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9 - Against Methodological Nationalism: Seeing Comparisons as Encompassing through the Arab Uprisings

from Part II - Developing New Approaches to Comparison through Research

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2021

Erica S. Simmons
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Nicholas Rush Smith
Affiliation:
City University of New York
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Summary

Given the relative dominance of positivist epistemologies in political science, the most common mode of comparison is that of variation finding. Although such models can take many forms, the objective is to identify what factors or variables differ across the cases as a means to explain that variation. But other modes of comparative analysis are available. In particular, Charles Tilly’s notion of encompassing comparisons – examining similarities and differences across cases while recognizing that they are inextricably connected or related to some larger whole – may be a better model for explaining long-term political processes, such as state formation, colonialism, capitalism, or even the spread of massive protests across a large number of cases. In this chapter, I develop an encompassing comparison of the Arab uprisings. The approach does not see the uprisings as individual cases whose diverse outcomes yearn for explanation but rather as instances of mass resistance to larger, transnational processes, notably including securitization and neoliberalism. This is not to suggest that these processes caused the uprisings. But the idea is to explore the ways in which the different governments were connected to these larger processes and networks and the extent to which those supranational factors help explain the outcomes of the individual cases.

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Rethinking Comparison
Innovative Methods for Qualitative Political Inquiry
, pp. 172 - 189
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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