Chapter 5: Defining Comparative Social Policy
5 Deﬁning comparative social policy Jochen Clasen The above title implies that comparative social policy is something which can be deﬁned. Why not provide a neat deﬁnition in the glossary, rather than devoting an entire chapter to it? The reason is that any attempt at deﬁning the term within the space of a paragraph or two is bound to run into trouble. This is not only because of the difﬁculty in characterizing a composite term, but also due to the contested nature of both of its elements, that is the substantive focus of social policy and the comparative approach. Is social policy an academic discipline or a ﬁeld of study? Which particular programmes should be regarded as social policy and which should not? What is comparative analysis and is it different from other qualitative or quantitative research strategies in social science? Is there any scientiﬁc research which is not, explicitly or implicitly, comparative in nature? The ﬁrst part of this chapter addresses some of these deﬁnitional problems. It does not make any claims to be exhaustive but aims to highlight instead the limitations of delving into an extensive deﬁnitional mapping exercise of what are ultimately ambiguous and amorphous substantive and methodological boundaries. A more useful approach to appreciating what comparative social policy is about is simply to review some of the major contributions to the ﬁeld. As will be seen below, comparative social policy has not only grown enormously over the past...
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