Comparative Politics and its Evolution

Comparative way of understanding politics is a general term which can be used and coined to imply the method of understanding politics across regions, countries and other political units (Rose 1991). Its multi- levels of political analysis made this method of political science highly used by many political scientists. Comparative politics has undeniably evolved from the time that it was considered a science two centuries ago. Comparative politics evolution did not come easily before the time of its realization. This branch of political science is always dynamic in finding the most fitting ways to represent the whole discipline (ONeil 2004). Even if it has undergone many years of methodological and disciplinary evolutions, perfecting this way of studying political science is still far from being perfected. This imperfection does not mean that eventually it will be debunked as a method of political science instead it only support the assumption said earlier- comparative politics is dynamic in nature. As a proof to its dynamic nature, comparative politics have developed many ways of approaching the subjects of its study. Leading approaches in this political science branch include historical, ideological, methodological and political analysis of frameworks these are among its other types, varieties and forms (Norris and Inglehart 2004).

Generally speaking, the results of comparative politics can only have value if the assumptions of the analysis before its generalization is properly set and explained. It is intuitive to assume that studies conducted through comparative politics will establish differences and similarities amongst its subjects. However, these similarities and differences will not explain themselves. One of the goals of comparative politics is to find the differences and similarities of their subjects of study and put value to those similarities and differences by showing its implications to the political world. This is a must for anyone who opts to use comparative politics as a method of analysis. Unfortunately, this also makes comparative politics always prone to biases and prejudices. To be effective enough, the usage of comparative politics would require in depth contextualization of its subjects of analysis (Rose 1991).

Comparative politics can be made unbiased by making sure that the study was conducted in full relation and recognition to the inherent differences and similarities of its subjects (Rose 1991). Failing to do so, can render the use of comparative politics unverifiable and even undoable in studying the assumed subjects.

No matter how comparative politics has developed in the last few decades, political scientists are still limited in engaging and using comparative politics (ONeil 2004, 8). The basic limitation encountered by political scientists lie in the two major approaches of comparative politics- qualitative and quantitative. These approaches used by political scientists offer two different sides of comparative politics. The qualitative approach offers in depth and detailed discussions of the subjects compared through comparative politics. On the other hand, quantitative approach to comparative politics uses statistics and other verifiable data of the subjects in finding the points of comparison and analysis (ONeil 2004, 9). After finding the points of possible comparison, those who opt to pursue comparative politics must validate the applicability of the chosen points of comparison. Validation needs to be conducted in the details of comparative politics such as the applicability of the terms used in the study and the value of the empirical data arrived at in the study (Peters 1998).

Developments of Comparative Politics and its Impacts
The difficulties of doing comparative politics are not solely limited to its prerequisites and its need of continuous contextualization. The manner of doing comparative politics is also modified by the recent developments in the field of politics in the key political figures of the world. These developments put the experts of comparative politics in a position that requires adjustments in the manner that the study is to be conducted. There are three main developments in the political world that forever changed the manner of conducting comparative politics (ONeil 2004, 14). First is the sudden growth of the economies in the Asian region in the last few decades. This almost instantaneous economic growth in the Asian region put experts of comparative politics to reassess the predictive capabilities of what was known to be the comparative politics back then. Secondly, the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War made comparative politics experts to question the power of institutions in modeling the political life of a specific country or region. And lastly, the third wave of democracy made comparative politics experts to move away from the old bias of using American and Western democracy as the benchmark of what was known as democracy (ONeil 2004, 14). The third way of democracy forced comparative politics experts and users to point out the major problem of using the classification of democracy. The usage of the Western form of democracy makes a fatal mistake by failing to contextualize the possible implications of the use of the term democracy as a point of comparison. The usual mistake committed in the field of comparative politics in terms of contextualizing democracy is focusing too much on matured democracies such as in the Western countries neglecting the possibilities that the maturing democracies might hold better points of comparison and analysis (Stoker 2006, 500).

There are other notable developments in the whole world that can pose more questions and requirements in doing comparative politics. These three are the major developments but there are still more minor events that bespeak development. In this essay, the role of recognizing the implications of these developments are valuable in this study because it exposed the limitations of the two conventional approaches to comparative politics which are qualitative and quantitative (ONeil 2004, 14). Having said so, this essay will further press the need to reinvent the manner of conducting comparative politics.

Popular Approaches in Comparative Politics
Today, there are six major approaches in conducting comparative politics. These are the Wiarda, Organizations in mlange, Political culture, Corporatist, Political economy and new institutionalism approaches. These approaches in conducting comparative politics analysis have branched out from the two basic approaches- qualitative and quantitative. These six approaches are just few of the resulting approaches after the critical developments in the political world. These approaches are the experts answers in re-contextualizing and reinventing the conduct of comparative politics to avoid failing to account for what the two basic approaches failed to account for particularly during the time of the developments in the political world.

The Wiarda approach seeks to buffer the proneness of comparative politics analysis to prejudices and biases. This comparative politics approach pays particular attention in exploring the patterns of political interactions, political processes and the regularities among the subjects political systems (Wiarda 2005, 20). The developments in this approach is deemed to be the possible needed approach in studying societies without the burdens and possibilities of becoming ethnocentric. As comparative politics experts put it, the Wiarda approach is the possible long lost antidote against ethnocentrism.
The Organizations in mlange approach focuses on the interactions of state and non state actors in forming a holistic political world (Migdal 2002, 70). This approach focuses on the interplay of these sectors, including the constructive attributes and detrimental impacts they may cause to each other. In this approach, the subjects of analysis are focused on the existing institutions in a country or region (Migdal 2002, 70). However, it is differentiated from institutionalism because it does not only study institutions it study how institutions are positioned to their society. The positions of the institutions when identified will pave the way for a contextualization of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing institutions in a society may it be a state or a non state institution (Migdal 2002, 70).

There is also an approach that focuses on the political culture of the subjects of the comparative politics analysis. This approach stresses the point that political culture is the start off point of all political activities in a country or region. In a way, it can be said that that political culture explains the differences and similarities of institutions, political processes, policy making and political outputs (Norris and Inglehart 2004, 20). The themes of comparison in this approach are economical, religious, cultural and political evolution (Norris and Inglehart 2004, 20).

The Corporatist approach in comparative politics moves away from the primary assumptions that comparative politics can only be done through politics and economics. The corporatist approach provides a new perspective of studying politics such as social interactions and political culture. This approach put special attention to those that are considered as neglected institutions. In this approach, the state is also relegated to a position different from what the pluralist theories would say that the state is just an umpire of all the political processes.

The Political economy approach delves in the common process of doing comparative politics analysis which is through politics and economics (Buchanan 1989). In this approach there are two main subgroups of political scientists- conservatives and liberals. The conservatives stick to the point that comparative politics analysis can only be done through politics and economics. On the other hand, liberal experts on political economy approach raise the issues of national identity and globalization as integral parts of explaining politics and economics (Buchanan 1989).

Lastly, the new institutionalism approach reinvents institutionalism by bringing back the state. In this new approach, institutions can be both informal and formal. However, institutions in this approach are seen as dynamic entities which can change depending on the needs of societies. These institutions can also have active and passive effects on individuals. These institutions are also seen as the representation of the shared values of the society where the institutions are situated.

The Chosen Approach
Among these approaches, the Corporatist approach will be used in studying the two countries which will be the subjects of this essay. This approach is chosen because it offers the widest spectrum of possible discussions. It is not confined to the perspective of institutions such as implied in new institutionalism. It is not bias on putting comparative politics analysis fully dependent on politics and economy as said in the political economy approach. The Corporatist approach is also seen as a better option for Organizations in mlange approach because it focuses other factors aside from institutions. It is also does not assume extreme points of analysis such as political culture. And lastly, the Corporatist approach can integrate the Wiarda approach because of its wide spectrum of analysis. An ethnocentric result often occurring in comparative politics analysis will be avoided through the contextualization that can be achieved by the many aspects of political life that will be viewed and tackled in the Corporatist approach.


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