Comparative Politics

Comparative Politics

Theoretical and Methodological Challenges

Edited by Dietmar Braun and Martino Maggetti

What are the conceptual and methodological challenges facing comparative politics today? This informative book discusses four main challenges that create stress for disciplinary reproduction and advancement, while providing potential solutions. In seven chapters, the contributors cover the most pressing issues: the dissolution of the nation-state as the main objective of inquiry; the increasing complexity of concepts and methods; the capacity to accumulate knowledge; and the tensions between parsimonious and contextually rich explanations.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Dietmar Braun and Martino Maggetti

Subjects: politics and public policy, european politics and policy, international politics


Comparative politics is confronted with important challenges today that have the potential to question the very foundations it has been built upon. These challenges have their origins in different developments that are not necessarily directly linked to each other but which – combined – undermine the capacity of the discipline to produce reliable knowledge on causal processes and events in the real world. At present we detect four main challenges that create ‘stress’ for disciplinary reproduction and advancement: (1) Recent developments linked to the globalization of political, economic, and social relations have questioned the functionality of the nation-state as the main object of investigation and as the main reference point of comparison in comparative studies. Above all, doubts are raised about the assumption of the ‘independence’ of nation-states as units of analysis, which has until now characterized comparative research. These doubts lead to serious discussion about the validity of causal statements made on the basis of the comparison between nation-states. The influence of international and supranational factors as well as the strengthening of the regional level in national political entities have contributed to a general discussion about ‘de-nationalization’ and the emergence of other political units that are relevant for explanations in comparative research. Globalization has also had an effect on the complexity of comparative politics. As a result of it, a substantially larger number of actors and relationships need to be taken into account as possible factors to explain policy and institutional change at the domestic level.