Past and Present of Comparative Politics
Political science, can be traced back from the ideas of scientist such as; Plato (427–347 BC), author of The Republic (360 BC), and Aristotle (384 – 322 BC), author of Politics (c. 340 BC). In the modern era, the Italian Renaissance political philosopher Nicolo Machiavelli’s (1469–1527) The Prince (1515) and French Enlightenment political thinker Baron de Montesquieu’s (1689–1755) The Spirit of Laws (1748). More recently, in the age of industrialism and nationalism,
Political thought in the United States, a new nation, can be traced back to The Federalist Papers (1787–88), written by Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804), James Madison (1751–1836) and John Jay (1745–1829), to the writings by German émigré Francis Lieber (1800–72), Many teaching colleges existed in the US, the oldest being Harvard, founded in 1636. But the first research university, Johns Hopkins University, was not established until 1876, and a large number of Americans sought training in the
Social sciences in Europe, and especially in German universities, the most advanced in the world at the time, during the period 1870–1900. And US constituted political science as a discipline and therefore opened the way for the emergence of comparative politics as a field of political science.
The tangible manifestation of the process pioneered by the US were various institutional developments that gave an organizational basis to the autonomization of political science. One new trend was the growing number of independent political science departments. This process of autonomization involved a differentiation between political science and history, the discipline most closely associated with US political science in its early years. Many of the founders of political science had been trained in Germany.
They differentiate political science from history in two ways. First, according to the motto of the time that “History is past Politics and Politics present History,” political scientists would leave the past as the preserve of historians and focus on contemporary history. Second, they would abstain from history’s aspiration to address all the potential factors that went into the making of politics and focus on setting the limit of question of government and the formal political institutions.
The defining way of the subject matter of political science has similarities and differences with the way two other sister disciplines—economics and sociology—established their identities during approximately the same time.5 The birth of economics as a discipline was associated with the marginalist revolution and the formation of neoclassical economics, well - defined in Alfred Marshall’s (1842–1924) Principles of Economics (1890); In contrast, sociologists saw themselves establishing a discipline represented as a continuation of the classical social theory of Comte, Tocqueville, Spencer, Durkheim, Marx, Weber; and, defined sociology as the mother discipline,
The political scientists defined their discipline by betting on specialization and opting for a delimited subject matter. But the way in which the subject matter of political science was defined differed fundamentally from both economics and sociology in another key way. These sister disciplines defined themselves through theory-driven choices: economics introducing a reorientation of classical theory, sociology seeking an extension of classical theory.
II. THE BEHAVIORAL REVOLUTION, 1921–66
A first turning point in the evolution of US political science can be dated to the 1921 publication of a manifesto for a new science of politics, which implied
a departure from the historical approach embraced by many of the founders of political
science in the US, by the University of Chicago professor Charles Merriam (1874–1953)
(Merriam 1921).11 This publication was followed in 1923, 1924, and 1925 by a series of
“National Conferences on the Science of Politics,” which were important events for the
discipline. It was also followed by the formation of the Social Science Research Council
(SSRC), the world’s first national organization of all the social sciences, based largely on Merriam’s proposal to develop the infrastructure for research in the social sciences.
Behavioralism in comparative politics, as in other fields of political science, stood
for two distinct ideas. One concerned the proper subject matter of comparative politics.In this regard, behavioralists reacted against a definition of the field that restricted its scope to the formal institutions of government and sought to include a range of informal procedures and behaviors—related to interest groups, political parties, mass communication, political culture, and political socialization—that were seen as key to the functioning of the political system. A second key idea was the need for a scientific
approach to theory and methods. Behavioralists were opposed to what they saw as vague, rarified theory and a theoretical empirics, and argued for systematic theory and empirical testing.
The central role given to theory was counterbalanced, however, by some weaknesses. The redefinition of the field’s subject matter instigated by the behavioralists led comparativists to focus on societal actors and parties as intermediary
agents between society and the state. politics was cast as a reflection of how social actors performed certain functions or how conflicts about economic interests were resolved politically. In other words, politics was not seen as a causal factor and a sense of the distinctiveness of comparative politics as a field of political science was thus lost.
III. THE POST-BEHAVIORAL PERIOD, 1967–88
The powerful position of behavioralism in comparative politics came to an end in the mid-1960s or, more precisely, in 1966. Critiques of behavioralism started earlier, in the mid-1950s, and behavioral work continued after 1966. Moreover, elaborate metatheoretical formulations by leading voices of the behavioral revolution were published in 1965 and 1966 (Easton 1965a; 1965b; Almond and Powell 1966).
The authors who contributed to the new scholarship were diverse in many regards. Some were members of the generation, born in the 1910s and 1920s, which had brought behavioralism to comparative politics. Part of the new literature was authored by members of the generation born in the 1910s and 1920s and some authors, such as Lipset, had even been closely associated with the behavioral literature. Moreover, many of the younger generation had been trained by behavioralists.
On the other hand, the decline in consensus around liberal values was not replaced by a new consensus but rather by the coexistence of liberal, conservative, and radical values. This lack of consensus did introduce an element of novelty, in that many of the key debates in the literature confronted authors with different values and in that the link between values and research thus became more apparent than it had been before. But these debates were not organized as a confrontation between a liberal and a new agenda.
The centrality given to distinctly political questions implied a redefinition of the subject matter of comparative politics. This shift did not involve a rejection of standard concerns of behavioralists, such as the study of political behavior and interest groups. But issues such as interest groups were addressed, in the literature on corporatism for example, from the perspective of the state.
The approach to theorizing also underwent change. Theorizing during this period was less geared to building a new metatheory that would replace structural functionalism,In addition, the use of statistics, introduced in the previous period, continued. As before, attention was given to survey research and the generation of data sets.41 Moreover, a quantitative literature started to develop on issues such as electoral behavior, public opinion, and democracy. Thus, even as structural functionalism as a metatheory was largely abandoned when the field of comparative politics altered course in the mid-1960s, the methodological dimension of behavioralism—its emphasis on systematic empirical testing—lived on.
THE SECOND SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION, 1989–PRESENT
A new phase in the evolution of comparative politics began with a push to make the field more scientific, propelled in great part by the APSA section on Comparative Politics, constituted in 1989 with the aim of counteracting the fragmentation of the field induced by the area studies focus of much research. The scientists also diverged from earlier theoretical attempts to advance a science of politics in two basic ways. First, the proposed metatheories drew heavily on economics as opposed to sociology, which had been the main source of the old, structural functionalist metatheory. Second, the new metatheories did not lead to a redefinition of the subject matter of comparative politics, as had been the case with behavioralism.
The impact of this new agenda with three prongs—rational choice, formal theory, and quantitative methods—has been notable. Some rational choice analyses in comparative politics had been produced in earlier years. But after 1989 the work gradually became more formalized and addressed a growing number of issues, such as democratization (Przeworski 1991, 2005), ethnic conflict and civil war.