Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 173
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2014

11 - ALIGNING ONTOLOGY AND METHODOLOGY IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS

Summary

Some of the liveliest debates about methodology in the social sciences center on comparative research. This essay concentrates on comparative politics, a field often defined by reference to the use of a particular “comparative method,” but it also bears on sociology, where there is active controversy about methodological issues. I use the term “methodology” to refer to the means scholars employ to increase confidence that the inferences they make about the social and political world are valid. The most important of these are inferences about causal relationships, where the object of a methodology is to increase confidence in assertions that one variable or event (x) exerts a causal effect on another (y).

One of the curious features of contemporary debates is that they pay more attention to methodology than to issues of ontology. “Ontology” refers to the character of the world as it actually is. Accordingly, I use the term to refer to the fundamental assumptions scholars make about the nature of the social and political world and especially about the nature of causal relationships within that world. If a methodology consists of techniques for making observations about causal relations, an ontology consists of premises about the deep causal structures of the world from which analysis begins and without which theories about the social world would not make sense. At a fundamental level, it is how we imagine the social world to be.

References
Abbott, Andrew. 1988. “Transcending General Linear Reality.” Sociological Theory 6: 169–86
Abbott, Andrew 1993. “Sequences of Social Events: Concepts and Methods for the Analysis of Order in Social Processes.” Historical Methods 16: 129–47
Abbott, Andrew 2001. Chaos of Disciplines. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Almond, Gabriel A. 1956. “Comparative Political Systems.” Journal of Politics 17: 391–409
Almond, Gabriel and G. Bingham Powell, Jr. 1966. Comparative Politics: A Developmental Approach. Boston: Little, Brown
Almond, Gabriel and Sidney Verba. 1963. The Civic Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Apter, David E. 1965. The Politics of Modernization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Archer, Margaret, Roy Bhaskar, Andrew Collier, Tony Lawson, and Alan Norrie, eds. 1998. Critical Realism: Essential Readings. London: Routledge
Bagehot, William. 1867. The English Constitution. London: Chapman and Hall
Bates, Robert, Avner Greif, Margaret Levi, Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, and Barry Weingast. 1998. Analytical Narratives. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Bennett, Andrew and George, Alexander. 2001. “Case Studies and Process Tracing in History and Political Science: Similar Strokes for Different Foci.” Unpublished manuscript
Bennett, Andrew and Alexander George in press. Case Studies and Theory Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Bentley, Arthur. 1908. The Process of Government. Cambridge, MA: Belknap
Bill, James A. and Robert Hardgrave. 1973. Comparative Politics: The Quest for Theory. Columbus, OH: Charles Merrill
Binder, Leonard, James S. Coleman, Joseph LaPalombara, Lucian W. Pye, Sidney Verba, and Myron Weiner. 1971. Crises and Sequences in Political Development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Braumoeller, Bear. 2000. “Modeling Multiple Causal Paths: Logic, Derivation and Implementation.” Unpublished manuscript
Campbell, Donald T. 1975. “Degrees of Freedom and the Case Study.” Comparative Political Studies 8: 178–93
Cartwright, Nancy. 1997. “What Is a Causal Structure?” Pp. 342–58 in Causality in Crisis? Statistical Methods and the Search for Causal Knowledge in the Social Sciences, edited by Vaughtn R. McKim and Stephen P. Turner. Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press
Cederman, Lars-Enik. 1997. Emergent Actors in World Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Chilcote, Ronald H. 1981. Theories of Comparative Politics. Boulder, CO: Westview
Collier, David, 1991. “The Comparative Method: Two Decades of Change.” Pp. 7–31 in Comparative Political Dynamics, edited by Dankwart Rustow and Kenneth Erickson. New York: HarperCollins
Collier, David and Adcock, Robert. 1999. “Democracy and Dichotomies: A Pragmatic Approach to Choice about Concepts.” Annual Review of Political Science 2: 537–65
Collier, Ruth Berins and David Collier. 1991. Shaping the Political Arena. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Cook, T. D. and Donald T. Campbell. 1979. Quasi-Experimentation. New York: Houghton Mifflin
Easton, David. 1953. The Political System: An Inquiry into the State of Political Science. New York: Alfred A. Knopf
Easton, David 1965. A Framework for Political Analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Eckstein, Harry. 1963. “A Perspective on Comparative Politics.” Pp. 3–33 in Comparative Politics, edited by Harry Eckstein and David Apter. New York: The Free Press
Eckstein, Harry 1965. “On the Etiology of Internal Wars.” History and Theory 4: 133–63
Eckstein, Harry 1975. “Case Study and Theory in Macro-Politics.” Pp. 79–139 in Handbook of Political Science I, edited by Fred Greenstein and Nelson Polsby. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Eckstein, Harry and David Apter, eds. 1963. Comparative Politics: A Reader. New York: Free Press
Elster, Jon. 1983. Explaining Technical Change. New York: Cambridge University Press
Elster, Jon 1998. “A Plea for Mechanisms.” Pp. 45–73 in Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory, edited by Peter Hedström and Richard Swedberg. New York: Cambridge University Press
Elster, Jon 2000. “Review Essay: ‘Analytical Narratives.’American Political Science Review 94: 685–95
Franzese, Robert. J., Jr. 2001. Macroeconomic Policies of Developed Democracies. New York: Cambridge University Press
Frey, Fredrick. 1985. “The Problem of Actor Designation in Comparative Politics.” Comparative Politics 17: 127–52
Friedman, Milton. 1968. “The Methodology of Positive Economics.” Pp. 508–29 in Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science, edited by May Brodbeck. New York: Macmillan
Friedrich, Carl J. 1950. Constitutional Government and Democracy, rev. edition. Boston: Ginn
Geddes, Barbara. 1990. “How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get.” Political Analysis 2: 131–49
George, Alexander. 1979. “Case Studies and Theory: The Method of Structured, Focused Comparison.” Pp. 43–68 in Diplomacy: New Approaches to History, Theory and Policy, edited by Paul Larson. New York: Free Press
Gerschenkron, Alexander. 1962. Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Goldthorpe, John A. 1997. “Current Issues in Comparative Macrosociology: A Debate on Methodological Issues.” Comparative Social Research 16: 1–26
Greenstein, Fred I. and Nelson Polsby, eds. 1975. Handbook of Political Science. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Grew, Raymond. 1978. Crises of Political Development in Europe and the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Hedström, Peter and Richard Swedberg, eds. 1998. Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. New York: Cambridge University Press
Hempel, Carl. 1965. Aspects of Scientific Explanation. New York: Free Press
Hoffmann, Stanley. 1963. “Paradoxes of the French Political Community.” Pp. 1–117 in In Search of France, edited by Stanley Hoffmann et al. New York: Harper
Holt, Robert T. and John E. Turner, eds. 1970. The Methodology of Comparative Research. New York: Free Press
Hume, David. [1748] 1955. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill
Jackson, John E. 1996. “Political Methodology: An Overview.” Pp. 717–48 in A New Handbook of Political Science, edited by Robert Goodin and Hans-Dieter Klingemann. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Katznelson, Ira. 1997. “Structure and Configuration in Comparative Politics.” Pp. 81–112 in Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure, edited by Mark Lichbach and Alan Zuckerman. New York: Cambridge University Press
King, Gary, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Knight, Jack and Itai Sened, eds. 1995. Explaining Social Institutions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Kuhn, Thomas. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Lakatos, Imre. 1970. “Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programs.” Pp. 91–196 in Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, edited by Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Lasswell, Harold. 1936. Politics: Who Gets What, When, Where, How? New York: McGraw-Hill
Lerner, Daniel. 1958. The Passing of Traditional Society. Glencoe, IL: Free Press
Lichbach, Mark and Alan Zuckerman. eds. 1997. Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture and Structure. New York: Cambridge University Press
Lieberson, Stanley. 1985. Making It Count: The Improvement of Social Research and Theory. Berkeley: University of California Press
Lieberson, Stanley 1992. “Small N's and Big Conclusions.” Pp. 105–18 in What Is a Case?, edited by Charles C. Ragin and Howard S. Becker. New York: Cambridge University Press
Lijphart, Arend. 1971. “Comparative Politics and the Comparative Method.” American Political Science Review 64: 682–93
Lijphart, Arend 1975. “The Comparable-Cases Strategy in Comparative Research.” Comparative Political Studies 8: 158–77
Lipset, Seymour Martin. 1959. “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review 53: 69–105
MacIntyre, Alasdair. 1978. “Is a Science of Comparative Politics Possible?” Pp. 226–84 in The Practice of Comparative Politics, edited by Paul Lewis, David Potler, and Francis Castles. New York: Longman
Macridis, Roy. 1968. “Comparative Politics and the Study of Governments: The Search for Focus.” Comparative Politics 1: 79–90
Mahoney, James. 2000a. “Path Dependence in Historical Sociology.” Theory and Society 29: 507–48
Mahoney, James 2000b. “Strategies of Causal Inference in Small-N Analysis.” Sociological Methods and Research 28: 387–424
Mahoney, James 2001. “Beyond Correlational Analysis: Recent Innovations in Theory and Method.” Sociological Forum 16: 575–93
McDonald, Terrence J., ed. 1996. The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Merton, Robert K. 1949. Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press
Mill, John Stuart. 1872. A System of Logic. New York: Harper
Milner, Helen. 1998. Interests, Institutions and Information. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Moon, Donald. 1975. “The Logic of Political Inquiry.” Pp. 131–95 in Handbook of Political Science, edited by Fred Greenstein and Nelson Polsby. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Nagel, Ernest. 1961. The Structure of Science. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World
O'Donnell, Guillermo and Philippe Schmitter. 1986. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press
Parsons, Talcott. 1951. The Social System. Glencoe, IL: Free Press
Pierson, Paul. 2000a. “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence and the Study of Politics.” American Political Science Review 94: 251–67
Pierson, Paul 2000b. “Not Just What but When: Timing and Sequence in Political Development.” Studies in American Political Development 14: 72–92
Przeworski, Adam and Henry Teune. 1970. The Logic of Comparative Social Inquiry. New York: Wiley
Ragin, Charles C. 1987. The Comparative Method. Berkeley: University of California Press
Ragin, Charles C. 2000. Fuzzy-Set Social Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Ragin, Charles C. and Howard S. Becker, eds. 1992. What Is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry. New York: Cambridge University Press
Richter, Melvin. 1970. Essays in Theory and History: An Approach to the Social Sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
Roberts, Clayton. 1996. The Logic of Historical Explanation. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press
Sartori, Giovanni. 1970. “Concept Misformation in Comparative Politics.” American Political Science Review 64: 1033–53
Schattschneider, E. E. 1935. Politics, Pressures and the Tariff. New York: Prentice-Hall
Sewell, William. 1996. “Three Temporalities: Toward an Eventful Sociology.” Pp. 245–80 in The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, edited by Terrence J. McDonald. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Shalev, Michael. 1998. “Limits of and Alternatives to Multiple Regression in Macro-Comparative Research.” Paper presented at a conference on “The Welfare State at the Crossroads,” Stockholm
Shively, W. Phillips. 1974. The Craft of Political Research. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Skocpol, Theda. 1979. States and Social Revolutions. New York: Cambridge University Press
Skocpol, Theda and Somers, Margaret. 1980. “The Uses of Comparative History in Macrosocial Inquiry.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 22: 174–97
Smelser, Neil. 1966.“Notes on the Methodology of Comparative Analysis of Economic Activity.” Transactions of the Sixth World Congress of Sociology. Evian: International Sociological Association
Smelser, Neil 1976. Comparative Methods in the Social Sciences. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Somers, Margaret R. 1996. “Where Is Sociology after the Historic Turn? Knowledge, Cultures, Narrativity, and Historical Epistemologies.” Pp. 53–90 in The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences, edited by Terrence J. McDonald. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press
Thelen, Kathleen 1984. Big Structures, Large Processes, Huge Comparisons. New York: Russell Sage
Thelen, Kathleen 1999. “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics,Annual Review of Political Science 2: 369–404
Thelen, Kathleen 2000. “Time and Temporality in the Analysis of Institutional Evolution and Change.” Studies in American Political Development 14: 102–9
Tilly, Charles 1995. “To Explain Political Processes.” American Journal of Sociology 100: 1594–610
Verba, Sidney. 1967. “Some Dilemmas of Comparative Research.” World Politics 20: 111–28
Verba, Sidney 1971. “Cross-National Survey Research: The Problem of Credibility.” Pp. 309–56 in Comparative Methods in Sociology, edited by Ivan Vallier. Berkeley: University of California Press
Wallerstein, Michael. 2000. “Trying to Navigate between Scylla and Charybdis: Misspecified and Unidentified Models in Comparative Politics.” APSA-CP: Newsletter for the Organized Section in Comparative Politics of the American Political Science Association 11: 1–21
Waltz, Kenneth. 1979. A Theory of International Relations. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley
Weber, Max. 1949. The Methodology of the Social Sciences. New York: Free Press
Wendt, Alexander. 1999. Social Theory of International Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press
Wilson, Woodrow. 1890. The State. Boston: Heath
Winch, Donald. 1989. “Keynes, Keynesianism and State Intervention.” Pp. 107–28 in The Political Power of Economic Ideas, edited by Peter A. Hall. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Wolin, Sheldon. 1969. “Political Theory as a Vocation.” American Political Science Review 63: 1062–82