The search for causal inferences while respecting the variety and specifics of the empirical world remains a conundrum in comparative politics. The chapter reveals the problems and solutions that have been discussed by focusing on one of the most important methodological instruments, i.e. classification and more in particular on system-wide typologies. While the first part focuses on analytic differentiation as the ʽtraditionalʼ strategy of tackling the conundrum, the second part treats more recent and somewhat opposed developments, which challenge classification building. The turn to multi-causality in explanatory frameworks raises the complexity of classification building and makes the search for causal inferences more difficult, while the growing influence of rational choice theory in comparative politics aspires to reduce complexity in classification building and raise the capacity to generalize.
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Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
Edited by Dietmar Braun and Martino Maggetti
Martino Maggetti and Dietmar Braun
This chapter focuses on the challenge that comparative politics faces due to processes of de-nationalization, and discusses the notion of multi-level governance used to conceptualize political phenomena in de-nationalized contexts. The first section of the chapter explains why the principle of national sovereignty is so important to comparative politics, why this principle can no longer be assumed as given, and how developments related to the erosion of national sovereignty challenge comparative politics. The second section of the chapter introduces the notion of multi-level governance, which has been developed since the early 1990s for political analysis in strongly de-nationalized settings. It retraces the scientific history of multi-level governance, which was originally used as a descriptor of policy-making in the EU, then conceptually specified, and recently worked out as a theory of state-transformation. The third section of the chapter depicts the current research agenda of scholarship on multi-level governance, and discusses the contributions to topics and themes of comparative politics, but also identifies some blind spots – notably the analysis of power struggles – where insights from comparative politics could make a fruitful contribution.
Dietmar Braun and Martino Maggetti
The extent to which knowledge can be systematically accumulated over time is a major issue in comparative politics. The goal of this chapter is to illustrate the problems of knowledge progress by using the example of the relation between economic development and democracy. Even in this case, which corresponds to a classic topic in comparative politics, findings are mixed and, contradictory, and imperfectly built upon a progressive research programme. To conclude, in a dedicated section, a number of pragmatic solutions are discussed, with reference to concept formation and new methodological developments such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses.
Olivier Giraud and Martino Maggetti
This chapter proposes an assessment of the various strategies implying the use of mixed methods in comparative politics. In the contemporary literature, methodological pluralism is an important tool to overcome inherited methodological rifts and strengthen the validity of results. The chapter presents the distinctive advantages and limitations of quantitative and qualitative research, discusses various types of mixed-method research and suggests going beyond the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research. A pluralist research method implies specific epistemological assumptions. It is argued that there should be a good fit between methods, their degree of sophistication and their concrete added value. Lastly, this chapter shows how mixed research strategies are able to integrate the understanding and explanatory potential of varied research traditions, and allow researchers to reinforce research designs in comparative politics and to better triangulate, test and validate research results.