Comparative politics is distinguished from other disciplines which also use the comparative method, by its specific subject matter, language and perspective the aspects of subject matter, language, vocabulary, and perspective, we must remember, are inadequate in establishing the distinctiveness of comparative politics within the broad discipline of Political Science, largely because comparative politics shares the subject matter and concerns of Political Science, i.e. democracy, constitutions, political parties, social movements etc.
co-operative method as defining the character and scope of Comparative political analysis has been maintained by some scholars in order to dispel frequent misconceptions about cooperative politics as involving the study of ‘Foreign countries’ i.e., countries other than your own. Under such an Understanding, if you were studying a country other than your own you would be called comparatives.
More often than not, this misconception implies merely the gathering of information about individual countries with little or at the most implicit comparison involved. The distinctiveness of comparative politics, most comparatives would argue, lies in a conscious and systematic use of comparisons to study two or more countries with the purpose of indenting, and eventually explaining differences or similarities between them with respect to the particular phenomena being analyses.
For a long time comparative politics appeared merely to look for similarities and differences and directed this towards classifying, dichotomising or polarising political phenomena it is felt by several scholars, is going beyond ‘identifying similarities and differences’ or the ‘compare and contrast approach’, to ultimately study political phenomena in a larger framework of relationships. This it is felt, would help deepen our understanding and broaden the levels of answering and explaining political phenomena.
Comparative politics and comparative government:
Comparative government and comparative politics is a method in political science for obtaining evidence of causal effects by comparing the varying forms of government in the world, and the states they govern, although governments across different periods of history may also be the units of comparison.
There are several methods at work in comparative government (method of difference as opposed to method of agreement and variable as opposed to case study approaches) but all have in common the explanation of differential changes in dependent variable by the presence of different independent variables in the systems under comparison.
The nature of dependent (what is to be explained) and independent variables (what explains the pattern of the dependent variable) in the method is almost unlimited, from government form to electoral system to economic or cultural factors. It has areas of concentration that include topics such as democratization, state-society relations, identity and ethnic politics, social movements, institutional analysis, and political economy.
Methodologies used in comparative politics include rational choice theory; and political cultural, political economy, and institutional approaches. Aristotle (with his comparative study of constitutions in Greek states), Jean- Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu, and Thomas Hobbes are some of the key early thinkers in this sub discipline.
Another method of comparison looks at the inputs and outputs of the political system. Inputs include socialization, recruitment, interest articulation, interest aggregation, political parties and methods of communicating policy. Outputs are generically ruled making, application and adjudication.
The commonest form of comparative government remains the detailed study of some policy area in two or more countries. Sensitive researchers are always aware of the problem of ‘too few cases, too many variables’. Consider a popular research programme in the 1980s and 1990s: the impact of corporatism on gross national product. It is clearly not straightforward.
Some corporatist and some anti corporatist countries have had fast economic growth; some corporatist and some anti corporatist countries have had slow economic growth. There can be many reasons why a country becomes corporatist, and many reasons why an economy grows fast (or not). No researcher, or even collaborative team, can hope to know enough about more than perhaps five countries to talk about each of their institutions in a well-informed way.
So they can never be sure whether the factors they identify as the causes of growth really are the true causes. These difficulties have always surrounded comparative government. Nevertheless, researchers are far more sensitive to the difficulties of generalization than they once were, and accordingly more tentative in their conclusions.