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 7: Conclusion

Martino Maggetti and Dietmar Braun

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


Generations of comparative politics scholars have fruitfully tackled crucial political phenomena such as state formation, war and conflicts, elections, party systems, democratic transitions, institutional stability and change, the trajectories of the welfare state, among many others (Boix and Stokes 2007). However, the discipline has repeatedly been criticized for limitations inherent in the comparative approach (MacIntyre 1971), for having a ‘messy center’ (Lichbach and Zuckerman 1997: 1), i.e. being based on too many different theories and applying too many different methods. What has held comparative politics together has been its shared focus on the comparative analysis of country-level political phenomena conceived as discrete entities (Kesselman, Krieger and Joseph 2013; Kopstein, Lichbach and Hanson 2014; Neil 2012), and the shared assumption that hypotheses about the explanations of observable political behaviour, processes and events can be tested empirically so as to attain a certain level of intersubjective knowledge (Landman 2013). As indicated in the introductory chapter of this volume, this state of affairs has been seriously challenged in the last decade or so, following the rising complexity of real-world problems, induced by the growing interdependence across the units of analysis as a consequence of social, political and economic globalization, and the dynamics of ‘de-nationalization’, which has diluted the relevance of the main object of inquiry, that is, the nation-state.

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