better citizens and leaders A Guiding Concept: Political Institutions • Guiding concept: way of looking at the world that highlights some important features while deemphasizing others • Institutions embody the rules, norms, and values that give meaning to human activity. o Because of legitimacy and indispensability, they command authority and can influence human behavior • In many countries, democracy is an institution: it is not merely a means to compete over political power but a vital element in people's lives, bound in the way they define themselves o Collective identity • Formal Institutions: based on officially sanctioned rules that are relatively clear • Informal institutions: unwritten and unofficial rules but no less powerful • People have a hard time accepting that certain institutions have outlived their value o Institutions can and do change but are by nature perseverant • The basic political structure of any country is composed of institutions (army, police, legislature, courts…) • Institutions generate norms and values --> Influence politics and how political institutions are constructed A Guiding Ideal: Reconciling Freedom and Equality • People may struggle for political power, but what are they fighting for? What do they seek to achieve once they have gained power? o Ideals • Struggle between freedom and equality. o Freedom: individual's ability to act independently, without fear of restriction/punishment by the state or other individuals or groups • Autonomy • Free speech, free assembly, religion etc. o Equality: material standard of living shared by individuals within a community o Justice: the relationship between equality and freedom o Conflict: one must come at the expense of the other • Inequality may increase as individual freedom trumps the desire for greater collective equality § The US has one of the highest degrees of economic inequality yet one of the highest degrees of freedom • Demands for greater material equality = greater government control § When economic/political powers are concentrated in one place they may threaten individual freedom since people control fewer private resources. o Can also reinforce to secure certain political rights • State plays a large role in helping to define and protect individual freedom • Politics is driven by the ideal of reconciling individual freedom and collective equality • Each political system creates a unique set of institutions to structure political power In Sum: Looking Ahead and Thinking Carefully • Politics has evolved from philosophy to a field of empirical research • There are limitations o Unable to generate any grand theory of political behavior o Political institutions will help us study and analyze • The most fruitful approach to comparative politics is to be skeptical of what we believe and take it for granted. Reading Notes ~ The Science in Social Sciences Debate: merits of case studies vs. statistical studies • Scientific studies vs. historical investigation • Both quantitative and qualitative research can be systematic and scientific • Most research doesn't fit clearly into one category or the other • Patterns and trends in social/political/economic behavior are easier to analyze quantitatively rather than analyzing the flow of ideas between people • All social science requires comparison Claim: Non-statistical research will produce more reliable results if researchers pay attention to the rules of scientific inference • Social science seeks to arrive at valid inferences by the systematic use of well-established procedures of inquiry • Uncertainty is ok, and the social world changes rapidly Defining Scientific Research in the Social Sciences • Research in the social sciences: ideal to which any actual quantitative/qualitative is only an approximation • Scientific Research: o The goal is inference • Descriptive or explanatory • Basis of empirical information about the world • Descriptive inference: using observations from the world to learn about unobserved facts • Causal inference: learning about casual effects from the data observed • May be restricted to space and time. • Goes beyond observation o The procedures are public • Explicit, codified and public • The scholarly community needs a way of judging the validity of what was done • All methods have limitations • Being open allows research results to be compared across separate researchers and research projects o The conclusions are uncertain • It is impossible to derive certain conclusions from uncertain data o The content is the method • Science adheres to a set of rule of inference on which its validity depends • Science is a social enterprise • Every research is under limitations of knowledge and insight Science and Complexity • What we perceive as complexity is not entirely inherent in phenomena: the world is not naturally divided into simple and complex set of events • The perceived complexity of a situation is depended on how we can simplify reality o This is depended on if we can specify outcomes and variables in a coherent way • Complexity is partly conditional on the state of the theory • To understand complex events we seek generalizations o Conceptualizing each case as a member of a class of events o Engage in counterfactual analysis • Even apparently unique events such as dinosaur extinction can be studied scientifically if we pay attention to improving theory, data and use of data


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